We are in a new world, aren’t we?  I am starting to get this strange feeling that the vocational “me” is really just a hologram—merely an image of me that others interact with.  I see him too.  He’s there in the lower corner of my screen, and he can’t even make eye contact with me!  Perhaps, he feels as estranged from me as I do from him.  This is our new world for a moment, let’s hope.  It makes me wonder where to lookSurely, I’m not alone in this.  Each of you has wondered the same thing: look at the camera, look at your materials, or look at the people on your screen.  And if we teach advocates, how should we advise them in this new medium?  This month, I’m reviewing a recent study on how a presenter’s gaze and body position affects learning on the other side of the screen.[1]


The study was fairly simple.  Participants watched one of six different presentations teaching the same subject.  In each of the six presentations, the presenter’s eye gaze and body position changed.  Participants were then tested on the subject taught and those results were matched to the presenter’s eye gaze and body position.  There were three eye positions employed.  In the first, the presenter appeared to “look” at the material next to her on the screen—like a weather forecaster.  The courtroom equivalent is a lawyer next to a white board or demonstrative.  In the second, she looked directly at the camera.  In the third, she looked away from the material and the camera, as if speaking to an in-person group to her left.  There were three body positions tested as well: torso turned toward the material, toward the camera, or away from the material and the camera.  The presenter only ever appears from the waist up.

Before I share the results, it’s worth noting that the authors cite to a host of other materials which have revealed the importance of looking directly at one’s camera while communicating or teaching digitally.  If you are the type who looks at the people on your screen instead of the camera, don’t fret too much.  There is good data that people watching you sense that you’re trying to making eye contact with them and still feel a level of connection to you, even if you appear to them to be looking downward and not staring into their soul.[2]

The study revealed that the body position of the presenter simply didn’t matter.[3]  Eye tracking data from participants showed they rarely looked at the presenter’s body and her body position didn’t affect learning or retention.[4]  Second, the study showed that the participants who viewed the presenter “looking” at the material she was presenting—referred to as “guided gaze”—scored highest on a subsequent test.  The participants who saw her looking right at them—referred to as “direct gaze”—scored a little lower.  Finally, those who saw her teach with her head turned from the material and the camera scored the lowest.[5]

Though there is no good argument for the averted gaze, the data reveals that the guided gaze, where material is co-apparent with the presenter, and the camera-staring direct gaze, where it isn’t, are essential tools for our new world of computer teaching and persuasion.

[1] Zhongling Pi et al., Instructor Presence in Video Lectures: Eye Gaze Matters, but Not Body Orientation, 144 Computers & Educ. 1 (2020),

[2] See generally David M. Grayson & Andrew F. Monk, Are You Looking at Me? Eye Contact and Desktop Video Conferencing, 10 ACM Transactions on Computer-Hum. Interaction 221, [PINCITE] (2003).

[3] Pi et al., supra note 1, at 5.

[4] Id.

[5] Id. at 5-6.