Lights. camera? Action.

I’ve come to the realisation that I don’t have time to blog properly but I do come across interesting (to me anyway) issues, challenges, thoughts, debates………etc etc that I’d like to document in some way. So this is the first in a line of many some “blogettes”!

Something that has become a bit of a hot topic is whether we should require students to have their cameras on. Whilst I understand some of the reasoning for this I wholeheartedly disagree with any attempt to require students to turn their cameras on in remote sessions. Surely this has to be student choice? Who am I to “require” that a student turns their camera on?

Edit: Quite rightly it was pointed out to me on Twitter that students themselves working in small groups might prefer their peers to have cameras on. I agree that in many cases it might be preferential for students to have their cameras on for some activities but I still don’t feel comfortable with the idea of putting pressure on individuals to do so. There’s much to unpack in this area!

Tweet from Dr Suzanne Young

These are my top 10 reasons why we shouldn’t require this of students:

  1. It’s technically an invasion of privacy – it requires someone to turn on a camera and potentially display their personal space(s) (blurring or background images are not always 100% perfect).
  2. For many students who have shared internet connections having cameras off massively reduces the bandwidth requirements and thus gives a better overall experience.
  3. I have never been in meeting where I have been expected or I have expected attendees to have their cameras on so why should we expect students?
  4. For some students having themselves staring back at them increases anxiety (I wouldn’t consider myself as self-conscious but it still makes me uncomfortable sometimes).
  5. Many students are in lockdown and may not be looking or feeling their best – the fact they are in the session is enough for me.
  6. If they only have a couple of sessions in the day why should we force them to feel like they have to wash/sort their hair or get makeup on just to feel ok in front of a camera?
  7. How does having their cameras on increase their learning?
  8. They may be sharing a space with others – it may be other people around them who have asked for them not to use the camera.
  9. They may be on a mobile device which means they can’t blur or add in a background.
  10. They may not even have a webcam on their device.

These are just 10 – there are many more and ultimately we have to ask ourselves who do we want students to have their webcams on for? Is it really for them or to make the experience better for us.

I can’t see any evidence of where having a camera on increases engagement – this is much better measured though chat & other active learning tools, so why don’t we just let each student decide if they want their camera on or not?

Useful reads:

https://www.edutopia.org/article/engaging-students-virtual-instruction-camera

https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/confessions-community-college-dean/should-showing-faces-be-mandatory

Blog post by Dr Emma Kennedy: https://www.santanuvasant.com/2020/10/14/now-you-see-me-are-webcams-on-policies-ever-justified/

Twitter Poll Results.

Also published on Medium.

6 thoughts on “Lights. camera? Action.

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