In the previous post, I lamented that most of the students didn’t use video in my seminar this semester. It came at a cost of making conversation and genuine interaction harder— and also of souring my own experience of the class meetings.
Commenters here and on Facebook consider the possibility of requiring or at least strongly encouraging students to turn on video.1 I think that adopting that kind of policy would be a mistake, at least for me. Here are some reasons why.
- Some students were self conscious about having their video on, and I get it. When you’re in a face-to-face meeting and just listening, it’s probably the case that nobody’s looking at you. So you don’t have to worry about how you look while listening. In an on-line meeting with all the faces shown as a gallery of thumbnails, you’re presented more directly to everyone else all the time.2
- As Cathleen Fry tweets, “it’s not just their face showing. It’s their background, their living space, sometimes chaos.” By requiring students to turn on video, you make them reveal where they live and what’s going on behind them. Some will be lucky enough to have a neutral-looking room to themselves, but others will have messy shared spaces.
- Users who have hiccups in their internet connectivity are advised to turn off their video. Even if having the video on were just extra credit, some students would endure stutters in connectivity so that they’d get those points— and I’d rather they be able to hear everything even if it means not seeing them.
- Every user in the on-line meeting streams the video, so more more students using video means higher bandwidth requirements for everyone.
- I had a student who couldn’t get audio to work.3 Maybe his computer didn’t even have a microphone. I’m betting it didn’t have a camera either.
A number of these factors weigh less on students with greater socioeconomic privilege. They’re more likely to have a room to themselves at home, to have a higher end computer, and to have a stable broadband connection. The flipside is that video will be more of a burden on students who are already at a disadvantage.
- Hi Holly! Hi Dan!
- This might not be a big deal for everyone, but consider a student who suffers from social anxiety at the best of times and now has their stress level cranked to eleven.
- Except by calling in. One nice feature of Zoom is that participants can participate in the audio stream by telephone. It was a useful fallback option that got used several times.