Cameras On In Online Classes – Dr. Elizabeth Lee is teaching a Social Studies Methods class on Zoom on February 22nd. PHOTOS: MITCHELL SHIELDS ’22/THE HAWK
As universities across the country push for virtual learning during the coronavirus pandemic, faculty are grappling with policies regarding camera use and whether students should be required to turn on cameras during Zoom classes.
Cameras On In Online Classes
Some faculty make the use of cameras compulsory because it enables the sense of connection, responsibility and community found in a regular classroom. She says it’s hard to create that community when she teaches screens full of black boxes rather than faces representing users. Other students choose to use the camera as an option because of the potential invasion of students’ privacy.
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St. Joe’s does not have a standard policy for the use of cameras in online classes, so professors are at their discretion when setting camera expectations for virtual classes.
Dr. Usha Rao, associate professor of environmental chemistry and head of education and learning, said there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution to camera policy.
“There are as many good reasons to turn the camera off as there are to turn it on,” Rao said. “This is something that individual faculty will have to negotiate with their classes.”
Since last spring, the topic has been extensively discussed at faculty meetings and in various teaching and learning forums.
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“To balance the pros and cons, many teaching and learning offices are encouraging faculty to have their students turn on cameras, but they are encouraging us not to mandate a camera policy in our classrooms,” Rao said.
Professor Chris Heasley, assistant professor of educational leadership, said he wanted to approach the “camera problem” from the standpoint of interest and understanding. With this in mind, Heasley wrote in his syllabus, “You don’t need to turn on video during a synchronous online Zoom session.”
“I come from the point of view that you never know what’s going on with the end user,” Heasley said. “Because I teach adult students who can be parents and who can juggle with different needs at home.”
On the other hand, Kayla Evans ’23 found that her theology professor in her syllabus had a negative impact on student engagement scores if she didn’t turn on the camera for multiple classes or for extended periods of time.
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Evans said she thinks colleges should implement a “government policy” for the use of Zoom cameras during virtual classes, she said.
Evans said, “Because we need to be aware of all students from different lifestyles and environments, we may have a policy that turning the cameras on or off doesn’t negatively affect grades,” she said.
Dr. Elaine Shenk, professor of modern and classical languages, said in her syllabus that she has a camera policy that requires students to turn on cameras. She said she was aware of issues with students’ home environments and internet access, but she made this decision because her language courses are primarily discussion-based.
“Communication is not just verbal, it is also visual,” Shenk said. “What you convey is language information. As a professor, when I speak a second language, I rely on my students to make sure they understand what I am saying. I rely on visual cues.”
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Shenk informs students that if there is a problem with the camera policy, they should contact them personally. So far, she said, access to policies and technology doesn’t seem to be an issue for students.
Dr. Elizabeth Lee, assistant professor of sociology, makes the use of cameras optional for students and encourages them “to do everything in class that they feel will be most effective for the day in terms of learning and comfort level. “
Lee said she considered privacy and equity issues when she created her camera policy for her course.
“Students, especially those learning at home, may not have dedicated seats to take classes,” she said, Lee. “Or you may not even be able to attend classes at home because you expose other types of responsibilities and obligations and can be uncomfortable.”
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Evans said she sometimes turns on the camera during Zoom classes, but as a working student, it’s sometimes difficult to do so. As a nanny, her class schedule and work schedule overlap.
Evans and her boss have figured out a schedule that allows her to be away to attend her classes, but she sometimes says “things happen.” Recently Evans’ boss had to leave while she was taking her class.
“During school,” Evans said, “I sat the kids on the other side of the couch using iPads.” “I really don’t want them running around in the background. I am St. I don’t want people in Joe’s class to see my boss’s house and what’s going on with them.”
Heavenly Perez ’24 said she occasionally stays in her family’s apartment in Brooklyn, New York, during the school year. Perez suggests that her professors turn on the cameras, but she said she “keeps her privacy more difficult” when she’s at her home.
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“There are a lot of people in our house, and it’s harder to put all that fuss in the background,” Perez said. “When I was in school, I was in a better environment. It’s easier to stay away from people.”
Lee said Internet accessibility is another equity issue to consider when formulating a Zoom camera policy.
“When students can be on campus, we can have pretty consistent Internet access,” Lee said. “However, Internet issues and accessibility can be an issue for students who are taking classes at home or need to take classes in another space.”
In the United States, there is a digital divide that disproportionately affects black and Hispanic communities. According to a 2019 Pew Research study, only 66% of black households and 61% of Hispanic households have access to wired broadband, compared to 79% of white households.
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“I encourage all students to consider turning on their cameras if possible,” Rao said. “And conversely, I would recommend that all faculty help students turn on their cameras, but not force them to do so. Each student’s situation is different. And we are all experiencing the epidemic in different ways.” Cornell University professors Frank Castelli and Mark Sarvary established an “optional but recommended” policy for video cameras when they switched from face-to-face to distance learning last spring. For example, they didn’t want students to feel uncomfortable if they had no access to private space or the home environment was embarrassing because they were concerned about equity.
In their new study, they reasoned, “The COVID-19 pandemic has already increased anxiety and depression among college students, and mandatory camera use may add to that trauma.” However, towards the end of the year, the two realized they might have struck the wrong balance. Faced with a sea of blank screens, they often wondered if they were talking to them. How did off-screen students react to the challenging material?
The professors wanted to respect students’ privacy, but the lack of ambient feedback when the Zoom camera was off has hindered learning. “Instructors receive non-verbal cues from students, such as smiles, frowns, nods, confused expressions, and bored expressions, so they can evaluate lectures in real time and adjust accordingly to improve student learning,” Castelli and Sarvary said. Says. Writing – Emphasizes the value that comes from being able to read students’ faces.
Students also benefit from being able to see each other on the screen. The majority in this study said that “using videoconferencing helped build trust and rapport with other students and helped them develop a sense of identification with others in the group.” The social context of the living classroom, often invisible human relationships that reinforce learning, is missing for students who claim that “being able to hear and see each other in real time helped construct a ‘more complete picture’ of their peers.
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If both sides of the educational equation are disappearing, the professors think we need to find a middle ground. In other words, it was to respect the rights of students, at least in some circumstances, but to support the social dynamics of learning.
To improve their strategies for using cameras, Castelli and Sarvary surveyed hundreds of students to identify key privacy concerns. As a result, the students did not take off the camera for the expected reasons. 41% of students said they turned off their cameras because they were “aware of their appearance”. It appears that he has messy hair, is wearing pajamas, or hasn’t showered yet. In this regard, 17% of students felt that everyone was looking at them, evoking intolerable self-consciousness.
There were also issues related to stocks. Underrepresented minorities were twice as likely to be concerned about the appearance of their home and 12 percentage points more likely to mention a weak internet connection.
Being proactive about the camera early on can be an easy first step towards establishing the norm.
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