Cameras On, or Cameras Off?

Cameras On, or Cameras Off?

The time of online learning has posed many challenges to students and educators in the last several months. In this period of change and experimentation, technology has created dozens of new topics to discuss. Remote learning and online classes have largely shifted the dynamics of education.

One of the hottest topics brought up by online learning is whether or not students choose to turn their cameras on in Zoom sessions. With the ability to remain as a black rectangle on a Zoom screen, students are finding that their level of power has increased with the introduction of these new forms of education.

Teachers across the country have voiced concerns about the number of students they see (or, more accurately, don’t see) keeping cameras and microphones turned off throughout classes. The worry is that these kids may not be engaged, or even present, without the visual evidence of their attention.

In a survey of 300 THS students, 171 (57 percent) reported that they do not regularly turn their cameras on in most classes. There are multiple reasons for this — home environment, self-consciousness, and if other students in the class have their cameras on or off.

One notable reason for this could be an increase in anxiety and stress with a different type of schooling, not to mention a global pandemic. For students to look at screens for a prolonged period, perhaps making eye contact with other students, it can become threatening and overwhelming. For students with mental health issues already, these effects can be heightened. It can feel like they are being watched and potentially judged by their teachers and classmates. 

It’s also been a noted issue across the country that people find it more difficult to engage online anyway, regardless of other factors. Participating in class over a screen removes multiple important social and conversational cues such as hand gestures. It’s harder for people to interpret vocal inflection and directed speech with computer audio, forcing higher attention to be paid when listening to speech on a Zoom call. 

Along with this can come an issue that has been dubbed “Zoom fatigue.” According to and Dr. Linda Kaye, a Senior Lecturer in Psychology, “It is likely that [being on camera] is enhancing our self-awareness to a greater level than usual and therefore resulting in us making additional self-presentation efforts than in face-to-face interactions in the real world.”

Students are forced to monitor social interactions online more closely than they normally would. “It takes more effort to speak in an online class than in-person,” a Talawanda senior said. “You have to decide carefully when to speak to make sure you don’t interrupt anyone, which is more difficult online. Then you have to unmute yourself and say what you have to say, hoping your teacher and classmates can understand what you’re saying. It gets tiring.”

It also may be easier for students to overbook themselves schedule wise. When all you’re doing is staying at home, it’s simple to feel like a time commitment isn’t much of a commitment at all. Students who participate in clubs or activities may become overwhelmed with meetings more quickly than they would in-person, where commitments feel more significant. 

Dr. Linda Kaye has reported some tips to PsychReg for how to manage online fatigue:

  • Schedule breaks for yourself where possible, between meetings or classes
  • Try to maintain distance between social calls and school- or work-related calls
  • Try to remove the distraction of your own image by focusing on others rather than yourself

Survey breakdown: 300 responses

85 freshmen

43 sophomores

117 juniors

55 seniors

171 do not turn cameras on in most classes (57%)

129 do turn cameras on in most classes (43%)

Some memes made by Kirk Colyer