Be Seen: The Pros & Cons of Facilitator Web Camera Use in the Virtual Classroom (Part 1)

October 13, 2016 10:00 by Dana Peters

As I’ve mentioned in the past, the virtual classroom provides several advantages over the face-to-face environment for both learners and facilitators.

However, the virtual environment also comes with what some may perceive as disadvantages. The most common; not being able to physically “see” your audience and the audience not being able to see you.

As more and more platforms begin to add capabilities, including the ability to use web cameras in the virtual classroom, it may be assumed that the virtual session can easily be turned into a comparable face-to-face session by simply turning on your web camera. If you have spent any time communicating through a web camera, you know it is not the same as being in person.

There’s a time and a place for the use of web cameras in a virtual session. In this post I’ve laid out a list of potential pros and cons you, as a facilitator, can use to evaluate whether or not your being on camera is a “value-add” or a distraction to your learners.

At a glance…

Pros

  • Participants being able to see the session facilitator(s) helps put a face to name. It’s especially useful for introductions and the welcome time.
  • Allows for virtual eye contact from the facilitator, potentially a more personal experience, if done well.
  • Helps to establish the connection between the facilitator and the learner.

Cons

  • Web camera use can create new distractions:
  1. Participants may focus on what’s in the facilitator’s camera shot rather than paying attention to what is being discussed. (What’s that on the wall behind the facilitator?)
  2. If the audio doesn’t match up to the lip movements of the facilitator.
  3. Paper shuffling/background noises in the facilitator’s environment.
  4. Poor camera engagement on the part of the facilitator. Eye shifting from notes to camera to elsewhere.
  • There is an increased opportunity for technical issues:
  1. If the video feed is slow/skipping (low bandwidth situations).
  2. User error. Little to no control over participant device or network.
  • Time investment for the facilitator to test equipment, develop skills, and prepare.

Using your virtual platform to its maximum capabilities can be beneficial to the outcomes you’re trying to achieve with your virtual training sessions. The use of web cameras during a session can be a value-add, if done correctly.  

Stay tuned for Part 2 where we discuss in detail why it might not make sense to put your facilitator on camera for an entire virtual session.

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