Let Students Decide Whether To Turn On, Or Keep On Their Video in Class
By: Keziah Shamma Mahendran
Editor: Kishan Kumar Selvaraju
Source: Getty Images
Imagine waking up at 8 in the morning just to have 50 strangers barge into your home or rather invade your personal room. Having to monitor yourself throughout class, your background surroundings and your mannerisms while making sure you don’t look bored or fatigued, you accidentally make a funny expression or maybe freeze mid sentence with a cringeworthy pose, giving your classmates the perfect chance to make your likeness a meme on the internet is definitely mentally and physically exhausting especially when you’re expected to be in front of the camera all day.
Though some may lock horns with the whole idea of giving students the power to choose whichever they prefer, having their cameras turned on or not during class, numerous posts and discourse on the internet of students believing that having video turned on is unproductive to the goal of learning in class, proves that majority of students do prefer having their cameras off during classes.
To begin with, making it obligatory for students to turn on their camera during classes as a way of confirming students' engagement in class raises multiple concerns. Not everyone has access to a conducive and quiet study environment at home as each student's domestic circumstances varies. In addition to that, in a recent Twitter discussion, online learning and trauma expert Karen Costa quoted research on stress induced by self-perception, asserting that “Zooming with the camera on is like having to stare at yourself in a mirror while also seeing everyone stare at you. It’s like a mirror squared.” The whole “mirror squared experience” can be daunting, especially for those with social anxiety, deep sense of insecurity and body dysmorphia.
Majority of students also take responsibility in looking after their siblings while their parents are out working in addition to doing house chores. Most presumably, these students are in a space or situation they don't prefer to broadcast online for their peers to see. Not to forget those with part time jobs, that now have financial and family priorities to take care of to survive the pandemic daily, all while being expected to “actively participate” by having their cameras turned on throughout the entire class.
Some may argue that all students are similar in a way that everyone immediately disengages and goes on to do their own activities once their camera is turned off. This is definitely an erroneous presumption that all students share the same ethics when it comes to online learning. Perhaps educators could use other methods rather than opting to constantly monitoring students via their webcams to ensure participation in class.
Although having to talk to black squares or pulsating icons might not seem fair or respectful to educators, having students respond to questions via audio or live chat rather than having them zone out, staring at each others faces while focusing on whatever that is happening in the surrounding background of their peers with their cameras on, makes it certain that having your camera on simply does not mean that one is 100% focussed on the lesson and is engaging actively in class.
Minor in-class activities using fun game-based learning platforms, namely Kahoot! and Quizizz to test students understanding on the syllabus as well as utilizing tools such as Google Forms and PearDeck to take note on students’ participation in class all while getting to know how well one understands a lesson not only is a better alternative to keep in check of students’ involvement in class, but it also provides real-time data of each participation made by everyone. In addition to that, those that have missed out on a certain lesson due to personal reasons or those that simply want to revise, should be given the opportunity to review a recording of the lesson at any time to ensure no one is left out and is given a chance to catch up on the syllabus.
There are really endless reasons as to why a student would be struggling through this period of time especially after being home-bound for almost a year now. It is understandable that sometimes, motivation can be really hard to scrape up in order to get through a semester. Hence, It is important for educators to be more understanding with students' conditions at home. Rather than passive aggressively making students turn on their cameras whenever they are required to answer a question or speak up in class, let them decide for themselves if they are comfortable with having their camera on for everyone to see. I believe that if educators were to be more sensitive and flexible with students, it would help students feel less anxious and at the same time inspire them to actively take part in classes in the near future.