Teaching Commons > Teaching Guides > Course Design > Zoom Camera Guidelines
As an instructor, you can establish policies regarding the use of video cameras in Zoom class sessions based on the course learning outcomes and the best pedagogy for helping your students accomplish those outcomes. Since Zoom classes are still relatively new, best practices in this arena are evolving.
Note: This guide focuses on the needs of sighted students and instructors. Please see
Turner (2022) for a list of resources for supporting low-vision, vision-impaired, and blind students in online and remote settings.
This guide provides an overview of factors to consider in crafting a camera policy:
Instructors and students may want people to use their cameras during Zoom class sessions for some of the following reasons:
At the same time, there are many legitimate reasons that students may not want to use their cameras when they’re on Zoom:
Requiring cameras can also exacerbate existing issues of inequality (Finders & Muñoz, 2021; Jackson, 2020). Further, students being visible on camera is not necessarily an indication of active engagement.
While requiring cameras may be necessary in some instances, a better approach may be to encourage their use, incorporate other methods for gauging participation, attendance, and engagement into classroom practice, and help students understand the reasoning for whatever practices are in place. This guide will help you to create a mutually respectful and supportive environment that incorporates multiple methods for giving and receiving feedback.
Prompt students to use Zoom chat or another backchannel chat space you’ve created for the class. You can ask students to respond to an ice-breaker, to chime in on discussion prompts, or to pose their questions in the chat.
Polling can be used to ask students to respond to a thought-provoking question, to check understanding of difficult concepts, or to turn part of your session into a fun quiz competition. Zoom polling allows you to create and launch multiple-choice questions during class meetings. Poll Everywhere is another polling tool with many more poll options, including word clouds and team-based game polls. Compare Zoom polls with Poll Everywhere to decide which tool to use.
Ask students to use one of the Zoom reactions to let you know how they’re feeling, if they understand, or as a quick sort of poll (e.g., respond with a thumbs down if you disagree).
Give students a link to a collaborative document, like a Google Doc or Padlet, where they can take notes while you lecture. You can also use collaborative documents for structured question and answer periods and to guide small-group work.
Put students in breakout rooms so they can have conversations with a small group of peers. You might provide them with a collaborative note-taking document so you can check on the groups.
Ask students to annotate the Zoom screen during specific moments of the class session.
These tips are inspired by Brown University’s Harriet W. Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the suggestions provided by Turner in the Educause Review article “Revisiting Camera Use in Live Remote Teaching: Considerations for Learning and Equity,” and a guide shared by Lindsay Masland at the Appalachian State University’s Center for Academic Excellence.
In some classes, you may need to see students to be able to provide them with feedback; for example, if you must be able to see student gestures, observe pronunciation, provide feedback on a physical technique, etc. (Masland, 2021). If you need to see students to be able to help them meet the course objectives, you can still make use of the suggestions for creating a welcoming environment for camera use in your classes.
"I recognize that having cameras on during class may not be feasible, and I do not require that you turn your camera on during class. If you want to keep your camera on, you are invited to do so."
"I encourage camera use during specific course activities. We can discuss as a class which activities are best suited for having cameras on and which we can designate as camera-off activities. Throughout the quarter, we can revisit these conversations as necessary. If you have any concerns about using your camera during class, please share those in the survey distributed at the beginning of the quarter, contact me via email, and/or talk to me during office hours. We will work together to determine the best approach to addressing your concerns.
"I ask that you use your camera during the following activities because I need to see you in order to provide you with feedback and instruction: [describe activities]. I will not expect cameras to be on during these activities: [list activities]. If you have any concerns about using your camera during class, please share those in the survey distributed at the beginning of the quarter, contact me via email, and/or talk to me during office hours. We will work together to determine the best approach to addressing your concerns.