University turns virtual graduations into a reality

Jayne Roberts attends the virtual graduation ceremony
Jayne Roberts attends the virtual graduation ceremony
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Most of us know that feeling of having to be in two places at once.

And Edinburgh University has helped students do just that – by holding virtual graduation ceremonies.

Jayne and friends toast her success - virtually

Jayne and friends toast her success - virtually

The distance learning students received their scrolls as avatars in the virtual world at the same time as the traditional McEwan Hall ceremonies, which are streamed live into the Second Life event.

Their virtual alter-egos even got to wear specially designed robes.

Students on the MSc in E-learning in the School of Education and the MSc in Equine Science in the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine were invited to take part in the virtual ceremonies.

Jayne Roberts, 37, who is from Georgia, United States, was in Ohio – around 900 miles away – for Thanksgiving when she took part in a graduation ceremony on Second Life, an online virtual world in which users can interact with each other through avatars.

“I was disappointed not to make it back home to the UK for the graduation ceremony, but Second Life made it possible for me to be there,” she said.

“The support team was patient and encouraging and everything went great.”

Jayne, who is among the first students to graduate from the university’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies’ MSc in Equine Science Programme, said: “Not many people can attest to graduating with a cup of tea and their PJs on – it was 6am here.”

Jeremy Knox, who got a Masters degree from the School of Education, attended the real-life ceremony in McEwan Hall and the virtual ceremony at the same time, using an app on his mobile phone.

It is the first time a student at the university has graduated from two locations simultaneously.

“It was a fascinating experience, challenging and risky, but it is just this kind of innovative thinking that the MSc in E-Learning encourages,” he said.

The university’s innovation has been recognised with an Edublog Award for Best Educational Use of a Virtual World.

Dr Sian Bayne, co-director of the MSc in E-learning programme said: “We’re proud that our students continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible in terms of educational practice.

“We are keen to think creatively about where the boundaries between the real and virtual lie, and our virtual graduation is the perfect opportunity to do this.”