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Students and teachers consider the need for cameras in a virtual classroom

Students and teachers are split on the need for a camera in a virtual classroom setting. | Gerald Sastra/The Cougar

Students and teachers are split on the need for a camera in a virtual classroom setting. | Gerald Sastra/The Cougar

For many UH professors, the shift to online learning means many students are required to turn their cameras on to simulate an in-person experience.

Some UH students argue that professors should not require this because it is an invasion of privacy, along with many other reasons.

“Essentially, it boils down to the fact that professors don’t know the conditions that a student lives in.,” said biology junior Zahir Amin. “Many students attending UH are in underrepresented communities that may result in them living in undesirable places.” 

“It is completely understandable how a student may feel uncomfortable when it comes to sharing their living quarters with their peers. Many students may live with family and don’t have access to a private space in their home, so they’re constantly having family members coming in and out of the camera frame,” Amin added. 

Although, some professors require cameras to be kept on to ensure students are paying attention and staying accountable for class. 

“I require cameras to be on because I have found some students were not paying attention, being on their phones, etc,” said Valenti School of Communication lecturer Jerry Trupiano. “I’m there to teach, I don’t want people to waste my time.” 

Although Trupiano’s classroom rules may not appeal to students who do not wish to keep their cameras on, he does take into consideration how those students may feel.

“Online classes, I’m sure, are a challenge to students and some may feel uncomfortable in that environment, but it is the teacher’s job to connect with the student,” Trupiano said.  “That connection is easier to make when both parties can see one another.”

Professors who do not require cameras to be on explain that online platforms are a risk to confidentiality, safety and could potentially lead to a Zoom-bombing, which happened to a UH virtual classroom this academic year.

“I don’t require cameras since I am concerned about the privacy of my students as well as of their families,” said Valenti School associate professor Summer Harlow.

“Beyond lack of platform security and the possibility of being Zoom-bombed, I also don’t want to add to students’ stress or anxiety, having to worry about what their house looks like, if it’s clean enough, etc,” Harlow said.

“Plus, some students’ desks are in their bedrooms, and they shouldn’t have to share that private space with the entire class.”

On the contrary, both professors prefer their students to keep their cameras on if they feel comfortable doing so.

Although classrooms are projected to be returning to a face-to-face format by the fall, UH classes are still fully utilizing virtual platforms through the end of the semester.

“I think students are more engaged when they know they can be seen, and the more engaged students are, the better class is,” Harlow said.  “We also miss out on the verbal cues to help us know whether students understand what we’re saying, whether we need to go into more or less detail.”

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