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Aoba-Japan International School Conducts a Student-Built “Virtual Graduation”


Graduates participate through virtual avatars in response to the new coronavirus

Twelve high school graduates participated in the graduation as 3D avatars, from the beginning of the ceremony to receiving their diplomas in a virtual replication of the school campus conceived and managed by Paul Fradale, Secondary School Principal, created by fellow Aoba students and teachers led by Lisa de Pierres, MYP Coordinator, and supported by Vincent Favard and Pim Willems of the ICT Team. The graduation was broadcast in real time through the video hosting platform “Vimeo” by the ICT Team and filmed virtually by Julian Pederson from Marketing.

As many events were being cancelled in response to the new coronavirus infection preventive measures, a “Virtual Graduation” was held in an online venue created by a team of fifty G4 - G11 students in just over two weeks, in hopes of making the Aoba graduates’ departure a meaningful and memorable one. The virtual space was created using “Minecraft”, a virtual world-building game; Aoba’s physical gymnasium, school buildings, and grounds where the graduates spent their school career, were reproduced along with their Avatars.

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When the graduation ceremony began, “Pomp and Circumstance” played while the students‘ avatars in A-JIS’ school-coloured maroon caps and gowns conducted a procession onto the stage from the gym entrance.

After the students took their places on the virtual risers, Mr. Iwao Shibata, Board Chair, shared his recorded congratulatory speech, which was followed by messages of encouragement from current students and teachers recorded at home.  The graduating students expressed their appreciation by having their avatars jump up and down in the virtual space.  

Next, a slideshow built by the Student Council comprising photos and Tik Tok montages from the graduates’ childhoods to the present was shown. After that, the graduates in full attire appeared in the live stream and expressed their appreciation for their memories of the time at Aoba, their peers, their families and the teachers.

Mr. Ken Sell, Head of School, then appeared in a video message encouraging the graduates to "find and praise the strength of the people around them", concluding with the observation that it is “very important for all of us to find similarities and treat each other with respect and to live in peace.” The graduates then shared a recorded song/video they performed and produced with Mr. Phillip Smiler, a Senior School Coordinator.

At the end of the graduation ceremony, a diploma was awarded to each graduate in the virtual space. When the graduates were called by Mr. Fradale, they operated their own avatars and moved to Mr. Sell’s avatar, receiving their diplomas. The other avatars watched as their fellows received the certificate, turning and moving their faces. They concluded with tossing their caps in the air and setting off individual  fireworks.

After the hour-long ceremony the graduates left the gymnasium and moved to the virtual school grounds where the "AOBA CLASS OF 2020" sign was placed, and large-scale virtual fireworks were launched to celebrate the graduates.

The Aoba graduates commented, "I am very grateful to the teachers and students who have achieved this virtual graduation ceremony." "It was a better and more unique experience than I had imagined. It would be nice to introduce this type of graduation ceremony more and more in schools facing similar situations.”

This virtual graduation ceremony arose from Aoba's Core Values that promote innovation, problem-solving, and positive leadership.

When the school was faced with a situation where normal graduation ceremonies were not possible to hold due to the spread of the new coronavirus, the teachers and students took action together in order to hold a memorable graduation ceremony. As a result, Aoba was able to hold an innovative and warm graduation ceremony that will be remembered for life by our graduates.

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Emi Yoshida

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