Virtual Graduations
A Guide to Digital and User Generated Ceremonies

Graduation Ceremonies are the culmination of years of hard work and for your institution, the highlight of the academic calendar. With the traditional attire, graduations are the definition of celebration and a chance for staff, students, families and friends to revel in their success and all be proud of the part they played in this achievement. With the COVID-19 crisis causing delays to teaching and exams, plus social distancing and lockdown measures in place, institutions across the county have had to make tough decisions to postpone or cancel ceremonies.

We’re here to help. As we’ve felt the effect of the disruption to events first hand, First Sight Media has turned our expertise and technology (as well as good doses of “thinking outside the box” and testing) to deliver our solutions to Universities as “virtual graduations”.

There is another way. With many of our customers in the corporate events industry turning to hybrid and virtual solutions, the technology and capabilities already exists and we have successfully applied this to deliver virtual ceremonies’ for University’s.

Some UK institutions have facilitated the early graduation of medical students, enabling them to join the NHS effort to fight the virus, and reconfigured Spring ceremonies in the height of the pandemic. Rather than defer or deny students the opportunity of a ceremony, they are turning to ‘virtual ceremonies’ to mark the occasion and celebrate the success. Others are anticipating a continued restriction on mass gatherings and international travel, so are planning for either a complete virtual ceremony in the short – medium term, or a hybrid event including some virtual elements for the this year’s graduations at least.

How does it work?

There are a number of solutions available, depending on what your institution is looking to achieve and what resources you have in place (with solutions 1 and 2 possibly being achievable with internal resources if you’re not looking for professional support). We have found the differences largely focus on the level of interaction desired.

How will your graduands engage with the ceremony and to what extend will they feature? You also need to consider how guests, families and friends will engage with the event as well as academics and senior dignitaries – all of whom are so vital to the proceedings. We’ve found a mixture of pre-recorded and live elements offer the best balance of control, interactivity and professionalism and authenticity.

Solution 1 – The Digital Ceremony


Content posted by @AstonAlumni

Content posted by @AstonAlumni

Taking advantage of your institution’s social media presence to create a ceremony run entirely on social media. This solution is the easiest to implement as proven by Aston University who celebrated with #VirtualAstonGrads on 7th April.

How do you make it happen?

Using a well promoted hashtag, this solution encourages interaction across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and more by inviting everyone involved to take part by posting their own content on a specific day.

Beginning with a pre-recorded message from the Chancellor it can include a wealth of engagement from dignitaries, lecturers, families, friends and of course, graduates.

A key factor of this solution is communication to students, ensuring clear messaging of the new format and instructions, and promotion of the chosen hashtag(s) to your graduands to ensure participation. We would be available and on hand to help with details required to assist marketing and communication teams with formulating clear and timely messaging to students.

Solution 2 – The User Generated Ceremony


Still image of Newcastle Virtual Graduation using Flipgrid

Still image of Newcastle Virtual Graduation using Flipgrid

With the aim of maintaining a more formal setting to the ceremony, some institutions are creating their graduations with pre-recorded content – both from the institution and graduands.

Our friends at StageClip have mastered this with huge take-up in the US; however a great example from this side of the pond comes from Newcastle University’s Medical School. Led by the Vice-Chancellor, the University used Flipgrid to curate user generated content with each graduate reciting their Hippocratic Oath before being edited together into a unique ceremony film pushed out on YouTube. Families, friends, lecturers and even celebrities where then encouraged to post their own messages of support and celebration.

How do you make it happen?

With the right promotion and encouragement, this solution can generate a lot of content. But to do this, institutions need buy in from all those involved in a way the first did not. The success of this format relies on content being created and uploaded but has the major benefit of a unique film graduates – sorry, alumni – can cherish as they have had their 5 seconds ‘on stage’.

Solution 3 – The Virtual Ceremony


Have a look at a recent case study on a Virtual Ceremony we delivered for the University of Plymouth

Have a look at a recent case study on a Virtual Ceremony we delivered for the University of Plymouth

Using a combination of virtual meeting break out rooms and streaming, First Sight Media can support you by creating a live, interactive graduation with all your graduands attending and featuring all the elements of an offline ceremony.

Collaborating with our colleagues at Ede and Ravenscroft, we have created (and produced) a solution that delivers a format that is as close to a traditional ceremony as possible, which can include a seamless production of all or a combination of:

  • User generated pre-ceremony slideshow
  • Pre-recorded, University branded promotional videos
  • Pre-recorded staff addresses – recorded either as audio of video
  • Live staff messages and speeches
  • Speeches by senior dignitaries in academic dress
  • Calling of names
  • Graduands featuring as they ‘cross the stage’ in a traditional mortarboard
  • Vote of thanks - pre-recorded or live
  • Live streaming of event - allowing families and guests to view the ceremony in real time and interact
  • Edited video of ceremony for further sharing on social media
  • Additional equipment delivered to those involved in delivering the ceremony if required

How do you make it happen?

First Sight Media's Pop-up Virtual Event Hub

Pop-up virtual event equipment

Working together, this can all be facilitated remotely using First Sight Media’s ‘popup virtual event hub’. We will coach and guide all those involved, meaning no one directly involved in delivering the ceremony or your graduates need any advanced technical knowledge for a professional outcome. We will manage and deliver the ceremony to the wider audience through your preferred platform (e.g. YouTube, Facebook or our own servers). Additionally, graduation attire can be sent directly from Ede and Ravenscroft to graduands and dignitaries meaning this solution really does get as close to the traditional ceremony as possible.


Free Production Support!

To this end, if you are looking to graduate your healthcare faculty early to support the NHS and their fight against COVID-19, we would be delighted to produce your virtual ceremonies at no charge to help give them their special day.

If you do want support, get in touch below or give us a call on 0330 024 1080.


contact us

To discuss any of our specific services, or to have a chat through a brief or project you are working on, feel free to contact us. We welcome all enquiries. Please complete your details on this contact form and click the send button, alternatively, call us on the number below.

Suite 3-5 Wesley House, Ventura Park, Carterton, Oxfordshire. OX18 1AD
0330 024 1080

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