HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For the first time at the University of Hawaii, graduates took part in their commencement ceremony -- online.
There was no need for caps and gowns. All they needed was a laptop and Internet access.
Some of the students received their master's degrees in educational technology in a small classroom at Wilt Hall on the Manoa campus. Actually they received them in the online virtual world of "Second Life."
"About two or three of the on-line students will come and join the actual graduation ceremony," said Dr. Peter Leong, assistant professor at the College of Education. "So we thought it would be a good idea to have a virtual graduation ceremony in Second Life."
Twenty-two graduates attended the virtual ceremony. They got to hear a commencement speech delivered by the Dean of the College of Education, who was in another small classroom in Wilt Hall. As she spoke into a headset microphone, graduates saw the dean's Second Life avatar, on a virtual dais, in a virtual amphitheater that was built in Diamond Head crater. Virtually, of course.
"Part of the issue for us in education is to adapt to the changing students, the changing learners," said Dean Christine Sorensen, "because they're growing up with technology, and are more comfortable with technology than faculty are at times."
Three of the master's degree candidates were actually on campus for the graduation.
"I thought it was great," said graduate Stephanie Barry, "my family was able to come and attend the Second Life graduation. There's ten kids in my family and they range from Georgia all the way to Texas and California. My mom is 71 and she was able to see me graduate."
"Using technology as a stage, I think, for graduation, actually makes a lot of sense," said fellow grad Eric Hill.
There actually was some preparation, even for the on-line graduation.
"We did a dress rehearsal and a run-through with this, and it seemed to work just fine," said graduate Brian Nakamoto, who added that the rehearsal took place last week.
While it is a first for U.H., the first-ever virtual graduation happened at another university less than a year ago.
Students who received their degrees in the virtual ceremony can still choose to go through the ceremony -- in real life -- next weekend. With caps and gowns.