can teachers force students to turn on cameras - prioritylearn

Can Teachers Force Students To Turn On Cameras

Following the COVID-19 outbreak, online learning has become a part of our daily lives. While eLearning is not a new concept, the lockdown restrictions established in various countries have resulted in modifications in content delivery processes.

To meet these limitations, academic institutions that were previously largely focused on in-person education are increasingly leveraging online learning as an alternate content delivery strategy.

Learning management systems (LMSs), television, Zoom and even WhatsApp became some of the tools leveraged to successfully deliver content to learners.

While these tools are useful, some students have expressed growing concerns over their privacy during online classes where students were asked to turn on their cameras. Is this legal? Is this invasion of privacy?

These are a few of the questions most asked by students who have been introduced to online classes. This article will aim to provide answers to these questions and more.

Why Should Students Turn On Their Cameras

To begin our discussion, let’s first take a look at some of the reasons why teachers would want students to turn on their cameras. It’s worth noting that teachers also value their privacy as well as the privacy of their students don’t simply want to violate anyone’s privacy.

But for one reason or another, your teacher may want their students to turn on their cameras during online lessons. These include:

Class Activity

Online class activities are becoming common as more and more institutions continue to leverage online learning in their content delivery. Various activities can now be done online as teachers identify more innovative ways to make online classes exciting for students.

A typical activity is a teacher can ask a question and students would be required to write the answers on a sheet of paper and show it to the camera. In this case, it becomes necessary for students to have a working camera to fully appreciate the lessons.

Reduce Distractions

Concentration in online classes can be quite difficult especially when the student is in the comfort of their homes. Our minds are trained to connect our homes with comfort, making schooling at home quite challenging.

Additionally, it’s easy to get distracted by parents, siblings, phones, television, and even pets at home. Having the camera on ensures that some of these distractions can be ignored.

A typical example is receiving a phone call during an online class. The camera would prevent students from encouraging any distractions, including picking a phone call or even responding to a text message as this would be seen by the teacher and their peers.

Not only that, parents and siblings would be more inclined to leave the learning environment or avoid serving as a distraction during online classes. Students would also turn off their phones or put them on silent to avoid disrupting their classes when their cameras and microphones are active.

Determine Student Presence

Some students simply open Zoom or the video conferencing application being used and then go back to bed. Unfortunately, the teacher who is oblivious to this simply continues to teach without the student gaining any meaningful understanding of the concepts taught.

It can be tempting to simply lie down during an online class which can result in the student dozing off. To prevent this, teachers would sometimes encourage students to turn on their cameras to encourage attentiveness during online lessons.

To summarize, using active cameras in online classrooms encourages students to pay attention to the teachings while reducing distractions in the learning environment. Distractions might include phone calls and text messages, as well as parents and siblings.

Online Tests

Proctored examinations are becoming common as various tools continue to flood the market. While some students believe this to be a violation of their privacy, their usefulness is undeniable as institutions continue to adopt online learning as a primary or secondary form of content delivery.

Some of these tools include Honorlock, Proctorio, ProctorU, and Respondus Lockdown Browser. Online tests conducted remotely cannot be monitored in person by instructors. These tools can serve as remote proctors but require access to camera and audio to provide the best of results.

Why Shouldn’t Students Turn On Their Cameras

Student Privacy

Our homes serve as our safe spaces and can be quite alarming when a teacher asks for students to turn on their cameras during online learning. Not only can the teacher see the home of the student but other students as well would be able to do the same.

While some students may not have problems with this, others for various reasons might have problems with essentially introducing your teacher and your entire class to your home. Additionally, most of these online classes are recorded to enable students to easily review the lesson.

Respect For Family

While each student has their unique circumstances, some students would like to prevent parents, siblings, pets, and other background information from being visible to their peers. In the case where the student shares the room with a sibling or someone, their privacy would also be visible to others.

Out of respect for their family, some students would avoid turning on their cameras to avoid revealing the details of their living conditions to their peers.

In some unique cases, a student would be unwilling to turn on their camera for legal and protective reasons. These students might refrain from turning their cameras in order to avoid themselves or a family member getting identified or recorded.

Appearance Concerns

Concerns about appearance is also another reason students sometimes don’t want to turn on their cameras during online classes. While this is true for both males and females, females sometimes tend to be more camera shy as they would like to fix their hair, makeup, and dress.

It can be difficult for students to simply dress up for an online class at home. As a result, most students would refrain from turning on their cameras.

Internet Connectivity

Poor internet connectivity is another reason students shouldn’t turn on their cameras. Students in areas with poor internet connectivity may choose to turn off their cameras to avoid breaks in connection from an increase in the volume of information transmitted over their connection.

Don’t Want to Be Seen

Some students simply don’t want to be seen doing other things at home during online lessons. A typical example is someone babysitting their younger sibling may prefer not to be seen feeding a sibling during an online class.

No Webcam

The student’s computer or laptop may not have a working webcam during the online class. In such a situation, it’s advisable to inform the teacher about this before class to avoid any issues.

Can Teachers Force Students to Turn on Cameras

While most teachers wouldn’t force students to turn on their webcams during online classes, there may be times when it may become necessary for students to turn on their cameras.

A typical example is an activity that requires students to write and show an answer written on a piece of paper to their cameras would definitely require students to turn on their cameras.

To answer this question, let’s first take a look at whether this is legal in America. This can’t exactly be put into legal terms in America unless specific regulations have been implemented to ban the activity.

As a result, it’s completely legal and the teacher can ask students to turn on their cameras. It’s comparable to the teacher checking roll call in class to ensure that all students are present.

So long as your face is showing, the teacher is content that you’re in class and paying attention and they can ask students to turn on or off their cameras per their discretion during online classes. So, to answer the question:

Yes, the teacher’s instructions in class (online or offline), so long as they’re within their legal authority as a teacher should be obeyed. It’s the teacher’s job to ensure students are paying attention in online classes. As such, they can legally instruct students to turn on their cameras and microphones during class.


In conclusion, we’d like to point out that both professors and students sometimes find online classes demanding. While teachers are responsible for lesson preparation, students should endeavor to pay close attention during online sessions to avoid the need for camera verification of presence.

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