2011 Commencement Roundup

Photo courtesy of akaRogersPhotography@flickr

 

Commencement is over!  <sigh/>

The collective sigh we in the higher ed Web world let out this past month may have been able to be heard from the space station as we transitioned from spring semester to summer. Let’s do that again: <sigh/>.

The Twitter stream and Facebook chatter in the month leading up to graduation season were abuzz with hopes, dreams and frustrations about what Web professionals would be tasked with doing just before, during and after commencement  — to not only communicate the details of the ceremonies, but how to bring the festivities to those unable to  attend.  Others wondered how to use this as an opportunity to foster a sense of community.

We’ve assembled a sampling of things #highered folks tackled this year. Professionals in departments ranging from IT to marketing and all shades in between forged ahead this year to expand all things communication surrounding commencement ceremonies. We would love for you to share your stories of triumph, tribulation and titters (no, not twitters—titters, as in hahaha). Let us know how things went for you in the feedback section below.

Army of One-ish

While none of us could do our jobs in total isolation, often specific tasks of posting to social media, packaging a video or building a website must be tackled by one person.

Director of Web Services at Le Moyne College Michelle Tarby, self-proclaimed IT girl, pulled together a social media presence to not only promote the graduation ceremony but to provide an avenue of interaction.

“All in all, it was a great day,” Tarby said. “I pulled together our public website, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr for one unified event for the first time, remembering that each tool has a strength and does not have to be mutually exclusive. I also placed trust in our community and that trust was rewarded with heart-felt engagement.”

Tarrant County College made the foray into live-tweeting and Facebook-photo-uploading at the spring commencement ceremony. As a one-person social media army, I girded myself with my smart phone and iPad, feverishly snapping photos, posting them to the College’s official Facebook and Twitter accounts, and tweeting main points of the evening. We hope to expand our presence next year with live-streaming, but had families unable to attend tell us that they appreciated seeing the photos in near real-time.

Collaboration FTW!

Several colleges and universities are well-beyond the baby steps of social interaction and broadcast a live-stream of graduation ceremonies. Francis Marion University’s Larry Falck described how the Instructional Tech and Electronic Media Services group, in coordination with their athletic department accomplished their stream:

“We took a feed from our broadcast (we run the local government access channel) and using Windows Media Encoder, streamed live through pennatlantic.com. We use them for our basketball games. For video switching/audio/CGs we use a Tricaster. All cameras are run using a product called Camplex; power, intercom, video, audio, and tally all run through one coax cable per camera.”

Tufts University not only live-streamed their event, but presented an audio slideshow, too. “What brought the house down (internally, anyway) was the audio slideshow we did on our beloved president, who is leaving this summer,” said Georgy Cohen, Manager, Web Content and Strategy at Tufts.

Tufts treated its commencement ceremony coverage as a complete communications package with several departments involved in producing content, including Web Communications (anchor of the project), Educational Media (video responsibilities), Publications (story writing), PR (story review) and Photography.

Tim Nekritz, director of web communication, association director of public affairs, and unofficially the de facto social media officer at SUNY Oswego, shared his hits and misses in going social at this year’s commencement ceremony, Oswego’s 150th. In addition to establishing a hashtag –#ozgrad–  on Twitter and promoting the festivities with a Facebook event page, his team melded two tools—live-stream video and Facebook comment box—to create an interactive webcast.

University of Arkansas at Little Rock Web Content Coordinator Shari Erwin posted a summary of UALR’s Office of Communications mission this year: to make graduation day that’s not only memorable, but “a social experience that transcends place.” The efforts of the Communications and Web teams were a success. Not only did more than 700 community members view the live broadcast, that many and more have since watched archived videos from the ceremony.

Darwin Would Approve

As we reflect on how our departments fared during commencement , as well as how we as individual professionals can keep pushing communication and interaction forward for our communities, let’s not get discouraged in thinking how far we may be behind our peers at College XYZ.

Let’s try to push the envelope at our respective institutions, one project at a time, learning as we go — kill off the projects that fail and increase the bar where we can. Evolve.