Ohio State’s College of Social Work engages more than just graduates in its Evening of Recognition ceremony. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo Editor

The Evening of Recognition, an event that the College of Social Work holds before Spring Commencement, uses live-tweeting and a live stream to solve a peculiar problem: an unengaged audience.

“If you look out there, people are on their phones and doing various things, so we had the idea, probably around four years ago now, if they’re going to be on their phones, what could we do to make this more of a participatory event?” said Tom Gregoire, the dean of the College of Social Work.

The Evening of Recognition is an event that individually recognizes students for their academic achievements, and their graduation from the College of Social Work. Each student has their name read out, they shake hands with the dean and he gives them a rose.

But the dean noticed attendees would be looking at their phones while they waited for their graduates name to be called, unengaged. The solution? A 12-by-16-foot screen displaying live tweets from the audience.

“Technology is evolving every day, you can’t get away from technology, so the fact that the college uses that at the Evening of Recognition is awesome,” said Brittany Ward, a Masters in Social Work academic adviser who earned her degree at Ohio State.

The evening organizers let people know in advance about the live Twitter feed so that they can register a Twitter handle if they don’t have one already. Then throughout the evening attendees tweet pictures and messages to the #CSWEOR hashtag to get on the screen. The screen is filled with pictures and tweets from the attendees, and even those who are unable to attend. The tweets also are screened through a program so that nothing inappropriate slips into the event.

“It’s to make the evening participatory, you’re not just sitting out in the crowd letting this get done to you until your graduate comes. The whole time you can get involved and we want to have some fun with it, it’s a big celebration, a huge accomplishment and we want to be a little playful with it,” Gregoire said.

“Everyone is on social media. The fact that we can implement social media at a time of celebration is awesome,” Ward said.

The evening also hosts a live stream so that family members who are unable to attend can watch the ceremony at home and can also participate in the Twitter feed.

Live streamers from all over the world have tuned in to watch the ceremony from places like Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and Australia.

“I had a student from Ghana about two or three years ago email me saying how much it meant to her family to be able to watch her go across the stage from Ghana,” Gregoire said. “I guess if you’re hyper traditional it might seem a little weird, but now I know when I’m standing on stage looking out there seeing all those phones glowing, they’re actually paying attention.”