I am uncomfortable teaching students with no video feed. What can I do, Cam?

Hi Cambly,

Great idea about the advice column first of all. I am very frustrated and uncomfortable and don’t know how to handle students that will not turn on their cameras. I ask very politely and explain that it really makes the conversation and learning experience better, for both of us. I want to respect people’s comfortability, and also cultural boundaries, but it ends up making me feeling extremely uncomfortable, especially being a woman with so many men doing this. And then I am just talking to a black screen feeling strange. I don’t know what to do, and I don’t want to be rude or block people for that reason, or make assumptions about certain cultures. Being on Cambly for a year, one can’t help to notice trends, that are not related to technical issues. But it doesn’t sit with me well at all and I really would not like to do sessions that way.

Help please! Thanks!

– Uncomfortable

Dear Uncomfortable,

We get it! It can be a little strange when a person can see you, but you can’t see them. It sounds like you are doing everything right by explaining your feelings about this to your students.

We all know the reasons why they may have their camera off, including a poor connection or a broken camera, but it does pose a bit of a challenge for some tutors, especially when it makes them uneasy. We have a couple of suggestions that might make this situation easier:

SuperTutor Kerry gives us some great tips on getting more comfortable with students who have their cameras off. 

She asks her students to describe themselves to have an image in her mind that she can focus on during the conversation. Sometimes the students will turn their video on once they become more comfortable. 

Elena has great activities to engage in during the class to know the student is paying attention and is participating. Sometimes the worst part about having the video off is that you don’t know if the student is following along or even interested! As she says, it can be a bit like talking on the phone, but only one of you is visible.  

Focusing on a Cambly lesson is excellent too because the attention is on the slides and not on each other. It becomes less uncomfortable with the video off because you know the student is there to learn. Once you know the student’s intentions, it becomes just like any other class. Well, mostly like any other class.

If none of these tips work for you and you still feel uncomfortable with a student with no video, you can politely explain that they may want to connect with another tutor because of the video issue. Please make sure they understand you’re leaving before you say goodbye and use the chatbox if necessary. While we respect different cultures and beliefs, our tutors’ comfort is also a huge priority. You’re the reason we’re here! Let us know how it goes.

Happy tutoring!


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