Students attend virtual graduation ceremonies during COVID-19

Published On May 18, 2021 | By Tina Nalova Ikome-Likambi | News

Romarice Dissock said he is anxious about graduating virtually this year.

“I don’t know what that day would look like, but hopefully I have a good day,” Dissock said. “I am just happy I finished and I am ready to receive my certificate.”

said such virtual graduations cannot measure up to in-person convocations.
Romarice Dissock said virtual graduations cannot measure up to in-person convocations. Photo credit: Courtesy of Romarice Dissock

Dissock, 20, is set to graduate on June 2 with a Bachelor’s in Advertising and Marketing from La Cité Collegiale in Gatineau, Que.

He is one of thousands of students across Canada scheduled to attend virtual graduations this year, set in place to prevent in-person gatherings and limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Rhonda Harrison, chair of Humber College’s convocation, said Humber, like other colleges and universities, intends to engage students during its virtual convocation scheduled for June 17.

She said there will be several key speakers and students can do shout-out videos and also celebrate through social media.

However, Dissock said virtual graduations cannot measure up to in-person convocations.

“I don’t think the graduation is going to be something fun, compared to if it was in person,” he said.

Nonetheless, Dissock said he will be ready to celebrate come June 2.

“My friend told me to buy a robe for that day. It is about $20. I am going to get mine,” he said. “Also, hopefully, places reopen so I can get a haircut.”

Dissock said he is glad to have completed his program even with the challenges he faced while studying virtually.

“Sometimes I was sleeping way too late and I had to wake up at 8 a.m. because I had classes at 8:30 a.m.,” he said.

“I was like, ‘I am not sure I want to go to class tomorrow,’” Dissock said.

Dhillon said he was not expecting a huge celebration during his graduation from Humber College
Gagandeep Singh Dhillon said he was not expecting a huge celebration during his graduation from Humber College. Photo credit: Tina Nalova Ikome-Likambi

Gagandeep Singh Dhillon, a recent graduate in Immigration and Consultancy, agreed, saying he preferred in-person classes during his diploma program at Humber College.

“Sometimes when you are making eye contact with your professor, you feel more confident while asking certain questions,” he said.

Dhillon said virtual classes were not properly executed by Humber teachers and staff.

“I believe Humber management were not able to deliver online classes in an efficient way after the pandemic came in,” he said.

However, Dhillon said he pushed himself to complete his program.

“Ultimately, I did well,” he said. “I completed in December and I graduated with honours.”

Nonetheless, Dhillon said he was not expecting a huge celebration during his graduation from Humber College.

“Unfortunately, we just got a small gift package from Humber,” he said.

“When I opened the box, my five-year-old, he said, ‘Okay papa, you have graduated,’ and I said, ‘Thank you’ and that was it.”

It was this indifference and lack of celebration of the class of 2021 that made Salvatore Demma release a video entitled “Dear Graduating Class of 2021”.

Demma, a youth speaker from Pickering, Ont., said the video, which has more than 17,000 views on Instagram, is about celebrating these students.

“I felt like they were being left out,” he said.

Students need to celebrate their achievements and realize how courageous they are, Demma said.

“They can be proud of their accomplishments because that video reminded them of it,” he said.

LeslieChan.jpg
Leslie Chan said students need to keep a network of people as they graduate. Photo credit: Courtesy of Leslie Chan

Leslie Chan, an associate professor in the Centre for Critical Development Studies at the University of Toronto, Scarborough, agreed.

He said many students also failed to get the campus experience because of no in-person gatherings.

“That complete lack of campus experience was obviously very hard for them,” Chan said.

However, Chan said virtual methods of learning would benefit students as they head into the job market.

“It reminds us that work and learning can take place anywhere and anytime,” he said.

He also said these students need to keep a network of people as they graduate.

“One of the most important parts of the university experience is building a professional, peer support, and an emotional network,” he said.

Dissock agreed and said he stays in touch with his classmates online.

“We have a Facebook group so we can talk to one another,” he said.

However, Dissock said current students should stay resilient through the challenges.

“Follow your dreams,” he said. “Even with COVID and everything being virtual, do not give up, just keep pushing.”

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