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New Zoom features look to help teachers manage virtual classrooms

With the coronavirus keeping many classes online, video chat service Zoom is adding features for educators to improve classroom engagement and control.

Zoom is releasing new features to help with remote learning.
Angela Lang/CNET

With many K-12 schools and universities moving to a hybrid learning model this fall amid the coronavirus pandemic, video chat giant Zoom is adding new features designed to help teachers manage virtual classrooms. All features will be available on the free Zoom for Education plan, according to a Thursday blog post. 

New features for teachers include more control over virtual classroom views. You'll be able to customize your classroom's gallery view to make it easier to find students and "go around the room" in order, and place a spotlight on a group of students who are presenting to the class. 

Read more: Our favorite back to school picks for 2020

While Zoom typically gives control over muting or unmuting audio to participants, another new feature will let teachers selectively unmute student audio, so long as all parties opt in. This could be helpful for younger students who may not know how to use the microphone, or music lessons where students are holding an instrument, the post noted. 

In terms of increasing accessibility, teachers can "pin" up to nine students on screen in their custom personal view, so those who use sign language will still be visible even if they aren't triggered in speaker view. And students who are deaf or hard of hearing can pin both their teacher and translator on the screen at once. 

For small-group work, students will be able to select a breakout room and move between rooms. And music teachers can go into Advanced Audio and select the option to enhance "original sound," which will raise audio quality. 

All the new features will roll out in August and September. 

For more on back to school, check out our back to school tech gift guide. And for more on Zoom, check out all the Zoom hacks you need to know to use the video chat service like a pro, and how to change your Zoom background

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