Should I Record My Zoom Class?

image of zoom screen with option for recording session to cloud or on computer

FERPA allows me to record class meetings and share them with students registered in that section of the course, but that doesn't mean I should. At this point, most of us have done some remote teaching using Zoom or something similar. While many of you may have returned to the classroom with or without mandatory masks, the community college where I teach is really a mix at this point. Faculty were generally given the opportunity to prioritize labs upon returning to campus and most individual instructors were allowed to choose between using remote learning methods for Fall 2021, or returning to classrooms and labs on campus. We are currently living with decisions made back before a vaccine was accessible and are now faced with finalizing decisions for Spring.

Because of the unknown, I decided to teach my Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) lab course on campus and left the rest as online courses with one exception- a scheduled Zoom session once a week for one section of my otherwise online GOB (General, Organic, and Biological chemistry) course. My online course was a "hybrid" that previously only met for lab, and it includes many resources I have personally made for it: 1. note packets to accompany lecture videos, 2. practice sheets, and 3. online quizzes. In fact, I don't use a textbook at this point because the students don't need it for my sections of this course.

For lab they are using a kit (a pandemic exception) with a combination of videos of our regular experiments and hands-on experiments at home using the kit. For one of my two sections, I decided to offer an officially scheduled "mandatory" Zoom session with a specified weekly day and time. After the first day, I let students know that I would not be assigning points to attendance, and it would be optional going forward. I use the time each week to talk about the more difficult concepts and problems, give them extra practice on these items, and answer any questions. I have a faithful few that always attend and have found it very helpful. This is exactly what I wanted.

As I am sure many of you have also learned, few students attend something that is optional and even fewer attend if you offer a recording later. In the Spring 2020 when we all suddenly shut down and were teaching remotely, I offered Zooms during my regularly scheduled course times. I do teach using a "flipped classroom", so my sessions were problem-solving and full of students asking questions. I recorded them because so many of my students lives, jobs, and work schedules had changed overnight, and many could not attend the Zoom sessions. I found it very strange to have students that were not in attendance later viewing sessions where their classmates were asking questions and getting help. After that semester, I decided I would not record Zoom sessions like that again. They would be scheduled in advance of the semester like any class so students could plan around them, but they would not be recorded.

This week I was faced with a difficult decision. A student sent me an email stating that they were not able to attend because they had to work. They asked me to record the Zoom meeting because they didn't want to miss it. So, I decided to carefully track my Zoom attendance and found that this student has been there every time until now. I told them I don't record Zoom classes, but I would record it for them because they are always there. I also informed the students in attendance that my policy would be to only record it for a student that is usually there. It seems like a small thing, but when a student is sharing their questions and revealing their personal struggles with the material, it seems like an invasion of privacy to make that available to classmates that are never in attendance. I know it would be different if I was giving a lecture during class or if this was the only way to access teaching on the material. In my case, it really is not required to be successful in the course.

I teach at a community college with students that are working full-time jobs and going to school while juggling various family responsibilities. With COVID-19 still impacting people, many employers are short-staffed and are asking their employees to fill in gaps when coworkers are in quarantine or are sick. Nothing is "normal" yet.