Offer 2020 Graduates the Best of Both Worlds: A Hybrid Commencement Experience

Submitted by on Wed, 04/22/20

With Commencement right around the corner, many universities and colleges are scrambling to figure out how to handle their graduation ceremonies due to state orders banning large gatherings at this time. We recently polled our Modo User Group during a bi-weekly roundtable with Modo customers to learn firsthand how educational institutions are thinking about Commencement:

  • 23% will host a virtual Commencement in place of a traditional one
  • 33% are still deciding
  • 33% have postponed their traditional Commencement until a later date
  • 4% will hold a virtual Commencement, followed by a traditional event on a later date
  • 4% have canceled their event completely

It’s ideal to get feedback from your students and the campus community via your own poll or survey – and Modo customers can do this seamlessly using the in-app Quick Poll feature in their Modo campus app. That said, each school is choosing the best path forward based on their unique considerations. However, schools must tread carefully. Consider the negative backlash when Northeastern University announced it was canceling Commencement.

Many schools forgoing a survey of their community are choosing to offer the best of both worlds in the form of a hybrid experience. They are planning both a virtual spring event and a future/fall in-person event. With a mobile app, they can connect with their communities across both events.

Cultivating excitement online

The main concern of the schools we polled is how to make everyone feel involved during Commencement. Within the Modo community, 38% of respondents want to get everyone excited about the modified plan and ensure it is a rewarding experience.

The good news is that Universities can take cues from schools that have successfully held virtual Commencements in prior years. One example is NYU, which went big virtual with an in-app version of its 185th Commencement. Users of their mobile app received a notification informing them that they could still experience Commencement if they weren’t able to be there in person. Through NYU Mobile, users could watch the event via livestream and partake in the celebration.

Proven ways to encourage participation

While nothing can replace an in-person Commencement, you can drive active participation in numerous ways via your mobile app. The key is to deliver a steady stream of live and pre-recorded content:

  • Take over your app home page for the graduate persona
  • Add a countdown to graduation
  • Encourage graduating students to dress in their gowns and share photos and host social-media viewing parties
  • Show a virtual march of graduates receiving their diplomas in the app featuring short recorded video clips from students in their caps and gowns at home
  • Feature videos of the address by your school’s president along with graduate and guest speakers
  • Engage alumni and extended family to share in the experience by inviting them to add messages and videos of congratulations
  • Read graduate names while scrolling them across the app screen
  • Show a virtual conferral of degrees by the president as each student’s photo is displayed

You can even include a physical element by inviting families who live local to your campus to “drive down memory lane” with an excursion around campus in their vehicles.

Once the time is right, you can announce your in-person Commencement via the app and take advantage of all the content created for your virtual Commencement to enhance the experience for everyone. We bet you’ll find your graduates throwing their caps in the air with joy when they hear your plans to offer them the best of both worlds!

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