(From Stanford’s Tomorrow’s Professor). Cameras and Masks: Sustaining Emotional Connections with Your Students in an Age of COVID19 (Part 2 of 2) Several colleagues mentioned that when they arrive at a point in their synchronous class where they want to have a full class discussion, they request that students turn their cameras on, if they are not on already. They report their participation rates go up when they do this. After the discussion is over, students can turn the cameras off again. But be prepared to lose some participants.
An instructor told me that he was “struggling somewhat to get more than a couple people to talk during the Zoom sessions. It was suggested that instructors give students the option to turn their cameras off, so I told the students that while I prefer their cameras to be on, they can go dark if it slows their internet too much. After I announced this policy during class, there was a steep drop in the number of students whose faces I can see. The main problem is that it’s now very hard to tell if they’re paying attention unless they speak up, but I’ve also found it somewhat disconcerting. If I were to do it over again, I’d tell them they can let me know if they have a reason they need to have their camera off, but otherwise we learn best when we can see each other.” This comment again highlights the importance of discussing your camera-on/off policies with students at the outset and working toward a collectively-agreed policy. Remember to be flexible and empathetic.