You count down the seconds until your digital meeting will end, with your cursor hovering over the tempting “end call” button. With this the teacher finally asks the students:
TEACHER: “Do you have any questions?”
It usually goes two ways, either a student actually responds to the teacher or no one answers and the teacher is awkwardly staring at their class of letters. Of course, this is an exaggerated Google Meet scenario, but there’s no doubt that this is a moment both parties find slightly discouraging, especially for the trying teachers. Therefore with the hope of increasing engagement between teachers and students, the school has urged students to turn their cameras on.
But why do students have their cameras off? After conducting a few surveys, the students explained that, not having an ideal environment, being uncomfortable with one's appearance on camera (especially in the mornings), not having their pants on during class and technical problems such as low internet speed, are some of the reasons why they don’t have their cameras on. The most popular reason however for students keeping their cameras off, was the fact that they did not want to be the only one doing it. Some students also stated that they felt discouraged from lock down, due to a lack of socialization and an unaccustomed learning environment seemed to take a toll on their mood. Having the same work ethics can be difficult and to show our muddled conditions on screen could be disconcerting. So turning off their cameras was those students' way of respectfully being a part of the class despite how they felt.
Teachers do understand these factors, but as the school pointed out, they find it demotivating to speak to a bunch of black screens with lettered faces. They are also concerned about students being present behind the screens, as they have experienced students being unresponsive at the end of a class while their blank screens remain with the teacher after the other students have left. But Fortunately, more than 70% of students from the survey confirmed that they were present and paying attention in class. Teachers also tried to spice up the class with different activities and teaching methods but again they couldn't really know students’ reactions to these lessons.
Blurring their backgrounds or adjusting camera angles to be more comfortable with their camera on.. However, students still have their right to privacy so they don’t have to if they don’t want to. But as students we also need to remember that the teachers only goal is to ensure that we have an optimal learning environment, so maybe we can make a few adjustments to make the situation easier for not just yourself but your teacher as well.
Now that students are back at school, the daunting and awkward situations that online classes give are no longer a problem but I think we can all say online teaching also brought us memorable and perhaps funny experiences. We all hope that we are not returning into this “hybrid” situation but if there is next time, do remember that other students might be waiting for you to turn on your camera and maybe with the right camera angle, you don’t necessarily need your pants on.