Student’s research suggests camera use during virtual classes can raise grade

Jenna Stutzman's study found that camera use helps normalize virtual school and helps keeps...
Jenna Stutzman's study found that camera use helps normalize virtual school and helps keeps students engaged.(wvir)
Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 6:22 PM EDT
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ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Jenna Stutzman, a high school student in Albemarle County, took it upon herself to put virtual learning to the test. She conducted her own research on what helped, or hindered, high school students from getting good grades while learning from home.

By anonymously surveying students grades 9-12 at Western Albemarle High, she found the best way to make an A is to stay engaged during class. Doing that virtually means turning on your camera and keeping it on throughout the majority of the class.

“Engagement is really the biggest indicator of weather or not you’re going to do well, whether or not your grade is going to be impacted,” she said.

Out of the 87 students who responded to her survey, 67% of those who made a low grade reported rarely turning on their camera during class. Students who reported lower grades also noted that they were not physically present during most of their classes, did not participate unless called on, and used outside sources when completing a test or assignment.

Stutzman, who’s continuing to learn from home, said she noticed when she did not turn her camera on while learning, she felt as if she was not focusing on the class or task at hand.

“I was less likely to keep my camera off for like, a bad hair day, because I was like, if I do that, I will be less likely to engage,” Stutzman said. “So, it’s kind of for myself, like holding myself accountable. I have actual statistical evidence that I’m not going to learn as well if I keep my camera off.”

She said even just speaking in class a few times throughout the week can have positive impacts.

“Even if you can’t have your camera on, even if you don’t feel comfortable unmuting, going to office hours, staying after class, maybe getting the small peer-to-peer interaction in break-out rooms, participating where you can, because that engagement piece is really big,” she explained.

Jason Lee, her principal, said camera use makes it easier for teachers to understand what material their students may be struggling with.

“The back and forth, the dialogue, the ability to communicate, to see voices, to see expressions on faces, to get those verbal and nonverbal cues by seeing faces is very important as a teacher as you try to figure out whether they’re getting it or enjoying their experiences,” Lee said.

Lee said the district will refer back to her findings as it plans for next school year.

“The division has created a virtual school model that’s going to be separate from the model, and within that vision and within that development of the virtual school, one of the things that will be applied to that is the encouragement of cameras on,” he said.

One other step for virtual success, according to Stutzman, is having designated spaces to separate school and home life.

“Even if you are more comfortable being home, making sure there’s still a divide between your school life and your home life so you can unwind and you can release yourself from the pressure of school, even if they’re in the same area.”

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