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Kettering University

Livestreaming a Commencement Ceremony to Relatives Around the World


Commencement streamed in-house

Virtual attendees accounted for 25% of total commencement attendance

More than 100 courses uploaded to Panopto

The Challenge

Just two weeks before spring graduation in 2015, Christine Wallace, Vice President for Kettering Global Campus, received a late-night text message from the Kettering University’s president, Robert McMahan: “Stream commencement. Why or why not?”

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 of 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 – 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 it would be able to use the platform to capture and stream the graduation ceremonies.

The Solution

To make sure they’d have every angle covered, the team members 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 says. “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.

“Everything went so smoothly,” Dr. Wallace says. “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 who 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,” says Dr. Wallace. “They were absolutely thrilled to be able to see and participate in his graduation.”

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

Brian Beck, Senior Technologist – Kettering University

The Impact

Well before the commencement, Kettering had already found a valuable application for live-streamed video. The university used Panopto to deliver the university’s distance learning courses to students around the globe.

Prior to using Panopto, the team had enabled distance learning by mailing long-form lecture recordings on DVDs to remote students. With Panopto, there was no longer a need for the costs and logistical hassles associated with the creation and shipping of physical media. Within six months, the team at Kettering had uploaded more than 100 courses to Panopto. Panopto’s video platform automatically optimized each lecture recording so that students around the world could watch it in the highest quality on any device, regardless of their internet connection speed.

After enhancing its existing distance learning program, the Kettering team found it could also tap Panopto to address another challenge: enabling instructors to teach remotely.

With no more than a laptop, webcam, and Panopto’s recording software, Kettering’s faculty can now teach from anywhere in the world, and teachers have been quick to seize the opportunity. And as the need for specialized engineering education grows, Kettering University continues to expand its global reach, educating students at a distance and helping the entire campus community – digital or traditional – connect and celebrate milestone moments. 

By delivering video content to students and family members around the world in real time, Kettering is reducing the barriers to education while helping global students feel like valued members of the campus community.

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