The new policy was drafted partially in response to the issues that have arisen concerning students’ privacy in virtual distance learning environments.
By Isaac Dektor, Staff Writer
The District Academic Senate has passed a new camera use policy that stipulates live video may be required for synchronous classes in order to demonstrate meeting a course objective as identified in the syllabus.
The policy ensures that LACCD students will be notified about video requirements in advance so that they may choose whether to join a class that will require them to broadcast their face and environment. The policy is pending approval from the Board of Trustees. The DAS and chancellor will establish protocols for disclosing video requirements to students.
The policy mainly addresses student privacy as opposed to academic dishonesty. Edgar Perez, chair of the Valley Curriculum Committee, explained that this policy should not be confused with proctoring guidelines, which the district will be drafting as a separate policy.
“This was never intended to prevent dishonesty,” Perez said. “This was mostly due because instructors were pushing students to open their cameras and students were in their cars or lived in a tough situation. And so it was mostly due to protect the student’s privacy, not intended to satisfy academic dishonesty.”
The policy is also intended to respect that some students do not have unlimited access to a computer or the internet. Students may also be opposed to broadcasting their home environment to the entire class.
The president of the Valley College Academic Senate, Chauncey Maddren, said that problems have arisen regarding camera use in virtual distance learning environments.
“There are several issues surrounding the camera use, but one of them, I think the most prominent, is bandwidth,” Maddren said. “If a student of ours is at home with three or four other siblings, all of whom are going to school online and they’re all doing different Zoom sessions, it’s a heavy traffic for the internet.”
The policy does not directly state under what circumstances students will be required to turn their cameras on, giving faculty leeway and authority to decide on a class by class basis.
Additional concerns include the lack of protections of students’ personal identifiers that are displayed on Zoom. Personal identifiers such as names and images are protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
The activism project manager at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Lyndsay Oliver, explained to EdSource that there are many ways for students’ privacy rights to be violated in distance learning courses that require cameras to be turned on.
“Maybe you ask a question that someone finds silly and takes a video of you and that gets posted online to social media,” Oliver said. “That’s not being hacked, but that is a way that your privacy could be invaded.”