Seeing is believing – students’ camera streams during live online teaching

A discussion of recent publications about camera use during webinars.

With a large amount of university teaching needing to take place online, webinars are now more popular than ever before. Most webinar platforms enable those participating to stream their videos for all or a part of each session. The option for anonymity or invisibility is new to teachers and students used to in-person teaching environments.

Join us for a discussion of recent publications about camera use during webinars.

For different sides of the argument, our key readings are two recent blog posts:

Questions to consider

  • Does this match your experiences of teaching/supporting teaching through webinars?
  • What other arguments could be brought for or against having cameras on?
  • Would you expect students and teachers to have different attitudes towards camera use? If so, why?

Further readings

Although not directly about webinars, student anonymity is discussed in Using anonymity in online interactive EFL learning: International students’ perceptions and practices and social presence is explored in Social presence in online learning communities: the role of personal profiles.

Multimedia Learning Theory can also add to the debate, see for example Mayer’s Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning, especially Chapter 13, ‘Principles of Multimedia Learning Based on Social Cues: Personalization, Voice and Image Principles’. A very different, but equally relevant theoretical lens is offered by the philosopher Levinas, as argued in Levinas and the ‘inter-face’: The ethical challenge of online education.

For fiction projections of how real-time video sharing might affect the world, Michael Hedges has written about Infinite Jest: how David Foster Wallace’s classic nineties novel foreshadowed the Year of Zoom through its satirical history of how ‘videophony,’ which, after ‘an interval of huge consumer popularity … collapsed like a kicked tent.’ Alternatively, or additionally, watch David Cronenberg’s classic 1980s body horror Videodrome, which goes to very strange places when exploring the ways in which the humans and television screens interact.

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