Zoom announces some updates to its video conferencing platform. The popular video conferencing platform which continues to expand its functionalities rolls out a new “Focus” mode. Focus mode is designed primarily to keep students from getting distracted during online classes. This update is announced few days after Zoom recently agreed to the “Zoombombing” lawsuit settlement amongst other recent news.
Zoom through its blog post announces that the new Focus mode, which is meant to keep students from getting distracted while in a virtual classroom allows the teacher to keep an eye on everybody. When this feature is activated, the feature makes it impossible for each participant to see each other’s videos or screen shares, while only the host is able to see everyone’s webcams. While this can be used by anyone it remains perfect for teachers — 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.
As online classes have become the norm around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, audio and video calling apps are continuing to improve and add new features for a better experience. This feature comes as the threat of COVID-19 continues to linger and as the new school year approaches, it seems most likely that virtual classrooms are going to be sticking around. It’s such a good thing that Zoom is adding features to improve virtual learning and connectivity.
According to Zoom, the feature can be enabled for accounts, groups, or even individual users. Focus mode is accessible through the “More” button that shows up while in a call. Zoom explains that while 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.
Overall, the feature by the video conferencing company seems like a decent way to keep the audience especially students focused on distracting others during virtual classes. While this can be very useful for teachers and students but could even have its uses outside of a learning environment. For instance, during company presentations, if managers are worried about employees’ attention to slides and discussions. Zoom’s Focus mode support article says that the feature can be enabled or locked on for accounts, groups, or individual users. After turning it on for your account the feature can be accessed still using the “More” button while in a meeting.
Zoom’s Focus Mode is also in contrast with the Immersive View feature rolled out by Zoom in April to allow participants to interact with each other in a virtual room. To enable Focus Mode, you need to have Zoom desktop client version 5.7.3 on a Windows or Mac machine. This means that users using a mobile device won’t be able to switch on the feature when hosting a meeting. However, participants on older Zoom versions will still be affected by Focus Mode and will not be able to see others in the meeting if they are not visible by the host.