Zoom has announced a new ‘Focus’ mode to its popular video conferencing platform designed primarily to keep students from getting distracted during online classes.
As virtual classrooms classes have become more than necessary around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, audio and video calling apps are constantly adding new features and improving their services for a better experience.
Zoom’s Focus mode, which can be used by anyone but is designed for teachers to help keep students’ attention during remote learning sessions.
The company first revealed the feature in a blog post on The Verge.
Once the host enables Focus mode, the other participants will no longer be able to see each other on the call. The host will still have access to all participants’ webcams, but other people will not be distracted by the live videos of their peers.
It provides some of the control found in Webinar mode, without the complexity and lack of flexibility that comes with it — for instance, a teacher could turn on Focus mode while presenting, and then turn it off when it’s time for a class discussion.
And, while hosting a Webinar costs money, Focus mode appears to be available to free accounts.
This feature comes as the new school year approaches, and as the threat of COVID-19 lingers meaning many classrooms around the world may continue some form of remote learning.
In November, Saudi’s Minister of Education Hamad al-Sheikh, speaking at a media briefing on the last day of the Group of Twenty (G20) Summit in Riyadh said blended education – a hybrid of online and physical learning – had become the new norm because of COVID-19.
“It is going to the beginning of a new era in education, where blended education is the new norm.”
In the United Arab Emirates, public schools will fully reopen in September with a remote learning option, the country’s Emirates Schools Establishment announced in June.
While Zoom’s new focus mode will put the teacher’s video or screen share front-and-center for students, it won’t be the only thing on their screens.
For one, participants will still see their own video, as well as any videos or screen shares that are spotlighted by the host. They’ll also be able to see the names of the other participants, as well as any emoji reactions.