1. Teaching Tips

Cameras off? This may help!

If you’ve had a difficult time getting your students to turn on their cameras in virtual class, this may help. I’ve spent the last few months delivering dozens of virtual presentations and found this very interesting correlation.

Keeping your camera on increases the probability that your students will turn on theirs.

Now before you say, “Sam, that is basic, my camera is always on, and the students still don’t turn on theirs.” Consider this. One of the programs we facilitate with students runs over 4 days. Typically, I know within the first 5 minutes if this class will turn on their cameras.

A large factor is dependent on whether or not the teacher (you) turns on their camera during the sessions. Although, it doesn’t stop there. Turning on your camera and showing interest is only the first step. What you do once your camera is on is what matters most.

Before you continue reading, it’s important to know what challenges you are up against. In this case, it’s zoom fatigue. Check out this article from Stanford that explains the four causes of zoom fatigue and what you can do to mitigate them.

Okay, once your camera is on you need to give your students a real reason to turn on theirs. I’ve found that giving away a small prize ($5 gift card, wrist band, e.t.c) is a great way to initially motivate students to turn on their cameras, but it doesn’t sustain the behaviour.

To sustain the behaviour you need to get over 50% of your students to turn on their cameras. And for each student that turns on their camera, you need to reinforce their positive behaviour. Single them out and say, “thank you for turning on your camera.”

Why 50% or more?

Malcolm Gladwell, in his best-selling book, “The Tipping Point,” talks about this idea known as social proof. Social proof is a theory that states that when you’re not sure what to do in any given situation, you look at what the majority of other people are doing and copy their behaviour.

The reality is that some of your students want to turn their camera’s on but because the majority of their peers keep theirs off, they assume it’s the correct thing to do. But, if you can get more than half of your class to turn on their cameras, social proof begins to work in your favour.

Finally, have a class discussion about cameras and why you think school would be more effective and enjoyable with them on. Having an open discussion like this is easily overlooked but can have a lasting impact. For example, check out this email from a student after a 4-day program in January. It is clear that her teacher took the time to talk to them about keeping their camera’s turned on during class.

To summarize,

  • Ensure you always have your camera on.
  • Give away small prizes to students who engage.
  • Reinforce positive behaviour and praise students who turn on their cameras.
  • Explain social proof to your classroom and strive to get 50% to turn on their camera.
  • Have an open discussion about the benefits that would be realized if all cameras were turned on.
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