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Collegians to graduate live on Web


At first, Marcela Aviles worried that her cheering section would be small at Howard Community College's commencement ceremony this afternoon. With the exception of her three children, most of her family and friends live in Ecuador.

But it turns out that Aviles will have a large international contingent rooting as she accepts her degree in business management, thanks to the college's first live Internet broadcast of the ceremony.

The Internet commencement broadcast is a pioneering effort. Among Maryland's community colleges, Montgomery College and Howard are producing the first such broadcasts.

HCC officials said the college is offering the live video feed on its Web site to open the commencement to family and friends of graduates from all over the United States and 70 foreign countries.

"It will expand opportunities ... to be part of that special celebration for students," said HCC spokesman Randy Bengfort.

For Aviles, the broadcast means her family and friends in Ecuador will be able to join her children in the audience at Merriweather Post Pavilion in cheering her educational success. "It will be wonderful because I was feeling sad before because none of the members of my family would be here," she said.

Three cameras provided by Maryland Public Television will capture images of the graduates accepting their diplomas. The commencement will be carried live on HCC-TV -- Channel 71 on Howard County's Comcast cable service -- and the images will also be transmitted back to the school's Internet server at the campus library to be presented on the college's Web site.

Margaret Kahlor, general manager of HCC-TV, said college officials decided to include a Web broadcast with its cable television broadcast of the event to enable people who don't have cable or can't attend to see the outdoor event.

"We wanted to make it available to as many members of the community as possible," Kahlor said.

Aviles said she worried that the technology would not be available in the South American country she left in the early 1980s.

"It's not like here where everybody has a computer," Aviles said.

But her nephew, who works with computers and the Internet in Ecuador, will help her relatives and friends watch her walk across the stage to receive her degree.

The college broadcast commencement on its cable channel for the first time last year. Several other Maryland community colleges, including those in Harford, Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Carroll counties, also will use local cable channels to broadcast their commencement ceremonies this year.

Kahlor said HCC officials developed the idea for a Web broadcast after the success of last year's televised commencement. This year, she said, the college has the equipment to make the live video feed possible, and because HCC-TV rents video equipment from MPT for the cable broadcast, the additional cost of the Web production is minimal.

Judy Bulliner, HCC's director of records and registration and chairwoman of the commencement committee, said she expects a large audience to tune into the TV and Internet broadcasts of the ceremony. HCC-TV will also rebroadcast the graduation, and the college will rerun the taped ceremony on televisions across campus.

Montgomery College, which enrolls students from 170 countries, will broadcast its commencement tomorrow on its Web site.

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