Universities and students are celebrating the graduating class of 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic with robots, 'Minecraft,' and 'Animal Crossing'

BBTGraduates at BBT in Tokyo had a unique virtual ceremony involving mobile robots.
  • US universities began shifting to remote learning in light of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, leaving the graduating class of 2020 without a traditional ceremony.
  • Colleges and universities across the globe are getting creative with ways to come together and celebrate graduates virtually.
  • Here’s how schools are celebrating the graduating class of 2020 amid the coronavirus crisis with robots at Business Breakthrough University, virtual replicas of the University of Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts Institue of Technology in “Minecraft,” and more.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.


The class of 2020 is having a non-tradiational graduation experience amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Spencer Platt/Getty ImagesA graduation ceremony at Columbia University before the coronavirus pandemic.

Source: Business Insider


While practicing social distancing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, college communities have come up with creative ways to celebrate their commencement virtually.

Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty ImagesUniversity of Massachusetts Medical School graduate Jacqueline Chipkin participates in a FaceTime video chat on March 31, 2020.

Source: Business Insider


Mobile robots: Business Breakthrough University (BBT) in Tokyo hosted a virtual graduation ceremony for students using mobile robots on March 28.

BBTBBT University graduation.

Source: Business Insider


Designed by OhmniLabs, “Newme” robots have tablets attached to them where each student is in attendance via a Zoom call.

BBT‘Newme’ robots at the BBT University graduation.

Source: Business Insider


Four students and a few administrators showed up to the ceremony in-person to help operate the virtual attendants.

BBTBBT University graduation.

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This way, the BBT class of 2020 was able to experience walking across the graduation stage to receive their diploma without having to bring everyone together in-person.

BBT‘Newme’ robots at the BBT University graduation.

Source: Business Insider


Video conference: In New York, NYU’s Grossman School of Medicine had an early graduation ceremony for students who volunteered to begin working on the frontline against the coronavirus on April 3.

Courtesy of NYUA screenshot of NYU early graduates.

Source: NYU Langone Health


The ceremony was a live teleconference, including encouraging words from faculty and mentors as well as a slide for each graduate with their name and photo.

Courtesy of NYUJeff Manko, MD, spoke during the ceremony.

Source: NYU Langone Health


The 52 graduates are joining NYU Langone’s internal medicine and emergency medicine departments as interns.

Courtesy of NYUA screenshot of NYU early graduates.

Source: NYU Langone Health


Building a virtual campus: Students at the University of Pennsylvania recreated their campus in “Minecraft,” a video game where you can build worlds.

Damian OwerkoUPenn campus in ‘Minecraft.’

Source: Business Insider


Students started building in March to host virtual versions of graduation traditions typically celebrated on campus.

Damian OwerkoUPenn campus in ‘Minecraft.’

Source: Business Insider


News of an elementary school graduation on “Minecraft” inspired junior Andrew Guo to reach out to other students about building a virtual version of their campus.

Built by Andrew Roberts, Screenshot by Damian OwerkoUPenn campus in ‘Minecraft.’

Source: Business Insider


Guo told Business Insider that around 30 people have worked on building the campus.

Damian OwerkoUPenn campus in ‘Minecraft.’

Source: Business Insider


Guo told said that the group of students involved with the virtual campus is reaching out to the university to discuss using their project for an unofficial virtual graduation event.

Damian OwerkoUPenn campus in ‘Minecraft.’

Source: Business Insider


Over in Massachusetts, hundreds of MIT students recreated their campus in “Minecraft” as well.

William MosesMIT campus in ‘Minecraft.’

Source: Business Insider


Graduate student and “Minecraft” server moderator William Moses told Business Insider that 883 unique users have used the server and 220 of them have requested permission to build.

William MosesMIT campus in ‘Minecraft.’

With hundreds of students working towards the completion of the campus, builders are using a google sheet to track who will make each building.

William MosesMIT campus in ‘Minecraft.’

Source: Business Insider


Moses told Business Insider that video footage of their virtual campus may be featured in the university’s official online commencement ceremony, which will be held on May 29.

William MosesMIT campus in ‘Minecraft.’

Source: MIT


A virtual surprise party: At the University of Southern California, Nimmi Kumar graduated with a mater’s degree in social work, and her friends threw her virtual graduation in a video game where you claim an island and make it your own called “Animal Crossing.”

Courtesy of Nimmi KumarNimmi Kumar graduated from the University of Southern California.

Kumar told Business Insider that she finished her coursework without a sense of completion. “I just logged off of zoom and went back to my couch,” she said.

Courtesy of Nimmi KumarKumar’s graduation ceremony in ‘Animal Crossing.’

So her friends threw her a surprise graduation ceremony on an “Animal Crossing” island to cheer her up.

Courtesy of Nimmi KumarNimmi Kumar graduated from the University of Southern California.

“They chose the perfect time to have it since I was visiting my parents,” Kumar told Business Insider. “I was genuinely surprised and everyone was crying.”

Courtesy of Nimmi KumarKumar’s graduation ceremony in ‘Animal Crossing.’

The ceremony was put together by Kumar’s friends that she met in a Facebook group. They bonded over “Animal Crossing.”

Courtesy of Nimmi KumarNimmi Kumar graduated from the University of Southern California.

“Although it was through a video game, I’m glad I was able to find some sort of closure to start the journey after graduation,” Kumar told Business Insider.

Courtesy of Nimmi KumarKumar’s graduation ceremony in ‘Animal Crossing.’

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