DISTANCE LEARNING: PRO: Should students be required to turn their cameras on in class?

Emily Harvie

SCUSD mandated that all students have their cameras on during live instruction for distance learning during the 2020-2021 school year. This policy can benefit students and teachers while helping mimic a physical classroom setting. 

Cameras on during class is an imperative part of building a community while remote learning. In previous school years, many students have looked forward to making new friends or reconnecting with old ones in their new classes. Some students are not able to virtually communicate with their friends outside of class, leaving school as their only place of social interaction during the pandemic.

Furthermore, the ability to see students’ faces is beneficial for teachers. When school went virtual in March 2020, many teachers had already built relationships and communities within their classroom. However, a new school year brings new students and having cameras on can help teachers get to know them better.

While many teachers are adapting as best as they can to make distance learning as trouble-free as possible, it can be hard for them to gauge whether their students are present and comprehending the lessons when they are unable to see them. The ability to see the reactions of students can help teachers determine the best approach and pace when teaching. 

Some students may feel uncomfortable showing their background, or they have surroundings that are potentially distracting for others. Additionally, poor bandwidth and weak Wi-Fi connection often creates lag during live instruction, thus causing students to fall behind. However, the camera-on policy encourages accountability. Although school no longer takes place on campus, many of the typical classroom expectations, including academic integrity along with an appropriate and presentable appearance, should still apply during distance learning. 

Requiring students to have their camera on does not need to seem like a forceful approach but rather a positive and feasible way to engage and connect with other students and teachers in the midst of the coronavirus.