First, we can’t require that the students use their cameras during a class as some students will have important and legitimate reasons not to.
However, many students can be gently nudged towards turning their webcams on, at least for some part of the class.
Below are some practical ideas on how you can encourage students to turn on their cameras.
1. Orchestrate the ‘right’ first impression
We often consciously or unconsciously copy what other people around us are doing.
If we join a session where people have their cameras off, we are likely not to turn on ours. And vice versa. With a bit of planning and a 5-minute investment, you can orchestrate the ‘right’ first impression conducive to turning on the webcams.
Enable the waiting room in your Zoom session. Arrive to class 5 minutes early and admit and greet students individually or in pairs. Have a small talk with ‘early birds’ and ask if they are OK to use their cameras to help with the community-building and to make the session more personal.
This 5-minute investment will help build rapport with ‘early birds’ and ensure that a higher number of students have their cameras on when you ‘admit all’. If all goes to plan, the ‘newcomers’ will be more likely to turn their cameras on when they notice that others are using their webcams.
2. Encourage the use of virtual backgrounds
One of the main reasons why students do not use their cameras is not feeling comfortable exposing their living conditions and/or family members.
Acknowledge that some (or even many) of us might feel uncomfortable about showing our location or do not want our family members and people around to be on camera, and, if so, suggest that students consider the use virtual backgrounds.
Talk students through using virtual backgrounds and make a post in your iLearn site with instructions and/or a video.
Want to use this video? Here’s a link OR email me for an embed code.
To remind students about this option, regularly use the virtual background yourself (at least for a part of the session or the start of the session). It could be a great conversation starter, especially at the start of the class.
You can also design an icebreaker activity early in the semester asking students to use an image of something that is important to them as the virtual background and getting students to talk about it.
3. Pitch for the video use
Try setting aside some time to talk about the importance of seeing each other. Not only will it help you as a teacher to know where you need to provide more information or details, but it’ll also help more students to participate as the class will feel more ‘community-like’.
It is, however, important to acknowledge that not everyone might be able to use their camera in session, and you completely understand that.
4. Back-up plan: have dedicated ‘cameras on/off’ times
If you are finding that all the measures about have not worked, consider having dedicated ‘cameras on-off’ times. For example, you might encourage students to have their cameras on during discussions or Q&A, and they can turn them off during content presentation and signal understanding and/or confusion with the use of thumbs-up, down, and other Zoom reactions.
Teaching via Zoom (step-by-step instructions, tips and tricks and MQ-recommended settings).