Can an instructor require that a student have their webcam turned on during a remote course?
Although a webcam requirement may make it easier for an instructor to meet learning objectives, please understand that requiring a webcam to be turned on can put some students at a disadvantage for a number of reasons. For example, students may have a disability, face technological barriers, experience economic hardships, or prefer not to display their living spaces to others for a variety of reasons. Please carefully consider the rationale for the requirement and if it is truly necessary, after reviewing the following in-depth points.
Tie the requirement to use a webcam directly to a specific learning objective for a course, making sure to consider other options, as well.
Creating a "positive classroom environment" might not link to specific learning needs/outcomes. There are ways this can be accomplished in synchronous Zoom meetings without the use of a webcam:
Provide proper notice to students of any requirement to use a webcam in the syllabus and clearly communicate the consequence for not meeting the requirements.
Provide the following options in your syllabus so that students know the process and resources for requesting reasonable accommodations and technology assistance, or for discussing other barriers to meeting a webcam requirement.
If the student is an individual with a disability and would like to request a reasonable accommodation, they should be encouraged to contact Student Access and Accommodation Services (SAAS) at (309) 438-5853 or AbleISU@IllinoisState.edu. For further information on the accommodation request process, please visit StudentAccess.IllinoisState.edu.
If you are working with a student who is facing technology issues, including lack of an appropriate computer, please refer them to the Technology Support Center. The staff of the TSC is prepared to assist students in determining if they can solve the technology issue through additional software or troubleshooting. If the technology barrier is a financial one, the TSC staff will refer the student to the Persistence Committee which will investigate and attempt to address the financial issue.
If there is another reason that turning the webcam function on during class is a concern, the student should be encouraged to contact the instructor as soon as possible, to discuss. The student should be encouraged to contact the Dean of Students Office at (309) 438-2008 or DeanofStudents@IllinoisState.edu if they desire assistance with advocacy in handling barriers to a webcam requirement.