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Last updated: 02.12.11

Avatar graduation 'takes e-learning to next level'

E-learning graduation has been taken to the next level as a new system allows those who have used the virtual classroom to gain qualifications to have a "real life" ceremony complete with cap and gown.

The University of Edinburgh has rolled out a new technology which lets online learners to view their own graduation on screen - the only difference being that they will be watching their own digital avatar instead of attending a ceremony in person.

Distance learners receive their scrolls as personalised avatars, which are made to look like the real virtual classroom user through the Second Life programme.

Jayne Roberts, 37, who is from Georgia in the US, was around 900 miles away from the university when she took part in her graduation ceremony on screen.

She told the Edinburgh Evening News: "I was disappointed not to make it back home to the UK for the graduation ceremony, but Second Life made it possible for me to be there.

"The support team was patient and encouraging and everything went great."

Students at the university who took the MSc in e-learning in the school of education and the MSc in equine science in the college of medicine and veterinary medicine were among those who were able to partake in the new digital event.

Ms Roberts added: "Not many people can attest to graduating with a cup of tea and their PJs on - it was 06:00 here."

The latest graduation ceremony was also available on mobile internet platforms.

Jeremy Knox, who received a masters degree from the school of education, told the newspaper that he attended the real-life ceremony while also watching the e-learning event on his smartphone.

He mentioned: "It was a fascinating experience, challenging and risky, but it is just this kind of innovative thinking that the MSc in e-learning encourages."

The University of Edinburgh first announced its plans to hold virtual avatar graduations in 2009 and the founders of the system suggested that it could provide a template for other distance learning providers.