Photo Credit: Zoom
Zoom has introduced a new feature called Focus Mode that is aimed to help students stay attentive during virtual classes and not get distracted by others. It allows teachers to hide videos and screen shares of students so that they won't be able to see what their peers are doing in the class. At the same time, teachers themselves will continue to be able to look at all the students and their screen shares. Focus Mode on Zoom will also come with the flexibility to let hosts decide when they want participants to be visible to others during meetings. This means that in case of virtual classes, teachers will also have the ability to turn off the Focus Mode in the midst of their class to let students discuss together on a particular topic.
When Focus Mode is enabled, students in a virtual class on Zoom will not be able to see their peers. However, this doesn't mean that students will only be able to see their teachers as they will still be able to see their own videos as well as the names and emoji reactions of other students attending the same class. They will also be able to hear other students when unmuted.
Zoom seems to please educators hosting virtual classes by bringing the Focus Mode feature. However, it can be used in other cases such as virtual corporate meetings. You can use Focus Mode during your next office meeting, when you are presenting something and want your colleagues to pay attention to what you're showing.
The overall experience of keeping participants hidden from others also sounds similar to what we get during webinars. You can use Zoom to host a webinar as well. But Focus Mode brings the ease of allowing hosts to decide when they want to keep participants hidden from others and when they should be visible to all.
Focus Mode is also in contrast with the Immersive View feature that Zoom rolled out in April to allow participants 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 you won't be able to switch on the feature when hosting a meeting through your mobile device. 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.
Hosts can enable Focus Mode for all users in an account, group, or a particular set of users. It initially needs to be turned on from the Zoom Web portal. Once turned on, it can be accessed during a virtual meeting by clicking the More button on the meeting toolbar.