Cameras on or off?

Like teachers, students also experience the transition to online learning challenging. Both cohorts share similar hurdles such as the never-ending technical issues and/or having to work or study in a home environment filled with endless distractions.

On top of that, we’re all faced with the cameras on or off dilemma!

So we ran around RMIT to find out how teachers and students feel about cameras in online classes

What’s the verdict

Here’s what teachers and students had to say.

Matt Kurowski

I prefer to have cameras on as I can read my student faces. Are they there and engaged? Reading interpersonal cues is so important to us as humans regardless of whether we are remote or face to face. 

Teacher – Matt Kurowski


I feel awkward having my camera on, people can see me.

Student  – Natalie


I only turn [cameras] on when we are answering a question and kind of engaging with other students

Student – Tab

JennyIt can feel a bit strange, but I’ve sort of got used to it. Now, the other thing I’ve noticed is that when students are really engaged, the chat goes wild. So that’s another way of finding out, OK, are people keeping up with the concept?

Teacher – Jenny Underwood


Cameras off. Most of the time I just look tired, like my room is dark and it just doesn’t look right.  

Student – Richie

ZachDefinitely off. I kind of just follow what other people do and I normally just sit in my bed.

Student – Zach

GarethSo when you’re on behind the screen, especially with practical subjects, you don’t have that intimacy. So you can’t actually really respond to the nuances of the learning and what activity they’re engaged with.

Teacher – Gareth Kershaw

GemmaI do prefer cameras off, I do feel a level of self- consciousness with the camera on, that I feel removes me from the engagement of the class. Where I might be more focused on how I appear to be engaged or how I look on camera as well.

Student – Gemma

With online learning I typically have my camera off.  I think that is because a of a semi culture has developed around online classes and its almost become etiquette that the teacher has their camera on, and the students have their cameras off and typically respond through the chat.

Student – Issac

AdeleI think it can impact my teaching just in a way that sometimes it can feel like I am talking to myself which you know it sometimes it does feel a little bit strange.

Teacher – Adele Varcoe

RebeccaWhen the teacher needs to see me, I will turn it on, but then I turn it off. It really depends if everyone has it on.  

Student – Rebecca

DeborahIt’s really critical for me to be able to engage in that conversation with them, which is often in their bedroom or maybe in their lounge room with their Mum or Dad in the background or the cat walking across the fabric. It’s really important for me to see what they are doing and to get that conversation going. 

Teacher – Deborah Wills-Ives


I tend to be cameras off, if it is a seminar though, like a small group I’ll be cameras on because then we want to replicate that discussion F2F that we haven’t been able to have.  

Student – Paul


I like to have my camera off. I just like my privacy and I feel like it is unnecessary for people to look at me when I am online.  

Student – William


I usually have my camera off. Usually, I don’t make myself look presentable when I am at home, I just don’t put the effort in.  

Student – Arianna


I would like to turn it on, but I think it distracts from the main teacher.  

Student – Tarik

SaraidWe have one lecture that is online and that consists of 150 students so definitely cameras off and usually it is a PowerPoint presentation, either live of pre-recorded.  Our tutorial class is online and that has 18 students and I find it a little bit tricky that some cameras are on, and some are off.   

Student – Saraid


Cameras on…makes for a more dynamic class, more of a community within the class and I can also have their laptops angled so I can see what they are working on and I am not talking to a wall of nothing.    Teacher – Georgia Janetzki

MatthewIt’s a bit awkward to have my camera on as not much of my class have it on. A bit awkward having the camera on if I am the only one.  

Student – Matthew

RashmitaWhen you’re having a discussion, it would be great if students can have their cameras on. It just gives that extra bit of interaction; you can see their faces and their responses are that much better.  

Teacher – Rashmita Bardalai

JordanI definitely prefer having my camera off. I just have a lot of stuff going on around the house that I prefer teachers and students not to see. 

Student – Jordan 

CarmenI would also prefer if the teachers made it mandatory for students to keep their cameras on just because it keeps me from falling asleep and it feels like we are in class again.  

Student – Carmen

DanWith cameras off you don’t quite get the feedback that you normally would. There are a lot little facial features and body language cues that experienced teachers rely on…when moving online suddenly I don’t have access to all those cues and all that kind of feedback. 

Teacher – Dan Jazby


Did you know we have resources available

To address the overwhelming number of students who don’t have their cameras on, you can explore our resources for ideas and strategies to help equip you when teaching to the void of your computer screen.

2 important lessons for teaching to cameras-off

How to get your students to mind their manners online