Teaching online with the cameras turned off

This tweet caught my eye this morning:


Not wordle, just a zoom class.

The issue of turned off cameras in zoom classes is, as many other issues, nuanced.

I have been on both sides in online workshops and can sympathise with both the teacher and the students.

A student might not have the fancy videoconference gear I have, nor a nice background. Maybe they are in their bedroom, maybe there are other people around… They simply are trying to protect their privacy.

As a trainer, I have only once faced a completely blacked out camera grid while giving my workshop and it was hard.

Without any visual o audible feedback, you don’t know whether the participants understand you, whether you have the right rhythm and speed, whether the participants air high in energy or need a break…

However, a good training, whether online or in person, is interactive. The days of the teacher giving a masterclass have long gone. Nowadays we know that learning takes effort and time together is valuable. If a teacher uses this valuable time only to pass information, he or she could better have recorded a video or send the information in written form. Being together does add nothing if there is no interaction.

Rather than passing information, a teacher should use the online session to answer questions, to work in groups on assignments, to discuss…

When the session flows and is interactive, the lack of turned on cameras will be no issue anymore.

And as a last resort, you can also ask a colleague to connect to the session with the camera on, so you hace at least one face to talk to.

Jeroen Sangers @jeroensangers