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Monday, 21 February, 2000, 14:17 GMT
Graduation ceremony goes online

Graduate Graduation pictures could be replaced with online ceremonies

Students who have taken a degree in distance learning are putting the theory into practice - with a virtual graduation ceremony.

Next month, the Open University will stage its first online graduation day, in which students around the world are formally awarded degrees in a ceremony to be broadcast on the internet.

The 24 students who have taken a masters course in open and distance learning will be 'presented' with their degrees by the university's vice-chancellor, Sir John Daniel.

The vice-chancellor, who will wear his formal robes, will stand in front of a web camera and read out the names of the students - who will be watching from their homes in countries including the United States, Taiwan, Finland and Hong Kong.

students In the United States, the internet is used to show graduation ceremonies to relatives unable to attend
Students have been invited to send in pictures of themselves and their personal messages and greetings for classmates - which will be shown during the webcast.

Chat room

After the ceremony has finished, the 24 students will be able to enter a 'chat room' where they can swap e-mails about their memories of their time at the Open University.

However discussions of wild nights, missed seminars and cheap beer are unlikely, as all of these students are themselves distance learners, with the entire course operating through the internet, e-mail or post.

The ceremony will also include the awarding of an honorary degree to one of the founders of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, who will deliver an online speech from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Any students unable to attend, in either a real or virtual sense, will be able to see a recording of the ceremony on a CD-Rom.

The graduation, which will take place on 31 March, is anticipated to be the first of a number of such online ceremonies.

Demand for tickets

In the United States, the internet has already been used to carry video pictures of graduation days.

Tickets for graduations are often in great demand - and putting the ceremony on the internet has been a way of involving those unable to attend in person.

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