FSU's first virtual graduation from CCI-SLIS

by Bob Branciforte


In a ceremony attended by the avatars of six students, the first virtual
graduation of The Florida State University took place online on
Saturday, May 1. The Spring 2010 Second Life Graduation Ceremony of the 
College of Communication & Information <>  (CCI)
enabled distance students who had earned their degrees online to
graduate online as well.


"I am very proud to have been part of this first venture for distance
students. It really brought forth the reality of graduation for me since
I was not able to attend in person," Linda Vosburgh said. Vosburgh, who
lives in Coral Springs, Florida, nearly 400 miles from Florida State
University's Tallahassee campus, earned her master's in library and
information studies entirely online. She attended the virtual graduation
at the Second Life FSU campus as the avatars of her daughter and a
friend sat in the audience.


Anyone with a computer and Internet access can receive a free avatar in
the three-dimensional virtual world of Second Life
<> .
After learning to move your avatar around (this includes the ability to
fly), use a viewer to see and your keyboard to interact with others, you
can explore the virtual world. Land can be purchased and other property
can be built with software, traded, or purchased.


The iSpace Second Life FSU campus, where the graduation was held, was
built through the efforts of the faculty and graduate students of the
CCI School of Library & Information Studies, one of three schools that
comprise the college. In classes such as "Virtual Reference
Environments," students learn to use Second Life and other Web 2.0
technologies (Web-based applications that are collaborative and
interactive) for digital libraries. The virtual campus, which includes
recreated features and buildings from the physical FSU campus, has been
used for teaching and for national research conferences. 


"The graduation was more of a test of concept rather than a huge scale
event since we had never attempted a virtual ceremony like this before,"
said Dr. Lorri Mon
of the CCI School of Library & Information Studies (SLIS).


Choreographing an event in Second Life, even a small scale virtual
graduation, required much planning and working in the background on
Mon's part. SLIS graduate assistant Robert Vandagriff put a great deal
of work into building the stage, auditorium and photograph area in
Second Life. He helped Mon manage the ceremony.


"Our biggest issue was acclimating users to the interface," Vandagriff
said. "It was difficult to train first-time attendees to move their
avatars well enough so that they could be in designated areas (i.e.
procession, stage) when we needed them to be."


Mon acted as the graduation emcee, integrating audio files such as "Pomp
and Circumstance," introducing faculty members who were present as
avatars and projecting images on a whiteboard behind the virtual stage.
Mon also "shape shifted" into the avatars of faculty who were unable to
attend but who had provided her with prerecorded speeches.

"So, for example, I had a Dean Larry Dennis [College of Communication &
Information] avatar that I shifted into when I played his speeches," Mon

The ceremony concluded with a virtual fireworks display as FSU's "Hymn
to the Garnet and Gold" played. Vandagriff came riding out as the FSU
mascot Chief Osceola on his horse, Renegade. To learn more about the
graduation and the FSU virtual campus visit the FSULibIT Info Tech &
Libraries YouTube Channel <> .




Bob Branciforte, MLIS

Creative Director

College of Communication & Information

The Florida State University


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