I require my students to turn on their webcam for synchronous meetings. Is that OK?
Suggest? Yes. Require? No. Requiring ignores the tricky (or legal) situation of what or who (like children) is in the field of vision.
There are a lot of good reasons not to require students in a synchronous meeting to use their webcam. One reason deals with internet connectivity. The use of a webcam can slow down an internet connection, making the feed choppier.
But also, students might not want to show their peers or their instructor what’s going on in the background of the place where they live. As Rebecca Barrett-Fox reminds us, there are a whole host of other good reasons not to require the use of a webcam. I think it’s important for students to have the flexibility to decide what is right for them. There are plenty of ways to create connection and community that don’t require a webcam.
In suggesting to use a webcam, as well as to unmute mics, instructors should explain that this would give the class a more natural feeling, approximating a conversation so much as possible (maybe even explaining that otherwise they feel like they are talking in a vacuum–it is not always clear to students what kind of challenges faculty teaching online might be up against.) So, going along with everyone’s previous comments, we cannot require the use of a webcam but we can suggest that using one might be helpful, if they feel comfortable turning it on.