What is graduation going to look like in 2020?

Graduation is a very important part of celebrating when you finish your degree. With education institutes currently lying dormant due to the COVID-19 outbreak that is sweeping the globe, the majority of them are flocking online to best continue business as usual.

As social distancing in the UK continues, there are pressing questions about certain parts of University life. One of those being graduation. We here at SMILE, gathered on a Zoom call to discuss the current situation and what institutes can do as an alternative and if we can help with that. Take a listen to the audio below or the audio has been transcribed underneath the video:


Elliott Barnicle
Hi guys, welcome to the SMILE podcast, my name is Elliott. Today we have Jon.

Jon Bates
Hi, I’m Jon, on the Account Manager here at SMILE.

Elliott Barnicle
And we’ve got Matt.

Matt Lees
Hi, everyone. I’m Matt and I’m the Creative Director at SMILE.

Elliott Barnicle
And then Nathan as well with us.

Nathan Monk
Hello. I’m the Solution Architect here at SMILE.

Elliott Barnicle
I forgot to add I am the Lead Designer here at SMILE. So we’ll go with that, yeah. So so we’re going to talk about a bit about graduation and how COVID has kind of affected that, and kind of what we can do to help the industry and kind of get things back on track.

Matt Lees
So over recent months, we’ve obviously seen a big increase in the number of customers that we’ve got on our products Hijack, and it’s all about running online events. And one of the things that we’ve spotted from around industry from speaking to various people is that graduation is one of those things that’s been impacted obviously graduation ceremonies can’t happen at the moment. So we’re looking into whether Hijack could help facilitate graduation ceremonies. What could Hijack add to mirror more closely what happens in real life?

Elliott Barnicle
So I didn’t ever go to uni so I don’t really know like what a graduation ceremony is like or and kind of what aspects you kind of miss from it from not having it if you’re not I mean.

Matt Lees
Well, why don’t we start by talking about our own experiences then of what happened for people and kind of congregate, what happened during the ceremony and then what happened afterwards because could we adapt functionality to suit those needs?

Nathan Monk
I mean, should we talk about the endless waiting that you have to do?

Matt Lees
Well it’s a really interesting point though, isn’t it? Because how much are people going to stick around? For some background, Nathan and I, we were at university together so our graduation ceremony was at the same time. And I think I’m right in saying it seemed like three, three and a half hours long, something like that. And if that was an online experience, who’s really gonna stick around for the full three and a half hours?

Nathan Monk
It’d be really interesting to get some statistics from people that that watch or listen or read to this. Read to this? Read this. To get some statistics on live streams. What do people watch an entire graduation live stream?

Matt Lees
Or just format change completely? You know in person you are, you kind of there’s one person at one stage reading all of these names and you kind of go one by one. But could it be fast-tracked is the wrong word because it sounds like you’ve kind of taken some of the shine and the importance of it. But could it be changed in the way that it works? And could it be more about a celebration with your peers so there’s a, the one thing that I thought about was having a kind of a central room where there’s this, this ongoing kind of presentation of names going on, but then perhaps sub rooms, subgroups where you can go off and you can congregate with your friends and your family and you can have this, this experience away from that central, rather than sitting through three and a half hours of somebody just kind of looking at the screen and reading out names. Could we change the way in which it works online?

Elliott Barnicle
Do chapters come into that with Hijack?

Matt Lees
That would be very interesting. Like our ceremony again, there was, I think it was the entire BIAD, so there were jewellery students, there were photography students, there were media students. But actually, you’re mostly interested in your course. So could chapters help in that too, that you can kind of skip forward to your specific course and hear the names of you and your peers?

Nathan Monk
I guess though there’s, there’s definitely an element of graduation about being there for your friends and you know, clapping along for your friends and all this sort of stuff. But online that that notion of kind of whooping and cheering people on is stripped away a little bit. And then actually the other stuff that you’ve talked about, like talking with your friends, talking with the family, you know, getting them to kind of congratulate you probably already happens, okay, not in a timestamp format. But everyone’s in some form of WhatsApp group somewhere. So I don’t know whether that’s the bit that you’d need to focus on recreating. I think the bit that special about graduation. It’s that short moment when you get up, you shake the Vice Chancellor’s hand or whatever. But what if, what if it was more akin to a personalised video from the Vice-Chancellor? Like saying, Hi, I appreciate you. Well done. You did good.

It would be a lot of video, but you gotta remember like actual physical graduations. It’s not like the Vice-Chancellor only turns up for half an hour. You know, these people take days out of their schedule for this. It’s a big deal. So I posed the challenge, which is how is that any different to recording x thousand videos.

Matt Lees
So you’re suggesting that you could actually just go through what you would normally go through, but you just cut it down to the 20/30 seconds that you get. But then where does Hijack come into that? Because Surely, you could just email that video to someone they wouldn’t need to log on. You would, you’d lose the social aspect of it because everyone would just be in their living room with their video.

Nathan Monk
Is it not about like, you know, in we were talking about American High School kind of stuff earlier, class of 2020, or whatever it is. Now, having an online space about bringing it back to not just being about you, but being able to see a class of almost like a yearbook or something maybe?

Matt Lees
That’s interesting. A few years ago, we pitched an idea to a university about a kind of wall of social feed of all of these different bits coming through. And I wonder whether it could be a, people get sent that video and it’s their reaction to receiving that video on various social networks maybe?

Jon Bates
This kind of feeds onto another element of graduation, which would kind of be missing from online experiences, or maybe might need to be recreated, which is not just from the sheer money-making perspective, but the merchandising that goes along with graduation. And not necessarily merchandise. Like I say, not necessarily money-wise, but even memento wise, there’s an industry behind that. And I like when you were saying about having to sit through all of the different subject areas while the certificates were given out. I remember we had a whole booklet for that. And it was almost going through the booklet, subject area by subject area and you had to sit and like you could almost read that through pages by page by page. And although that was kind of unnecessary and maybe boring part of it, that book became your memento of the day. So we create these kinds of things as well.

Nathan Monk
Yeah. So I think what you’re talking about there, Jon is almost turning, like if we were to use our Hijack platform for this it’d be about using Hijack as a digital memento.

Jon Bates
Something that’s something that like that people could take away, as well as something that was like living in the moment because like you say, a lot of that exists in the ether anyway. Whatsapp groups, video calls, people are always going to do that around graduation time anyway, whether it was in person or not, but it’s, it’s what can be taken away, if not physically, then something that exists digitally long term for people to treasure.

Matt Lees
And I think certainly since our graduation that’s happened naturally. Anyway, like I know that my parents have got photos of my graduation, but I don’t really know where they are where they exist, but I’m on my phone now, my photos kind of go back years and years and years and gone are the days where when you get a new handset, the old photos are kind of lost unless you do something with them. You know, I’ve had six or seven different handsets, and they’re still on there. So I quite like that idea of, you know, maybe something that could be added to the camera roll or something that gets downloaded, something you can keep.

Nathan Monk
Or even just like an email notification from the system. You know, like I get them in my Google Photos all the time, this time last year, memories. And even if it’s almost, it’s where a digital system like this can help turn a simple graduation into an alumni retention and donation scheme potentially. So knowing that, you know, Jon Bates graduated on a certain day, and it can email him three years later down the line and say, “Hey, do you remember this? Here’s a link back to your personalised graduation video from the Vice-Chancellor.” “Hey, did you know you could give back and help the University with a donation of your time or your money.” So there’s this potential opportunity in this as well, I think.

Thanks for listening. Join us next time when we’ll discuss another topic in the digital innovation and marketing arena for higher education.


We would like to open the conversation on this topic. Do you work at an institution? Are you a student graduating this year? Let us know your feedback in the comments below.

Listen to the audio alongside the transcription!

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