The Commencement Challenge: Could Kettering Live Stream Graduation on 2 Weeks’ Notice?

Just two weeks before spring graduation in 2015, Christine Wallace, Vice President for Kettering Global Campus at Kettering University, received a late night text message from the university’s president, Robert McMahan:

“Stream commencement. Why or why not?”

Among all university activities, commencement stands apart as an event of particular significance. Graduation is planned to be a galvanizing moment, helping students feel bonded to the university for years to come as proud alumni.

Yet as Kettering was realizing, a traditional on-location event simply couldn’t serve their geographically expanding audience. Travel costs and logistical issues would make attending impossible for many online and remote students. Physical distance would also make it difficult for some parents to see their graduate cross the stage with diploma in hand.

And so at Kettering, the challenge was set.

As the team that had already been charged with streaming Kettering’s courses online for students around the world, the Global Campus team was the natural recipient for the president’s inquiry. Immediately, Dr Wallace and senior technologist Brian Beck set out to work on a solution.

With only two weeks to prepare, the Kettering team made the decision to produce and stream the spring commencement event in-house, without bringing on any outside AV specialists. Under normal circumstances, this would have been a high-risk operation. However, Kettering had already been using the Panopto video platform to deliver recorded classroom content, and the Global Campus team was confident they’d be able to use Panopto to capture and stream the graduation ceremonies.

Kettering streams Spring 2015 Commencement live worldwide with Panopto


Live Streaming a Marquee Event With Two Weeks’ Notice

To make sure they’d have every angle covered, the team rented a small number of high-definition camcorders, a source switcher, and a mixer for the event. They plugged everything into a standard desktop PC with the Panopto recorder installed and conducted a series of dry runs. Everything worked just as they’d hoped.

“The day of the ceremony was an absolute whirlwind,” Beck recalled. “But through it all, we were never worried about Panopto.”

Virtual attendees tuned-in through the university’s website, where they could launch a real-time stream of the graduation festivities. Although the short turnaround time had limited the team’s ability to promote the live feed, the online audience only grew as the ceremony proceeded, eventually accounting for 25% of total attendance. Said Dr Wallace, “Everything went so smoothly. It was pretty amazing.”

The Global Campus team also used the feed to share the day’s activities campus-wide, connecting Panopto to Kettering’s own digital signage system and making the event available to students, faculty, and visitors at the university that weren’t able to attend in person.

Praise for the webcast poured in. For families around the world, watching graduation in real time online brought parents, grandparents, and siblings closer to their loved ones’ big day.

“We heard from one graduate student whose parents were in Jamaica and could not afford to fly to Michigan for commencement,” reported Dr Wallace. “They were absolutely thrilled to be able to see and participate in his graduation.”

Find Out More

Challenged to find new ways to enhance their students’ university experience, Kettering found an opportunity to expand how the school had been using its existing lecture capture platform.

Learn more about how Kettering is using video to better serve the needs of its students and their families — click to get your copy of our newest case study today.


Published: October 28, 2015

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