Zoom has unveiled a new feature called Focus Mode designed to keep students from distracting each in virtual classrooms. When activated, it allows the teacher to see all the students, but each student can only see the teacher or host. That way, a teacher could activate it during lectures to minimize distractions and then turn it on for class discussions.
In addition to seeing the teacher, students will also see their own video and any presentations, along with the names of other students and emoji reactions. With the setting turned off, students can see all the other students and their reactions, as shown below.
The app appears to be available on any Zoom desktop client, presumably including free versions. That could also make it useful for family gatherings, small business meetings and other situations where you might need to keep distractions to a minimum (or provide space for people less comfortable with showing their face on camera). If you want to make the setting mandatory for all users in your account, you can lock it.
The feature arrives as the new school year approaches with the threat of COVID-19 and particularly the Delta version potentially keeping students out of schools. Besides the Focus mode, Zoom also detailed some back-to-school tips to make distance learning work better, with suggestions like checking your internet connection, creating a learning space and learning about lighting and other app features.