Zoom has introduced a new Focus mode that, according to the company, is designed to keep pupils focused in a virtual classroom while still allowing the teacher to keep an eye on everyone. When Focus mode is on, participants in a meeting won’t be able to see each other’s videos or screen sharing, but the host will still be able to see everyone’s webcams.
It gives you some of the control of Webinar mode without the complication and lack of flexibility — for example, a teacher may use Focus mode while presenting and then switch it off when it’s time for a class discussion. In addition, while hosting a Webinar is a paid service, Focus mode appears to be available to free customers, based on my tests.
The release of this feature coincides with the start of the new school year in many districts, as well as the continuing threat of COVID-19. Virtual classrooms appear to be here to stay for the foreseeable future, so Zoom’s addition of tele-learning features is welcome.
Students will see the teacher’s video or screen sharing in focus mode, but it will not be the only thing on their screens. Participants will still be able to see their own video, as well as any films or screen sharing that the host chooses to highlight. They’ll be able to view the other participants’ names as well as any emoji reactions.
Overall, the function appears to be a good approach to discourage students from disrupting one other in class, and it may even have applications outside of the classroom (say, during company presentations, if managers are worried about employees not paying attention to slides). The Focus mode function can be enabled or locked on for accounts, groups, or individual users, according to Zoom’s support site. After you’ve enabled it for your account, you can use it by pressing the More button while in a conference.