Students evaluate positives, negatives of keeping webcams on/off during class


Emanuel Flores-Lobo

Freshman Julie Thomas prefers to keep her camera off, while freshman Sophie Pimentel Yoder alters between turning her camera on and off. Photos courtesy of Julie Thomas and Sophia Pimentel Yoder.

With online school being in action for over a year now, many students have gotten the chance to get familiar with their new environment. Regardless of the struggles accompanying online school, teachers have had to find new ways to teach in this new setting. The question most teachers have asked themselves throughout this time, “Are my students learning?” In-person connection and contact between students and teachers has been halted, which has made online learning difficult for both the students and teachers. Freshman Julie Thomas is one of the many students that has been keeping their camera off during their online classes. 

“I think students keep their cameras off because they don’t feel presentable in the morning. With me, I wake up five minutes before class starts, so I don’t really have the time to make myself look [presentable] for the camera,” Thomas said. 

While most students do have their camera off during their classes, freshman Sophia Pimentel Yoder is one of the few students who keep their camera on during online classes.

“Both of my parents are teachers, and I know how much teachers appreciate it when students do turn on their cameras. I don’t turn it on every single day sometimes, but it’s nice [to turn it on] once or twice a week. [I feel like it helps teachers] feel like they’re actually teaching [a person] and not just a screen,” Pimentel said. 

With this new learning format, Thomas feels teachers’ jobs have been impacted and made more stressful than it already is. 

“In [regular] class, teachers look [at] kids faces to know what’s going on [and] if they get what they’re teaching, but they can’t really do that now,” Thomas said. 

Agreeing with Thomas, Pimentel has noticed how teachers have been affected by this change. 

“All of my teachers [say] ‘This would be so much better if we were in person.’ With in person [learning, they] can see [their] students’ faces, and [they] can interact with them; they’re right there. I think it’s hard for teachers to teach online and [feel like] they’re teaching a screen [and have] no one respond to them. I can’t imagine what that feels like. It’s probably one of the worst feelings in the world. They’re trying to teach [their students the material], and they’re not responding like they don’t care. It has impacted them mentally, and [they’re] probably [thinking,] ‘Why should I keep teaching if no one is listening to me,’” Pimentel said.

In many classes, most every student turns their camera off while the teacher keeps his or hers on. (Emanuel Flores-Lobo)

While some students have disliked the new teaching setting, Thomas has enjoyed most of the switch. 

“I get to sleep in, and [class is] easier, but I do miss seeing my friends in person,” Thomas said.  

Pimentel doesn’t mind the new learning environment; she feels like she could learn in any situation. 

“I just go along with the ride. If we’re in person, then I’ll go in person. If we’re at home, [then] I’ll stay home. I know personally when [students] do turn on their cameras or are active in the chat, it’s so much nicer. [It’s] such a better environment. [When people’s cameras are on,]  I feel like learning, [and] I enjoy the class. It’s a much [more] comfortable environment, and it feels like school,” Pimentel said.

Thomas believes peer pressure has had a major role in why students keep their cameras off. 

“By Thursday on the first week of school, the majority of people had their cameras off. When you see that the majority of class has [their cameras] off you’re probably thinking ‘Oh, why don’t I have [my camera] off,’” Thomas said. 

Pimentel doesn’t feel like peer pressure is the cause of why students have their camera off. She believes there are other reasons that lead students to keep their cameras off.

“Internalized pressure or family pressure [could be why students keep their camera off]. You don’t want to turn on your camera if your family is running around in the back and your siblings are [there, or if] you’re not proud of the space you have to show [because] it’s messy. I do get that they feel ashamed and I really respect that, so I think kids that have that going on at home don’t really want to turn on their camera. They might feel like a disruption to the class [with their camera on],” Pimentel said. 

Despite not her having her camera active all the time, Thomas feels she works better with her camera on. 

“With my camera on, it keeps me less distracted and focused on classwork,” Thomas said. 

Pimentel doesn’t lean on either side of the focusing problem, she has her own solution. 

“I’d work better when my phone is not near me, and since no one can see me on my phone when my camera is off, [I get distracted.] I work better both ways. When my camera is on, I know someones watching me so then there’s that subconscious [that] you have to pay attention. When I work with my camera off, I can work more efficiently because my internet is bad and it doesn’t support the bandwidth to have [my camera] on,” Pimentel said. 

To keep her teachers content, Pimentel has her own schedule of when she turns her camera on or off. 

“I do this thing, which my English teacher gave me this idea, but I’d say last semester I definitely didn’t turn on my camera as much. There are a couple of [classes] where you were required to turn your camera on, and those were the best classes because most of the kids were responsive. This semester when my English teacher said that we’re coming back to school and some of the teachers won’t even recognize [us], and how are you supposed to form bonds  with your teachers if they don’t even know what your face looks like? Luckily, I did turn on my camera enough to have a bond with a teacher. I usually turn it on in the morning and say ‘Good morning. Hi. Hello. How are you? How are you doing?’ Because my internet is bad, when they start presenting, sharing something, or we have to go to another tab, I just turn it off. Sometimes, I’ll [also] turn it on to say goodbye, or I’ll just say bye in the chat. Some days when we’re having a conversation or discussion, I just keep it going [as well],” Pimentel said.  

Even though she doesn’t have her camera on, Thomas understands and respects people who keep it on.

“With everything going on, it’s kinda normal to see people’s [faces]. They’re trying to create a better class environment, and I understand that,” Thomas said.

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