The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on education all over the world. According to the United Nation’s educational, scientific, and cultural body UNESCO, an estimated 91.3 percent of total enrolled learners from over 188 countries have been affected by school closures caused by COVID-19.
In further education, as well as closures and changes to end of year examinations, universities worldwide have also had to cancel graduation ceremonies. But, for some students in Japan, the show still went on.
The Business Breakthrough (BBT) University, Tokyo, carried out a graduation ceremony on March 28 at the Hotel Grand Palace, in Chiyoda. As the recipients were not allowed to be there in person, they instead remotely-controlled robots to collect the diplomas on their behalf. To make the ceremony even more “life-like” the students were video-called onto a tablet positioned on the robot’s “face”.
Donned in robes and a mortarboard, the “newme” robots, developed by ANA Holdings, were also designed with hands to hold the certificates for the four graduates chosen to operate the novel guests. Whilst other students “attended” the ceremony via Zoom, President of the University, Kenichi Omae, handed out the diplomas to the avatars, in a truly unforgettable ceremony.
“When I entered, I never thought I would operate my avatar and attend the graduation ceremony,” one “avatar” student said. “Receiving a diploma in a public space while in a private space was a novel experience.”
In fact, Professor Shugo Yanaka, Dean of Global Business Administration at BBT University, who planned the “Avatar graduation ceremony”, believes other universities could carry out similar events for their students.
“We are pleased to have a warm online graduation ceremony with the introduction of avatars as new corona[virus] measures are required,” Professor Yanaka said in a statement. “We hope this initiative will be helpful to educational institutions who are struggling to hold graduation and entrance ceremonies.”
BBT University is not the only place in Japan to get creative with virtual graduation ceremonies. Last month a group of elementary school graduates held their ceremony in Minecraft, after their school year, which was due to end in March, was cut short.