Purdue University is offering some of its online students the chance to walk the stage at this week’s commencement ceremonies with the help of virtual reality. They’ll get the full experience, down to a Purdue-branded VR headset.
Students and staff with ITaP’s Research Computing Envision Center helped create technology for @purdueglobal graduates to take part in virtual reality commencement. @PurdueAlumnihttps://t.co/4tnbpWjCqo
— Purdue U. News (@PurdueUnivNews) February 24, 2020
With this pilot program, graduates who cannot attend the Los Angeles-based commencement ceremonies that take place on Thursday will be able to participate via provided VR headsets. The ceremonies include students graduating from the online Concord Law School, as well as the schools for Health Sciences, Business, Technology, Nursing, Education, and Social and Behavioral Sciences.
According to Purdue, 75 students will walk the stage in virtual reality alongside their 400 in-person peers. And it’ll be a fairly involved process, apparently. Patti Pelletier, director of Purdue Global’s learning and leadership community, said the VR-based students 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.”
This is the work of Purdue’s Research Computing Envision Center as part of a collaboration between Purdue Global, the online school, and will be accomplished with the help of an InstaPro 2 camera carried by an operator who will provide 360 views. The students will be able to see the ceremony with their provided headsets, which look like a lot like Google Cardboard headsets. Viewers will also have access to a fixed-view stream on the University’s Facebook feed.
George Takahashi, lead visualization scientist for the center, said the program was the work of a team of students: “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.”
Given that millions of students take online courses — the National Center for Education Statistics found over 6 million students enrolled in online postsecondary courses in 2017 — this is a gesture that might help students feel more included in the academic process. Hopefully more schools follow Purdue’s example.