Technology use makes college graduation a more personalized experience

#UFGrad on Tagboard

If you haven’t been to a college graduation in a few years, you might be surprised at how technology is such a part of the graduation experience.

I was a marshal at graduation for one of the University of Florida’s master’s degree ceremonies and will share some observations. [With almost 50,000 students, UF has several graduation ceremonies, which not only enables students to have more family and friends attend but makes the ceremonies shorter.]

UF staff provides QR codes for grads - Photo by Julie Dodd

When grads checked in at graduation, each received a QR code sticker to place on the name card that would be scanned before the student crossed the stage.

Almost everyone – the graduates’ families and friends who are attending the event and the graduates themselves – was texting, tweeting, taking photos, posting to Facebook or Instagram, or talking on the phone during some part of the graduation ceremony. I include live tweeting in a course I teach (Multimedia Writing), so I, too, was doing some live tweeting during the event.

Some universities this year have banned the taking on selfies when the students are crossing the stage. But the University of Florida and other universities are finding ways to take advantage of technology during graduation.

Special hashtag for graduation tweets

As graduation was about to start, we were encouraged to include #UFgrad in our tweets, with photos of graduates with the #UFgrad hashtag shown on the big screens.

QR Code to announce each graduate

When checking in at graduation, each grad received a QR code sticker to place on his or her name card. Before the student walked across the stage, the QR code was scanned. When the student’s name was read and the student crossed the stage, the student’s name appeared on the big screens with the video of the student crossing the stage.

Smartphone to join alumni association

Gator grad crossing stage

With the scan of the grad’s QR Code, the student’s name appeared on the big screens as he crossed the stage.

In her remarks to the graduates, UF’s incoming president of the UF Alumni Association, encouraged students to use their phones to help UF by going to the UF Alumni Association and joining. She said their membership would show alumni engagement, which is one of the factors used in determining university rankings. I don’t know how many students may have signed up during the ceremony, but I’m sure some did.

Totally online degree programs

Technology also played a major role for some students being at graduation. I was seated with a group of students from my college who had completed their master’s degree completely online. They had “met” each other online in their courses and had sometimes worked on course projects together. But except for two of them, they had never met until the day of graduation.

I heard stories from these grads about how valuable they found their coursework and how the online structure of the degree made earning a master’s degree possible. One of the grads is stationed in the military in Florida but not near a university. She would not have been able to attend a traditional campus degree program. And during the time she was serving in the military and working on her master’s, she had a daughter and her husband was called to active duty. So the online degree opportunity made all the difference for her and many of her online classmates.

So what about all that technology use during graduation?

Some people may have been involved in non-graduation technology activities, like checking sports scores or playing games. But from what I saw as I was in the midst of the graduates before and during graduation, they were focused on graduation with their technology use. I think their technology use made for a more personalized experience for the graduates and their family and friends — not only those who were attending the ceremony but for everyone following the event from miles away.


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