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IIT Bombay's Virtual Convocation: The New Normal

The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay had their 58th Annual Convocation ceremony on Sunday, 23rd August,2020. The internet is shaken since the students were awarded with certificates and medals virtually on a virtual stage.

IIT Bombay's Virtual Convocation. Source: Twitter

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the institute held a virtual reality (VR) convocation for the students graduating this year. The programme, where the animated digital avatars of the institute’s senate members shared the stage and personalised avatars of students given away certificates, was telecast on DD Sahyadri and numerous social media platforms.

"A personalised avatar of each graduate received the degree certificate from the personalised avatar of director professor Subhasis Chaudhari. The medallists also received their medals from the personalised avatar of the chief guest," the institute said.

A statement released by the institute said: “The institute thought it best to arrange such a VR-convocation for the graduating students as we did not wish to put their health at risk but at the same time, we did not wish to deprive them of the sense of achievement and pride of passing out of India’s premier engineering Institute.”

As many as 2186 students graduated on Sunday. The graduating students this year include 381 PhDs, 18 dual degrees of MTech/MPhil and PhD, and 27 dual degrees of MSc and PhD. Of them, 39 research scholars received the award of ‘Excellence in PhD Research’ for 2018-20. In addition, 33 joint PhD degrees, in association with Monash University, were also conferred by the vice-chancellor and president of Monash University Professor Margaret Gardner.

The students attended their convocation safely from their homes and saw their Virtual Avatar receiving medals and degrees. Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay was the first major institute to discard offline classes this year due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Seems like IIT Bombay is really going out of their way for their students' and faculty's safety.

Even though the students were not able to gather physically for the convocation, where Professor Duncan Haldane (co-recipient of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics and a professor at Princeton University) was invited as the chief guest, their virtual avatar's shared a virtual stage with him. Personalised avatars of each graduate received the degree certificate from the digital avatar of director Subhasis Chaudhuri, while all medal winners received their medals from the personalised avatar of the chief guest, Professor Duncan Haldane. The digital avatars of the institute’s senate members, who were seen sharing the stage, had been videographed individually and assembled digitally, the institute said.

How much time did it take?

From the virtual avatars of graduating students getting their medals and degrees, to the procession and the ceremony was put together by a team of around 20 people who worked on it for over two months. Barring just the ceremony, IIT Bombay also went a step ahead to virtually connect them with friends and organised viewing of hostel videos, a night before the convocation, reports Times Of India.

Post convocation too, IIT-Bombay let people access the campus’ map, walk through their departments and loiter in the corridors.

Call it creepy, uncanny or creative, it is the new normal.

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