Purdue University Global commencement to include first-of-its-kind virtual reality component

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Purdue University Global will conduct commencement ceremonies Thursday (Feb. 27) in Los Angeles. Some graduates will participate from their own locations as if they were right there at the event, thanks to a first-of-its kind pilot program.

More than 75 Purdue University Global graduates will participate in their upcoming commencement virtually, using a headset like this one. (Kaplan Higher Education photo by Chad Skelton)

"The graduates will see and hear everything as if they were sitting in the Skirball Cultural Center. When the ceremony begins, they will feel like they are in the procession line marching with the on-site graduates."

While some 400 Purdue University Global graduates take part in commencement ceremonies in-person Thursday (Feb. 27) in Los Angeles, an additional 75-plus are planning to participate virtually, thanks to a first-of-its-kind pilot program.

“We are proud to be the first university to offer students who otherwise would not be able to attend the opportunity to share the excitement of graduation in a virtual setting,” said Patti Pelletier, director of the learning and leadership community for Purdue Global.

Each of the graduates participating virtually will receive a Purdue Global branded headset to use during the ceremony, as well as a commencement program, tassel and honor cord, if applicable. In Los Angeles, a camera operator will provide 360-degree views – via an Insta360 Pro 2 camera and streamed live on YouTube 360 – and the experience will be launched from Purdue Global’s internally created conference center, PG Connect. A traditional single-view video feed also will be provided via Facebook Live for anyone to watch.

“The graduates will see and hear everything as if they were sitting in the Skirball Cultural Center,” Pelletier said. “When the ceremony begins, they will feel like they are in the procession line marching with the on-site graduates. They will sit with their fellow graduates and watch everything that is happening around them during the ceremony. The virtual graduates will walk onto the stage, hear their name announced and see their picture displayed before returning to their seat.”

Pelletier and other Purdue Global officials worked with George Takahashi, lead visualization scientist for ITaP’s Research Computing Envision Center on the Purdue University West Lafayette campus, on their vision for a virtual reality commencement ceremony.

“This journey started almost two years ago, and we have enjoyed the learning process and benefited from our collaboration with colleagues at the Envision Center,” Pelletier said. “Like our graduates, we persisted toward our goal and discovered other benefits our Purdue Global community can build on for the future.”

A team of Purdue students researched options to help create the virtual opportunity for their counterparts at Purdue Global.

“Our undergraduate and graduate students at the Envision Center are deeply involved in exploring new technologies and the development of interactive visualization and simulation tools for research and learning,” Takahashi said. “Through our time working with Patti, five of our students explored consumer virtual reality platforms and enterprise 360 video recording and streaming technologies with the objective of providing an accessible immersive graduation experiences to those who would otherwise be unable to attend.”

Graduates from Concord Law School and the schools of Business, Technology and Health Sciences will walk during a 3 p.m. PST (6 p.m. EST) ceremony, followed by graduates of the schools of Education, Nursing and Social and Behavioral Sciences at 6 p.m. PST (9 p.m. EST).

“We are excited to offer this virtual reality opportunity to our students, and likewise, we are delighted to celebrate the successful joint endeavor between technologists at Purdue West Lafayette and our staff at Purdue Global,” said Betty Vandenbosch, Purdue Global chancellor.

Heather Bagshaw, senior graduate program coordinator with Purdue Online, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in communication from Purdue Global. She will participate in the virtual commencement with family and friends so they are able to watch her “walk across the stage.”

Bagshaw did not attend college straight out of high school and earned an associate degree before going to work on the West Lafayette campus.

“I always wanted to go back to school, but didn’t want the accumulating debt,” Bagshaw said. “Working in higher education, I could immediately see the value in continued, life-long learning, and Purdue Global was the obvious choice. I plan to continue my education with Purdue Global and complete a master’s program. By the time I graduate with my master’s, my daughter will be graduating from high school.”

Mike Schlang will participate in the virtual reality graduation from his home in Raynham, Massachusetts, nearly 3,000 miles away from the ceremony. “It will give me a sense of accomplishment,” he said.

Schlang, who has been teaching American sign language courses at various higher education institutions for nearly 15 years, earned his master’s degree in higher education with a concentration in college teaching from Purdue Global.

“A master’s will open up more doors with respect to landing a potential full-time teaching position,” said Schlang, a married father of two children. “I have been fortunate to accomplish that goal through Purdue Global because it would have been nearly impossible for me to attend classes when I have mouths to feed and running all over the place with two very active little boys.”

Dolan Williams, a graduate of Purdue Global’s Concord Law School and a member of the Purdue Alumni Association Board of Directors, will provide the keynote address at both ceremonies.

About Purdue University Global

Purdue University Global is the extreme personalization online university, providing students the competitive edge to advance in their chosen careers. It offers a hyper-tailored path for students to earn an associate, bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree, based on their work experience, desired pace, military service, previous college credits and other considerations – no matter where they are in their life journey. Purdue Global serves more than 31,000 students (as of January 2020), most of whom earn their degree online. It also operates several regional locations nationwide. Purdue Global is a nonprofit, public university accredited by The Higher Learning Commission. It is affiliated with Purdue University’s flagship institution, a highly ranked public research university located in West Lafayette, Indiana. Purdue University also operates two regional campuses in Fort Wayne and Northwest, Indiana, as well as serving close to 6,000 science, engineering and technology students at the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) campus. For more information, please visit PurdueGlobal.edu.

Media Contact: Tom Schott, 765-494-9318, tschott@purdue.edu

Sources: Betty Vandenbosch, bvandenbosch@purdueglobal.edu

Patti Pelletier, ppelletier@purdueglobal.edu

George Takahashi, gtakahas@purdue.edu

Heather Bagshaw

Mike Schlang

Related Release:

Concord Law School graduate to speak at Purdue Global commencement ceremonies

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