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Onward Debates: Zoom Camera On Or Off?

By Dana Nunemacher and Mira DiBattiste

From colorful quotes to unexpected outages, our first few weeks at Zoom University have certainly been a wild ride.

We’ve learned a few things in class. But what we’ve actually learned is that there are two types of people in this virtual world: those who leave their cameras on for class and those who shut them off.

Every student is entitled to their own choice. Some enjoy the feeling of showing off their study space and messy hair in the morning, while others enjoy hiding behind that blank screen with just their name.

Finally, though, it’s time for some Penn State students to settle the debate. Camera on or camera off?

Dana Nunemacher: Camera On

I want to start off by saying one thing: If you don’t keep your camera on, you’re a COWARD! Come on, folks.

I turn my camera on mainly out of respect for my professors. A lot of people in my classes this semester have kept their cameras on and my professors have made comments that it’s nice to see someone on the other side of the screen.

Yes, putting your camera on can be awkward, but want to know something even more awkward? Talking to a blank screen for 50 to 75 minutes each day while people are most likely not listening to a word you’re saying.

I think it’s so weird when folks answer questions but don’t turn their cameras on. I don’t know…maybe it’s just me. But if I were a professor, I would prefer to put a name to a face rather than a blank screen or those awkward Zoom profile pictures that just stare back at you the whole time.

Personally, leaving my camera on helps me focus. It keeps me from checking my phone or online shopping. Knowing my professor can see me makes it feel even more like a real classroom experience. Give a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T to the professors of Penn State, who just like the rest of us, are just trying to do their best. 

Note: If you’re eating, or logging into class without a shirt on, please ignore everything I said and turn your damn camera off (Yes, I have experienced this).

Mira DiBattiste: Camera Off

I wanna preface this by saying — if you’re required to have your camera on during class and you still don’t, you’re a coward. If your professor has specifically asked you to turn your camera on so they can see you and you still have yours off, you’re just being flat-out disrespectful.

In all other scenarios, however, I feel the camera should stay off. One of the best things about Zoom is that I can listen to lectures without needing to sit at a desk. I’ll head out to my kitchen and make a cup of coffee in the morning and take my laptop with me. Sometimes I’ll do laundry, and it’s so incredibly distracting to see someone’s camera moving around. Just because I’m not specifically sitting right in front of my computer it doesn’t mean I’m not paying attention.

Not only that, but I know that when I’m trying to pay attention to a class and I can see someone carrying their phone around the house, or driving, or whatever, it’s all I see. Now I’m wondering where you are, where you are headed? Do you have a dog in your house somewhere that you’re heading to pet? Can I see him? It just spirals.

I get that professors would like to see faces looking back at them. But most of the time, professors are focusing on getting their lecture slides to share properly and most students have their heads down taking notes anyway. You don’t want to stare at my hairline — I know you don’t.

I’ve actually had professors ask students to keep their cameras off so they can concentrate on the lecture, and so the recording of the lecture doesn’t have anything distracting (or potentially profane) in it.

Additionally, professors know that students aren’t paying attention. Students have been distracted during lectures since lectures started. There have been multiple times where professors have to stop class for everyone just to tell someone to get off their phone during lectures, which is distracting for everyone. If students want to be distracted during lecture, they are only hurting themselves.

If your camera isn’t on, nobody needs to be distracted by you in any way.

Well, how do you feel about keeping your camera on during your Zoom classes? Sound off in the comments and tell us who had it right.

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About the Author


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