Virtual Classroom - Should students be given a choice to keep the camera on?
Today, most of us are attending classes and teaching students through various virtual platforms; there is still a long way to go in getting used to this new phenomenon. Amongst other factors, it is important to address and realise that the mandatory policy of keeping the camera on may be posing as a challenge to the students.
When teachers are developing frameworks for students to attend online classes, they need to keep in mind that students see things from a different perspective. While teachers feel talking to a blank screen is not the right way to go about it, students may feel that keeping the camera on is problematic and a way of invading privacy. Keeping both points of views in mind, we have a few reasons that may convince you to give students a choice to keep their camera on.
We never know when something might go wrong with the internet. Keeping the video on might be a challenge on some days. Making sure the network is always stable is not in anybody's hands. It is best to leave it to the student to decide if they have the required resources and bandwidth to switch their camera on.
If keeping the camera on is mandatory, it puts unnecessary pressure on the student, deviating his attention from academics.
Even though classes should ideally be taken without any distractions, it is not necessary that the students have a silent corner where they can take all their classes. When it is mandatory to keep the camera on, the students feel obligated to make extra arrangements. Sometimes, they may even be multi tasking or fulfilling any responsibilities at home. We need to understand that the pandemic is an unusual situation and everything cannot go as expected. They might even end up feeling embarrassed or uncomfortable because of this policy.
Increased Anxiety and Stress
While keeping the camera on may help in better participation and engagement, there is a negative side to it too. For instance, when a student is speaking, he may feel intimidated by the constant eye contact and distractions that might be taking place in the camera of his classmates.
The result of this can also be reduced concentration since faces on the camera often appear large and very close. A natural response is to try and focus on all the faces in the meeting, making it difficult to have conversation without distractions.
Try and use other Alternatives
In order to check their learning and making sure students stay engaged, resort to other measures. Take daily quizzes and sometimes, even surprise them with a test. Make sure that you pause in between your lecture and ask students questions about the topic you are teaching. Keep a note of students who are participating and constantly urge the ones who are not. Give them short breaks so that they can retain their focus. Finally, promote the habit of note taking.
Be on the Same Page as Students
The decision of making the camera policy optional is not just yours. The best way is to have a word with your students and ask their take on this topic. While some may feel that keeping the camera on will help engagement, others might not be comfortable. Make sure you hear each one of them out and take a decision accordingly. At the end, our priority is the learning of the students and that can only happen when they are in sync and not hesitant.
Consider Letting It Go
As much as we may want to, we cannot monitor all our students actions during virtual teaching. After all, they are in their homes and we have no control. Forcing them to keep their cameras on may result in limiting engagement , ultimately resulting in disinterest from the students. Anyway, it is best for us to leave it to them to decide instead of getting stressed on this issue. If you are worried about engagement and learning, there are other alternatives that may work better.
We understand that it is extremely overwhelming and tiring for teachers too. It feels pointless to sometimes talk to students who do not even have their cameras on. In fact, we do not even know if there is anyone at the other side of the screen! However, it is time to accept that no matter how much we try, the best learning will only happen when they are in their comfort zone.
If you feel otherwise, or have any incidents to share where keeping the camera on or keeping the camera off worked better, please do share with us! The pandemic is still new to all of us and we are still trying to get the hang of the new normal. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org