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Zoom Focus Mode shoots for virtual classroom harmony

With the pandemic refusing to go quietly into the night, Zoom classes and meetings are likely to remain a fixture in our schedules. The more you’re in, the harder it is for you and everyone else to stay engaged.

Now Zoom is hoping to assist with a new Focus Mode that is designed to prevent children being distracted by classmates, who may be monkeying around during lesson time.

The idea is for teachers to be able to see students on the display, while children only see the videos of their teachers. It could be a good way to minimise disruptions throughout the class, when students don’t need to be in each other’s presence.

In a blog post Zoom says: “Focus mode is designed with the digital learning environment in mind, allowing students to stay attentive or work on their tasks while under supervision, without being distracted by others and their tasks. This feature gives the host and co-hosts view of all participants’ videos without other participants seeing each other. This extends into screen sharing, as the host and co-host can view and switch between each participant’s shared screen, while the participants can only view their own content. If the host finds a participant’s content should be shared with others, they can easily begin sharing the participant’s screen with others.”

As well as their teacher, kids will also see the names of their present classmates, non-verbal feedback or reactions, while fellow students will also be audible when unmuted.

While the Focus Mode is designed for the classroom, it could also be handy for Zoom meetings at work, where colleagues are sick of looking at each other. There are a number of ways for Focus Mode to be enacted. Here’s the example of how to do it for all users in a group (via Zoom):

1. Sign in to the Zoom web portal as an admin with the privilege to edit groups.

2. In the navigation menu, click User Management then Group Management.

3. Click the applicable group name from the list.

4. Click the Meeting tab.

5. Under In Meeting (Advanced), click the Focus Mode toggle to enable or disable it.

6. If a verification dialog displays, click Enable or Disable to verify the change. Note: If the option is grayed out, it has been locked at the account level and needs to be changed at that level.

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