Zoom is launching a new feature to keep students from getting distracted, as it continues to adapt to the changes brought by Covid.
Video conferencing software has become an increasingly common teaching tool during the pandemic, and with Covid cases on the rise again in many places, the new “Focus mode” feature looks like a welcome addition. It will work by letting the person broadcasting see everyone on the call, whereas the other attendees will only be able to see the broadcaster, and will theoretically spend less time distracting each other.
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Focus mode is similar to Zoom’s existing Webinar feature, but whereas that’s only available with a paid premium account, this will be free to all users. What’s more, Focus mode can be turned on or off during the session, which isn’t possible in a Webinar.
As a participant, you’ll still be able to see your own video, emoji reactions sent by other users, and hear other people speak if they have their microphone unmuted. You’ll also be able to see the names of other participants, just not their video feed.
Plus, the broadcaster can also spotlight certain participants, which will make their video viewable to everyone alongside the broadcaster.
There’s also a lot of flexibility built in. The feature can be turned on for individual users or groups, and you can also lock it on, to ensure participants use it during the session.
Although designed with teachers in mind, Focus mode could clearly have other uses, too — for example, giving a presentation to employees where you want to make sure they’re focusing on the slides, and not their colleagues. It could also be a big help to anyone who feels self-conscious about being on camera, given that only the person in charge of the meeting will be able to see them, rather than a whole group of people.
With another semester of online schooling on the cards for many, Zoom’s efforts to make life easier for teachers and students alike is to be welcomed. However, until it can block users from opening Roblox in another window, it may still have a ways to go to stop young users from getting distracted.