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Cameras: On or Off?

Updated: Feb 11, 2021

By Jacqueline Riddle

Online school has become the new norm. This coronavirus has forced students to learn from home and adults to work from a distance. Although this is not ideal for anyone, it is our current situation and so we might as well make the best of it.

Five days a week, students are subject to nearly four hours of distance learning in addition to independent work, mostly in front of a computer screen. Students, along with teachers, are currently learning from the comfort of their own homes, which can be good or bad, depending on who you ask. The only way to see your classmates in class is if they have their camera turned on, which is becoming increasingly rare. In certain classroom Zooms, the teacher is surrounded by a sea of black screens - this black abyss can be discouraging for not only the teacher, but other participants as well.

In an article written in The Miami Student newspaper, a professor said it is very important for teachers to see the students in order to catch their non-verbal cues. She further went on to say, “...students turning their cameras on during class helps professors adapt, provide better feedback and help students.” Although it is fully acknowledged that students sometimes feel more comfortable with their cameras off due to privacy reasons, they are also enabling themselves to be prone to distractions. Having your camera disabled gives you zero responsibility and makes you more liable to do anything as you please.

The controversy of cameras is a common topic of conversation. A small Point Loma High School survey concluded that 36% of students are fairly comfortable with showing their faces on camera. While 83% of students are comfortable with their faces shown on camera, they don’t often turn their cameras on if it's not required. Only 20% of the students surveyed turn their cameras on for each class and the majority turn it on for only one class.

There were various answers as to why students don’t turn on their cameras, but the two main reasons fall under the lines of students being self-conscious about both their physical appearance and the state of their learning environment. You can’t go around and tell students to be more confident so they turn on their cameras; they don’t want to be the only person showing their face. Solution? Have teachers encourage students to turn on their cameras, maybe even twice a week, but as soon as students see their classmates' faces they will feel immediately more assured. Virtual backgrounds are an immediate solution to the common issue of students being self conscious about their backgrounds. Here is a source to help students successfully add virtual backgrounds.

No one could’ve predicted this pandemic and what consequences it would eventually cause, but for online education and elsewhere, it’s important that we continue to make the best of it.


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