WebEx Controls

Please turn on your cameras… why aren’t more of their cameras on in class?

It has been a steady progression for me since last spring, the lack of student faces on camera as I experiment, plan, fail, and sometimes succeed in making online learning an engaging experience in a pandemic. I paused my class last week and decided to dig in to this challenge with my students. Through a quick ethnographic interview session, I asked them to explore the “why” of a camera off approach to their classes. This may not be happening everywhere- some schools and teachers may have unlocked this challenge in ways that I haven’t thought of. Here are some findings from a little educational anthropology exercise:

Aside from Wifi bandwidth and other challenges that are inevitable, what are some reasons for the “camera’s off” trend we’re all experiencing?

Notes from the conversation:

  • The need to process the challenging content of this class privately, out of view of the group
  • Watching yourself/constant self-awareness is exhausting and produces anxiety
  • A sense of mourning of the in-person experience (“I was thriving until December”)
  • The school has designated a lunchtime that’s hard to stick to, sometimes I am eating in class and I don’t want to be on camera- self-conscious in front of a camera.
  • Being in my home environment is really distracting, doesn’t feel like school.

Quotes from the conversation:

  • “Having the camera on kind of feels like the virtual version of sitting in the front row of class.”
  • “I don’t want to look at myself all day long”
  • “I just woke up and I’m in bed so I don’t really want that on camera.”
  • “Sometimes every class feels like a lecture”

What do you enjoy or have discovered about your remote/online experience?

Quotes from the conversation:

  • “My day ends before 11:00 am” (PST time zone)
  • “Flexible”“More free time.” (International student)
  • “More time to focus on self-care”
  • “A good thing I discovered is that people have learned to listen to others through mute and collect their thoughts before speaking -like not just speaking to speak.”

Hopefully this provides insight into a “User Experience” in the great pivot to online teaching and learning. This is hard work, and I feel like it’s more important than ever to pause, ask questions, and make changes as we all navigate this uncertainty and chaos. Speaking of uncertainty and chaos, I also need to say that it has landed differently for a wide array fo schools, educators and students. I’m fortunate to have synchronous time in the first place, and some of my colleagues are facing greater challenges at connecting and crafting the best experience possible under the circumstances.

Hang in there, stay safe…

Comments on my musing/writing/observations are always welcome.




Jeremy Goldstein on Education, Culture, and Innovation- opinions are my own.

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