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Keeping my Zoom camera on this semester helped me enjoy lectures

Who knew turning on your camera could help build better relationships over Zoom?

<p>Mario Rosales is a Life columnist for The Cavalier Daily.</p>

Mario Rosales is a Life columnist for The Cavalier Daily.

As students attending the majority of our lectures virtually, we usually have two choices — unless one of them is required by our professors. We can keep our cameras on or turn them off. Last semester, I attended almost all of my meetings and lectures with my Zoom camera turned off to take advantage of the convenience of virtual learning. However, it wasn’t until halfway through this spring semester that I realized I was actually missing out on creating meaningful connections with my classmates and professors by keeping it off.

This realization stemmed from a January Term course I took with roughly 30 other students. All but one or two of us would keep our cameras off. The collection of black boxes seemed standard and ordinary to me after my experience from the previous semester. 

However, during one of our final lectures, my professor stopped teaching and shifted his focus from the powerpoint towards us — the black boxes. He then began heartfully expressing the difficulty he was having lecturing during the course, as he could not see an overwhelming majority of us and felt he was lecturing to himself at times.

This moment struck a chord of sympathy with me. I suddenly realized that I had not considered how our professors felt going from lecturing in front of a classroom or an auditorium full of students to a screen with a handful of faces. I came to understand that simply turning on your camera means a lot to professors. It assures them that as students, we’re engaged in the lecture enough to sit through it and not be asleep — not that I haven’t slept through an in-person or Zoom lecture before.

With this new perspective in mind, I decided to make an effort to attend as many of my virtual classes as I could with my camera turned on this semester. Thankfully, my largest lecture is only about 60 people, so I have never had to experience being a part of the handful of brave souls with their cameras turned on in front of 180 black boxes. Nevertheless, I almost immediately noticed an impact on not only the connections I was making with people in class, but also my desire to attend lectures. 

Of course, who would have thought that you could build a richer and more meaningful relationship with someone just by allowing them to see you? Well, at some point last semester, I gave up on trying to make connections with my peers. The silent breakout rooms and substantial flow of asynchronous lectures wore me out to a point at which I felt like I had little to no opportunities to connect with people. In hindsight, though, I have realized that I certainly wasn’t helping myself by keeping my camera off. 

So as I attended the majority of my lectures and discussions with my camera turned on, I began to feel my peers’ desire to connect with me. Zoom breakout room conversations were suddenly engaging. I used to dread them and their awkwardness, as the conversations would either be a short discussion of the lecture material followed by silence or just absolute silence. 

By keeping my camera on, I was able to engage in conversations beyond the material in these breakout rooms. Even if it was simply small talk, these small interactions repeated over and over again have allowed me to build strong relationships with some of my peers. They have also increased my desire to attend synchronous lectures and discussions, as I now look forward to interacting with other students and my professors.   

Now, I understand that everyone has different circumstances surrounding their virtual learning environment. However, I suggest that, if you’re able to, keep your camera on. This simple action not only benefits you and your peers, but also your lecturing professors, who I’m sure are growing weary of talking to their laptops. If you find that you’re having trouble becoming more comfortable with the camera on, especially in breakout rooms, I recommend that you check out this recent article — “Top 10 tips to avoid the awkwardness of breakout rooms.”

We attend college not only to learn but also to meet lifelong friends and connect with those around us. However, time never stops, and I’ve noticed the semesters are starting to fly by. That’s why it’s important to not waste any more time. So, accept the awkwardness of virtual learning and take advantage of every opportunity to connect with your peers.