Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin (UniSZA) in Terengganu has proposed using robots to stand-in for students for the upcoming 2020 convocation. This will enable UniSZA graduates to attend the ceremony via video conferencing and receive their diplomas remotely through a robot.
Unfortunately, a significant number of students were not keen on having a robot-assisted virtual convocation and have expressed their objection to the idea. Many had suggested postponing the event as most students would want to receive their scrolls in person.
Most have commented that they do not mind postponing the convocation even if it means waiting for a couple of years once it is safe to do so. Some commented that they want to be able to celebrate their achievement of finishing their students with their loved ones.
UniSZA has clarified that they have yet to make a decision on this year’s convocation and they are merely demonstrating its resources to conduct a socially distanced graduation ceremony if necessary.
This isn’t the first time UniSZA had used robots for graduation ceremonies. The university had introduced Naseem, a scroll presenter robot in October 2019. The robot was designed, developed and programmed fully at UniSZA and it was an effort by the Mechanical, Electronic, Computing and Arts Research Group (MECCA) that consists of 5 lecturers from two faculties. They used 3D printing and it took them 3 weeks to complete.
The usage of robot avatars as stand-ins for students during convocation has taken place in several universities worldwide. This includes Business Breakthrough University in Tokyo, Japan and Arizona State University in the United States.
Recently, IACT College has held its first e-convocation ceremony via Zoom video conferencing. The graduating class of 2020 has 237 graduates from IACT’s Certificate Foundation, Diploma and Degree programmes.
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