Should students be required to have their cameras on during class?

When traditional school days came to a halt due to the coronavirus pandemic, new issues on how classes will be conducted. This year students are given the option to choose between an all online school week or a hybrid schedule students campus two days a week with the rest of the week online. With every student attending classes online, either on Zoom or Google Meet, the question of whether or not students should be required to have their cameras on during class comes into play. As we move further into the school year, teachers are becoming more strict about their students keeping their cameras on during class. 


On virtual school days many teachers require students to keep their cameras on for the entirety of class. Teachers request that students keep their cameras on during class so they can ensure that they are staying on task during class and not paying attention to any distractions. Students keeping their cameras on during tests or important announcements is an acceptable request from a teacher. If a student feels uncomfortable having their camera on for these situations, they should talk to their teacher and work out an alternative way to ensure that the student is paying attention. Teachers could ask the student to type something in the chat or provide them with a student contract promising that they will stay on task. 


Oftentimes, keeping your camera on during class can be a distraction in itself. Teachers have their students turn their cameras on to see that they are not looking at outside distractions but at times it can do more harm than good. It is a distraction to have your camera on for class because it can be unsettling to let all of your classmates and your teachers see inside your home. Many students attend class from their bedroom and can feel like their personal privacy is being invaded by allowing their class to see into their personal space. It can also feel invasive and distracting knowing that one of your classmates could be looking at you. On Zoom and Google Meet there is an option to enlarge or “pin” someone’s video. There is no way to tell if someone is pining you, which causes students to feel uneasy in their already uncomfortable learning environment. 


Teachers believe that when their students’ cameras are turned off they are not paying attention.  When a student’s camera is turned off it does not necessarily mean that they are disengaged, but rather more comfortable in their learning environment. It should not be assumed that every student with their camera off is looking at their cell phone or laying down. If the student is doing well in the class and is known to pay attention, there should be no reason for them to have to keep their camera on if it makes them uncomfortable. If a student is not doing as well as others in the class, it is appropriate to request them to turn their cameras on during class discussions. 


“Ultimately the decision to have students turn on their cameras is on the teacher.

Ultimately the decision to have students turn on their cameras is on the teacher. However, students should not be required to have their cameras on during class. Teachers should provide alternative ways to check participation in class other than having their students turn their cameras on. 

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