Webcams for remote learning come at a cost and it isn’t financial

A. Porter, Editor In Chief

As the spring semester starts, more and more college students are feeling the pressure of professors requiring webcams to be on. They are getting their syllabus and finding out their grade will be negatively impacted if they are not live on camera. The stress is building.

A year ago we were unknowingly starting a new semester without knowing we were a freight train racing towards an entirely new style of learning. In-person classes turned into remote learning and we all did our best to adjust to continue towards our goals. Professors across the nation worked tirelessly over spring break to learn and implement remote learning, sometimes working over twelve hours a day to make sure students were affected as little as possible.

The second part of the spring semester was hard on all of us. My husband, an all A student, quickly dropped to academic probation. My son took a break from college and will not return until in-person classes are available. I expected these types of things for some people. Remote learning doesn’t fit every person.

What I didn’t expect was the effect of professors requiring cameras during classes and how it would negatively change the college experience for many students.

I have complex PTSD. The thought of a camera being directly on my face for two hours induces panic attacks. Sweating, stomach pains, and even crying accompany these panic attacks. I qualify for student accommodations because I have a documented disorder. This doesn’t make it easy. Instead, it requires me to share my trauma with strangers. And while I am an activist and outspoken about child rape, it doesn’t mean that everyone is, or that everyone should be required to share their trauma with anyone.

Steven lives with his five brothers and sisters in a two-room house. He’s working hard to get his college degree to change his situation. His house isn’t what other people would call clean, but it is as clean as it can be with eight people in such a small place. He doesn’t want anyone to see what his house looks like, so he isn’t sure he can continue with school. Frankly, he’s embarrassed.

Michelle is a single mom of two autistic children. Before remote learning, she could reach out and get help with childcare while she attended school. Now school is in her living room, where she struggles to manage meltdowns and a child who can’t stand the feeling of clothes on his skin. Having her webcam on comes with the challenge of keeping a naked child from running into the view of her professor and other students.

This list goes on and on for pages. There are many reasons having a webcam running negatively affects college students today. So much so that students are dropping out and putting their lives and futures on hold.

It’s quite easy for people who don’t struggle with finances, mental health issues, or a “messy” house to argue that cameras should be on. It is a totally different ballgame for people who do.

The argument that having webcams on is required to know a student is in class and learning is weak. Participation is apparent through chat and hearing student voices.

We appreciate all the work the colleges and professors have faced head on to keep the school open for all of us. We have been told by the college that they do not require cameras unless it is specific for an assignment or an exam which makes sense. While still hard, it allows the student time to prepare and make accommodations for those specific dates.

The fact is that students are dropping out, receiving lower grades, and adding immense anxiety to their lives in an already unprecedented time in our country.

We understand the professor’s desire to mimic an in-person class, but at what cost does that desire come?