Can distance students be forced to open their camera?

Distance education due to the pandemic is causing a debate in CEGEPs: can professors force students to open their cameras during online lessons and exams? A legal opinion produced by the Fédération des cégeps is interpreted in a contradictory way by the establishments, to the dismay of the teachers.

The professors at Cégep de Saint-Laurent in Montreal had a surprise last week: a message from the administration informed them of a limit to their authority in the virtual classroom. “While it is more educational to see students, we cannot require a student to open their camera during a class or exam. It is therefore impossible to deny them attendance in the course or the exam “, the message indicates, that The duty obtained.

“Of course, you can still encourage them strongly, but you can’t penalize them if they don’t. For exams, if a student does not want to open his camera, you can also offer him face-to-face ”, adds the message.

Teachers at Cégep de Saint-Laurent were shocked to read this directive. “It seems a bit absurd and illogical to us,” says a teacher. A recognizable face is normally required during exams. This notice increases the possibilities of plagiarism. “

Depending on what The duty Learned, the Cégep de Chicoutimi sent a different directive to its teachers, after consulting a lawyer from the Fédération des cégeps. “If the class is recorded, the student has the right not to want to be recorded, so you must allow him to close his camera,” read a message dated September 2020.

However, teachers may require that the students’ cameras be activated for unregistered lessons and for exams, specifies the directive from the Cégep de Chicoutimi.

The management of the Cégep de Saint-Laurent sent The duty to the Fédération des cégeps, which produced this legal opinion. Judith Laurier, spokesperson for the Federation, points out that some students do not have access to high speed Internet in their region. Others don’t have a camera. Students can also invoke privacy to avoid showing where they live to the rest of the class, she says.

“We can find alternatives,” explains Judith Laurier. For example, the CEGEP can allow students to take their exam on campus, in the presence of a supervisor, or in a college room equipped with computers with integrated cameras.

Students must, however, be willing to open their camera in situations where it is essential: “If you have to show that you can do cardiac resuscitation, the teacher has to watch you do it. If you have to show that you can have a political debate, the teacher must see you, ”she explains.

See students

Teachers prefer to see their students rather than a black square indicating that their camera is disabled during virtual lessons, explains Yves de Repentigny, vice-president of the National Federation of Teachers of Quebec (FNEEQ-CSN).

“The camera helps make sure that the students are really following the lesson, and you can tell if they understand the material well from their non-verbal presentation,” he explains. Many teachers also say they called to order a student taking morning class in bed.

Noémie Veilleux, president of the Fédération d’études collégiale du Québec (FECQ), reminds us that, even in regions where high-speed Internet is available, it is not uncommon for several people (roommates or members of the same family) to share a connection, which sometimes makes the cameras inoperative.

“Just because a student doesn’t open their camera doesn’t mean they’re careless. She just might just feel more comfortable learning without a camera, ”she says.

The professors, anyway, have tips for checking student attendance and attention. “When I have one that doesn’t open his camera, I ask him questions every 10 minutes! », Says a teacher.

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