This paper investigates in-class interactions in synchronous online classrooms when the choice of modality is discretionary, such that students choose when and if they turn on their cameras and microphones. Instructor interviews (N = 7) revealed that most students preferred not to share videos and verbally participate. This hindered instructors’ ability to read their classrooms and make deeper connections with students. Survey results (N = 102) suggested that students felt a lacking sense of community in online vs. in-person lectures. Some students felt uncomfortable broadcasting their appearances to everyone in the class, and some were unaware of the benefits for instructors. Most students favored using the text chat to participate. Considering the needs of both instructors and students, we propose recommendations to mitigate the loss of classroom interactions by collecting and presenting less invasive social cues in an aggregated format, and incorporating opportunities for informal exchanges and individual control to spark peer bonding.