Updated May 21, 2020 at 3:51 p.m. to reflect the number of undergraduates receiving degrees.
Elon University will hold 2020 conferral and commencement ceremonies online as a precaution against the coronavirus. Supporting online events of this scale is no small feat, according to Brent Smith, assistant director of teaching and learning technologies. The ceremonies for undergraduate, iMedia, and the Love School of Business conferrals are pre-recorded and will be streamed, while the Masters of Higher Education commencement will be done live.
The ceremonies will be streamed on the university's website. After being streamed, the ceremonies will be uploaded to commencement websites created by University Communications, as well as YouTube and Facebook, according to Owen Covington, director of Elon University News Bureau.
“The university has created special ceremony sites to offer graduates and their families a range of resources and information as they mark this special achievement,” Covington said.
Elon plans to hold in-person commencement activities for undergraduates, iMedia and the Love School of Business later this year, according to Covington.
Ninety-four students are graduating from masters programs, while 1,418 students are graduating from undergraduate programs, according to the ceremony websites. 1,475 degrees will be conferred for undgraduates. To support the size and scale of the livestream, the technology department is using a network that will allow people across the country and internationally to view the ceremonies.
“Each ceremony will first be streamed at the designated date and time using a major content delivery network capable of scaling up to provide viewing for viewers across the nation and around the world,” Smith said.
The Masters of Higher Education commencement will not feature live captioning, Smith said, but the pre-recorded ceremonies will have closed captions in English, according to Covington. He also said the university hopes to provide Spanish translation on the undergraduate ceremony.
“Although we had hoped to debut live captioning at this year’s Commencement Ceremony the disruptions of this spring, and the lack of access to vendors and systems has delayed that deployment,” Smith said. “We expect it to be in place in time for the planned ceremony for the class of 2020 later this year.”
Security is another concern. Recently, Oklahoma City University experienced a “zoom-bombing” during its live commencement ceremony. Elon will utilize protective measures, but hacking is always a possibility according to Smith.
“We are using proprietary encoding hardware and password protected feeds to the [content delivery network] but in today’s world no one is truly safe from hacking,” Smith said.
Despite the challenges, it was important for virtual ceremonies to be conducted, Covington said.
“The virtual ceremonies certainly aren’t intended to simulate or rival in-person commencement activities, but provide the opportunity to confer degrees to members of the class and recognize their accomplishments,” Covington said. “It was of the utmost importance to mark this milestone in the academic careers of these newest Elon alumni and offer a virtual ceremony that these graduates, their friends and their families could share in remotely.”