I’m a senior in computer science. I think I have my academic life figured out, at least I should by now. I know how to pay attention in class, stay organized, and keep on top of my coursework. I have had to make changes due to the pandemic, but that was in Spring 2020, last semester. It’s been a few months, and I’ve settled into my Covid-19 course routine for my flex and online classes. I have everything precisely to my liking. This includes the careful positioning of my computer to prevent strain injury, the flexibility of my work area for sitting or standing, light exercise to prevent distraction, down to my desk light, making sure I don’t get drowsy during class.

I enjoy the synchronous nature of my classes. I get up in the morning, have my breakfast, and open my notes prior to joining class. Notably absent from that is turning on my camera. Last week, all of my professors asked my camera to be on during class, some alluding to some order from higher up the university food chain. This threw a wrench in my carefully crafted, highly refined routine. I found myself properly dressed and feeling distrusted, stressed, and distracted.

I’m not an elementary schooler

Attending university, I expect a certain level of autonomy with regard to my education. I expected to leave behind rituals like asking to leave for the bathroom, dressing in a uniform, and being watched for my middle and high school behavior. I didn’t expect my professors to supervise me pre-pandemic, and I don’t expect them to do so remotely. They’re professors, not babysitters.

I’m performing, not paying attention

I suppose the reason for having for cameras on is to make sure students stay focused on class. However, being on camera makes that anything but the truth. I have loads of experience pointing a camera or microphone at someone and having them stumble on their words. I have trouble focusing on what’s being taught since I’m focusing on how I appear. Simply put, people get nervous about being watched or recorded, and they start performing to the camera. Are we to focus on class or make sure our recorded faces are acceptable? As our professors are so happy to point out, multitasking makes for poor learning.

Cameras are distracting

When I’m not looking at myself, I naturally look at other things, hopefully, my professor or the presentation slides. With everyone having their cameras on now, I’m provided with a live 20 angle multi-view of extremely effective distractions just waiting to be noticed. What do my peers wear during online class? What’s that in the background? What is that person eating? Talking about? Talking at? Driving to? The possibility for distraction is unprecedented and breathtaking.

I get it

I, like all my peers, want to do well in my studies. I appreciate the effort; I too want to pass my classes. However, I know what I’m doing and can’t help but feel left out of the conversation regarding how I want to learn.

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Jason Chua is the founder and Editor in Chief of Layers. For questions, comments, or concerns about this or other stories, email or tweet @layers_media

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