Lecturers, stop forcing us to turn our cameras on

‘we’re paying for it so it should be a choice’

Online lectures have become the new norm during the pandemic, which students completely understand. Face-to-face is not entirely suitable right now, we get it. What we don’t appreciate is being forced to turn our cameras on when we don’t feel comfortable doing so. Let me explain why…

Firstly, it can be humiliating

Lecturers need to stop forcing students to turn their cameras on in online lectures. Period.  Students are having to pay their full fees for online lectures, yet remember when so many lecturers would refuse to even use Panopto because “online lectures didn’t compare to the real thing?”. Not only this, but students are having to endure the humiliation of picky lecturers who call them out for having their cameras off, or worse still refuse to continue until everyone has theirs turned on.

One third year told The Cardiff Tab that her lecturer called her out by name repeatedly until she reluctantly turned her camera on. And we get chastised by the university when we ask them to give us our timetables before term starts? Lol.

Another student said that they felt “forced” into online lectures, and that “we’re paying for it so it should be a choice.”

Whilst some may argue that if it was an in-person seminar you’d have to turn up and be seen, they are ignoring the undeniable fact that online seminars and lectures are just not the same as in person ones.

Being on video highlights socio-economic inequalities

First of all, students are having to learn and participate in their degrees from their homes instead of an academic environment. The lack of university teaching spaces removes equality in the learning environment.

Everyone comes from different socio-economic and family backgrounds and it is unfair to expect everyone to be happy for a window to be created into their private home environments. Students cannot control the actions of their housemates and family in the background and many may not have a dedicated room or study space they can retreat to to work in private.

We don’t have strong enough wifi

The strain of an entire house of students trying to access online lectures at the same time is incredibly difficult. Often, the connection is not strong enough to use video, and most students cannot afford to upgrade their wifi. We really don’t need any more pressures on our finances!

Videoing yourself can be anxiety inducing

Finally, turning on your video can be a great anxiety inducer for many of us. Knowing that you’re being seen on other people’s screens can make some feel exposed and uncomfortable. Due to the restraints of online platforms like Zoom, when you speak and everyone else is muted it can often feel like you’re not part of a group discussion at all. With all eyes on you it can be incredibly nerve wracking. With this in mind, it is obvious why some find it easier to contribute if they can’t be seen.

A third year English Literature student told The Cardiff Tab, “I have anxiety and will be less inclined to speak up if I know people can see me. As long as I’m attending and contributing I don’t think it should be a problem that I keep my camera off.”

Having your camera on is not a bad thing, and I understand that it creates a semblance of a ‘normality’ in seminars. If you feel comfortable, then absolutely go for it! It is somewhat cruel, however, to force students to turn their cameras on, or call them out when they don’t, as there is likely a perfectly good reason why they wish for it to remain off. And as long as they’re turning up and contributing, does it really matter?

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