The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
May 6, 2024
Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Can professors really see my chats?

Grinnell professors answer the questions we are all thinking. By Tess Kerkhof.

In a world run through WebEx and Blackboard Collaborate, many of the norms established in a more traditional classroom setting are put to the side. In an effort to ease the minds of students (and professors) everywhere, we asked the hard questions. And, yes, we’ve all been wondering the same things.

How would you describe your relationship with technology? 

“I wouldn’t say I’m an expert. I do think one of the challenges of distance learning is figuring out how to troubleshoot them. Particularly when things break down right before class it can be stressful.” – Sheahan Virgin ’08, political science

“Somewhere between expert and beginner. I use technology frequently, and there’s moments where I feel like an old person struggling with technology.” – Paul Hutchison, education

“I feel comfortable with technology. I often use digital resources both in my teaching and in my research.” – Fredo Rivera ’06, art history

“In between. I’d say I’m – I don’t know what to say. I’m a user but I’m not beyond that.” – Joe Neisser, philosophy

Do you read the messages students send to the class? Can you read the messages that they send to each other privately? 

“No, if they’re smart, they’re just sending them to each other. I ask students not to use the chat feature, but I can hear them smiling or giggling at moments during class when I wasn’t trying to be funny.” – Virgin 

“I have no particular interest in seeing that even if I can. I actually appreciate that functionality. I think I made a point in one of my classes of leaving that message on. Somebody – I was doing a little meeting – they thanked me for leaving it on because it was an opportunity to connect with other students.” – Hutchison

“No. I’m not able to surveil your chats. I don’t think I’d want to know what the students were sending to each other.” – Rivera

“No. I bet there is some setting where I could do that, but that would just cause me to have something else to police.” – Neisser

Can you tell when a student is not paying attention?

“I have to take it on faith that people who are calling in or are using their computer but without video, they are paying attention.” – Virgin 

“I think that looking at people’s faces on WebEx or Zoom is not all that different from looking at people’s faces in a classroom. Can I tell if they’re paying attention if they’re sitting in a classroom? I mean, you can sort of tell.” – Hutchison

“No, and I think that’s sort of a unique thing in this digital classroom. I’m not sure when a student is present, or I don’t know what the situation is at home or their internet connection. We’re finding other ways that students are able to engage and communicate if they’re not able to be fully present or choosing not to be fully present.” – Rivera

“Not really. If they don’t turn on their video, my default assumption is that they’re multitasking. That means they’re not paying attention. Multitasking is a word meaning not paying attention.” – Neisser

What’s your first thought when you see that a student has their camera off?

“The temptation is to, you know, try and understand the situation and add your own thinking. Why isn’t this student wanting to turn on their camera? Does it mean they’re not interested? Does it mean that I’m not reaching them? Does it feel like they’ve not built a community with their classmates? Or does it mean that they’re having technology trouble, or that they don’t have access to a Wi-Fi stable enough to do video interfacing?” – Virgin 

“I’ll tell you that I know that there are people who are in situations where it is impractical or impossible for them to turn on their cameras, so I’m not annoyed by it or particularly concerned about it. By and large, people who have their cameras off – it’s off for a reason.” – Hutchison

“I guess because I’m teaching a larger intro class that’s not as focused on discussion, I can’t tell. And in the collaborate platform when you’re sharing your slides you can’t tell if their camera is on, so I don’t’ really know. I think that’s the bad thing about Collaborate. Zoom you can see and sort of switch in between.” – Rivera

“I do also know that there are connectivity issues and plenty of reasons why someone doesn’t use their camera, so it’s another thing that I chose not to try and police.” – Neisser


Leave a Comment
More to Discover
Donate to The Scarlet & Black
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Scarlet & Black Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *