Requiring Webcams

When considering the use of webcams in courses offered through remote learning technologies, there are three main factors to consider and balance:

  • Academic integrity/integrity of assessment
  • Student privacy
  • Student access to technology/resources

To balance between these factors, the following guidance has been developed.

Class Meetings

During regular remote instruction, faculty cannot require students to turn on their webcam, and should adopt a camera-optional practice for teaching through Zoom. A camera-optional approach respects student issues such as equity (e.g., some students may not have cameras on their devices), safety and security (e.g., some students may be deployed on active military service, or in need of safety or privacy), and religious beliefs.

Exams and Assessments

To protect the integrity of exams and other assessments, faculty may require students to turn on their webcams in order to monitor the assessment, however faculty must notify students of their intent to record the assessment at least three days in advance of any recording and, due to PA Wiretap Act, must remind students of the plan to record immediately before any recording takes place. Students should, if possible, find a location in which they can access a webcam or create a secure location. If students do not have access to a camera or have concerns that prevent them from being able to use a camera, the student must make the faculty member aware of these concerns at least 48 hours before the time of the assessment. In such cases, faculty must work with the student to provide an alternate exam. Screensharing can also be an option to monitor student work if students are in separate Zoom rooms.

Students who now are in remote classes did not have an expectation that they would be recorded, and we therefore need to be more sensitive to this and strike a balance between protecting the integrity of the examination process, student privacy, and access to resources. There are differences between the use of a proctoring tool, such as Examity, and Zoom. With a proctoring tool, only the live proctor reviews the video. If prompted by specific behaviors that may indicate academic dishonesty, the faculty member may further review the video at a later date. When students enroll in online classes, they are made aware that webcams and other technologies are part of the course delivery. This also includes a notice of recording and use of webcams (due to PA Wiretap Act) when it comes to online proctoring.

For semesters beyond spring 2020, students will know before enrolling that classes will be delivered virtually and that such technologies will be used, so expectations around the use of webcams would be communicated in advance. However, faculty will still need to carefully balance the use of webcams with student privacy and access to resources and will need to make accommodations for student who cannot access webcams for such reasons.