Preserving traditions with virtual graduations
Humans love to celebrate. We learn at an early age that every milestone is a good reason to gather, share our excitement with friends and family, feel pride in our accomplishments, and enjoy the warmth of connection. And the reason for celebration can be defined in many different ways. It can mark something as simple as the passing of time (like a birthday), or something a person spends years working toward, like a high school or college graduation. Celebrating and marking milestones is more important than ever when times are difficult. What better opportunity to highlight the positive, and come together to support one another than when other parts of life are uncertain? But how do you celebrate when people need to stay physically distant to be safe?
Around the world, millions of people are struggling with this question—especially education administrators, students, and their loved ones. At this time of year, there are thousands of ceremonies and traditions for all levels of education that typically bring large groups together. They range from pre-school song-and-dance presentations, to the “Pomp and Circumstance” and cap tossing of university graduations. Every one of them provides a sense of closure for one chapter of life, and the opening to another, and means a great deal to students, families, and educators.
The current situation has made it unwise for groups to gather in the usual way, so educational institutions are working to find alternative ways to mark their commencements. This is an incredibly difficult decision to make.
Teams live event availability expanded to support MORE digital graduations!
Starting in early May 2020, organizations with the Microsoft Office 365 A1, which is free for educational institutions, will have the ability to host and broadcast Teams live events for a limited time. Users with faculty licenses can host a virtual graduation, alumni summit, or any other live event. In addition to adding Teams Live Events to Office 365 A1, we have increased the audience size to 20,000, number of concurrent live events to 50 and extended the length to 16 hours, at no extra cost. Starting in early May 2020, live events will be automatically enabled for users with an A1 faculty license and automatically disabled on July 1.
There is no “one size fits all” solution to properly recognize the achievements of every student and honor the traditions of each school and group while following recommended social distancing policies. But as schools around the world are demonstrating, there are many creative and innovative ways to make the most of this graduation season. Online solutions range from PowerPoint presentations prepared by faculty/administrators with input and content from students, to hybrid live, recorded, and livestreamed ceremonies. For example, Ritusemeikan Primary school in Japan held an in-person commencement with their students and faculty, but livestreamed it to families via Teams, to limit the number of people at the gathering.
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Students at the University of Pennsylvania and several other colleges and universities have collaborated to recreate their campuses in Minecraft. Many of them are organizing virtual versions of traditions and ceremonies practiced at their schools that will be held and viewed in the Minecraft world. And one of the most moving examples is by Newcastle University Medical School, where the graduating class individually recorded themselves reciting the Hippocratic Oath and posted it to Flipgrid to express their commitment to their new position as medical doctors. Administrators also recorded congratulatory speeches, and the school produced a short video commemorating the event that’s available for all to view.
Though every tradition and ceremony is different, with the right tools and a little creativity, there are ways to celebrate safely and make positive memories for all.
Digital events can even follow the traditional graduation flow with an academic procession, a welcome address, presentation of awards, speeches, and more.
To support institutions moving forward with digital graduations and celebrations, we’ve put together a toolkit of resources that will be updated regularly. To see the most up-to-date content, check back to this page often:
Graduations and celebrations come in many forms. You can hold a digital celebration for a team at the end of their season, host a goodbye party to mark a student’s transition from elementary school to middle school, or host a traditional online graduation to mark the completion of high school or college.
- Celebrate with photos and videos: Use Flipgrid, PowerPoint, or Microsoft Sway for a simple online celebration.
- Create a pre-recorded digital graduation: A pre-recorded event may be ideal if you are not considering a live event or if you’ll have attendees in multiple time zones.
- Host a digital graduation with Microsoft Teams live events: If a live event is preferred, consider incorporating both live and pre-recorded content including speeches by faculty and students, graduate slideshows, and even musical or other artistic performances.
And starting in early May 2020, we’ve made the applications needed more broadly available than ever. Users with the Microsoft Office 365 A1 faculty license, which is free for educational institutions, will have the ability to host and broadcast Teams live events for a limited time. That means users with A1 faculty licenses can host a virtual graduation, alumni summit, or any live event for up to 20,000 attendees, at no extra cost. Starting in early May 2020, live events will be automatically enabled for users with an A1 faculty license and automatically disabled on July 1.
Challenging times can bring out the best in the human spirit and inspire innovation and creativity. We’d love to hear your ideas and see your solutions!
Our sincere congratulations to everyone celebrating achievements and moving toward their next milestone.