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Utilise the online whiteboards to realise your educational idea

Online whiteboards are virtual and digital, and their different apps can assist in realising your educational vision. They can contribute to your plan, from enhancing your lectures to transforming your courses. Online Collaborative Whiteboard Platforms (OCWP) can replace several purposes of a traditional whiteboard. KTH offers a toolkit for the different scenarios of whiteboard use.

What are online whiteboards about?

Online Collaborative Whiteboard Platforms (OCWP) (Naresh 2020) provide a virtual space for instructors and students to brainstorm, organise ideas, co-create and work on projects while collaborating simultaneously. Today’s OCWPs are mainly cloud-based and include multiple interactive features such as writing, drawing, commenting, attaching images, weblinks, videos and more.

In recent years, higher education has moved to more online, blended and hybrid learning and teaching. The online approach has proven to be very beneficial in times like the Covid-19 pandemic, where universities have had to move a lot of courses online. This means making various changes to teaching methods, including replacing traditional whiteboards with OCWPs.

An OCWP is not limited to a distance or hybrid situation, but can also be used when everyone is in the same room. Depending on the situation and tool, you can choose to show and share an online whiteboard using a projector or, if everyone has brought a connected device, through a shared link.

An OCWP that all students can access on a digital device does leverage collaborative learning. As online whiteboards allow instructors and students to collaborate in real-time or asynchronously, they open several opportunities to apply them within physical or online learning environments. This page extracts pedagogy and practices from vital areas, such as interactive whiteboards (where the teacher interacts with a physical, digital whiteboard) and the use of screencasts as flipped content.

Why use online whiteboards?

Teachers can use an OCWP as a dynamic way to present material, encourage class participation and interaction. Students can also make their own whiteboards for brainstorming, solo or group project organisation, and presentation. OWCPs are flexible, and you can create templates for things you often do.  

According to Price and De Leone (2008), the short-lived nature of the content on the whiteboard brings challenges to student learning. When the content moves online to expanding whiteboards, the content is no longer necessarily short-lived, but instead, the student can revisit the content multiple times.

Foster and Wartig (2009) invite the traditional whiteboard user to consider these additional drawbacks to the use of a traditional whiteboard:  

  • A limited number of students can interact
  • Limited visibility and access
  • Limited space
  • Post-processing of whiteboard content is cumbersome and can lead to change or loss of information.

An OCWP allows multiple students to contribute to a digital canvas and save their work for future use. Unlike physical whiteboards, students and instructors can export brainstorming moments as an image, PDF, printable format, and much more. Instructors can also copy and remake existing whiteboards to use again within future lectures or export them into a file format for archiving or other purposes.

What are the challenges?

The use of an OWCP may require additional time and effort to familiarise the students and facilitate the class, and some of the applications currently do not integrate with Canvas. Another limited function of these tools is that there is rarely the option to record whiteboard collaboration live without using an external tool.

Remember to consider digital accessibility when selecting a tool to use. Most of these tools focus on sharing visual information, and it is good to know that some have limited accessibility features, which may affect students who require high contrast options, or assistive technologies, such as screen-readers.

What are your objectives in using an online whiteboard?

Before deciding to use an OCWP in your teaching, consider your objectives for use. Whether you plan to use it in the classroom, have students use it outside of the classroom, or incorporate it into a distance learning course, be sure to determine whether using an OCWP will help you achieve your teaching goals.

Use cases and considerations

For all uses, consider how you will manage the intended learning outcomes (ILOs) of your course as well as how you will support student learning. Below we presents some things you can consider for a selection of use cases or scenarios.

Conventional whiteboard use

  • How do you create a dynamic and interactive lecture to increase student engagement?
  • Do you have the appropriate hardware (projector or student devices) to facilitate this?

Read more: (Bruff, 2010).

Ideation / Brainstorming

  • How will you facilitate conversation between students?
  • How will you collect ideas of actions for the next step?

Read more: (Wu, 2022).

Co-creation / Group work

  • What expectations will you set?
  • How will you introduce the activity?
  • How will you manage groups and group work?

Read more: (Collaborative Learning: Group Work, 2013).

Presentation and storyboarding

  • How will students comment and how can you use these comments to foster discussion?

Read more: (Wu, 2022).

Flipped Content

  • How will you deliver the content to the students?
  • How will you assess student understanding?

Read more: (Brame, 2013).

A few types of scenarios at KTH

There are several scenarios where you can utilise online whiteboards to realise your educational vision. Here is a collection of a few different scenarios from the practice at KTH. There will always be more scenarios than this page can list, but they can work as a guideline when finding the right tool to enhance your practice. In Wu (2020) you can find more examples on some of these scenarios.

Online whiteboards can also be used in a flexible way to create a community between the students in the course. It can be ice-breakers, poster sessions, show-and-tell and other similar events. We often choose to meet physically for a community activity, but with some imagination, it can be translated into a digital activity.

Scenario 1: Co-creation

Students and teachers create the material together where the students work collaboratively and hopefully function as a “community” and create the material based on their perspectives and situation.

Scenario 2: Brainstorm/idea generation and reflection

Teachers can use the space in one of the tools to facilitate or create a conversation with the students about "what went well" and "what did not go well". The teacher can also gather ideas for the next step.

Scenario 3: Presentation tool (Storyboarding)

The teacher can present using a traditional presentation tool, or by using “storyboarding” or posters, where students can comment, react and interact with the material for an occasion. The teacher can use the comments as a basis for the discussions.

Scenario 4: Projects with collaboration

The tools can often assist the students in project management, utilise flowcharts and facilitate collaboration.  

Scenario 5: Formative approach

Teachers can use the tools to annotate, comment, interact and react to the student material. Just as the students can input a lecture or interact with the posted material, the teacher can also interact with the student material.

Tooltype – Toolkit provided by KTH

KTH supports a handful of OCWPs through licenses and agreements. There are many OCWPs available, and several tools for online whiteboards have the option to create a “free account”, but consider the drawbacks of limitations in the number of whiteboards, users, or unique features an instructor can access. If a teacher with an extensive enrolment course wishes to use an app frequently, they may require more than the app provides with a free account. Paid versions can then become costly.

“Here, we reflected that it is not so much what tools we need to have prepared, rather that we should maintain an open mindset to experiment with the tools available to suit the context of what is required” - Ho & Pereverza (2021)

There are several different tools to use when moving a teaching component online, and KTH offers a licensed toolkit. Still, as Ho and Pereverza state, the mindset, rather than the means, will limit or help you develop your practice.

Below we present toolkits provided by KTH that can enhance different scenarios.

Live collaboration / co-creation

Scenario 1: Co-creation and Scenario 5: Formative approach.

KTH provided toolkits:

  • Lucidspark
  • Microsoft suite
  • OneDrive
  • Zoom whiteboard.

Idea generation

Scenario 2: Brainstorm/idea generation and reflection.

KTH provided toolkits:

  • Lucidspark
  • Microsoft OneNote
  • Microsoft whiteboard
  • Zoom whiteboard.


Scenario 3: Presentation tool (Storyboarding).

KTH provided toolkits:

  • Mentimeter
  • Microsoft OneNote
  • Microsoft Sway
  • PowerPoint.

Project and planning

Scenario 4: Projects with collaboration.

KTH provided toolkits:

  • Lucidspark
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft Lists
  • Microsoft OneNote
  • Microsoft Planner.

Conventional whiteboard use

KTH provided toolkits:

  • Microsoft OneNote
  • Microsoft whiteboard
  • Zoom whiteboard.

Check-ins and reflections

KTH provided toolkits:

  • Lucidspark
  • Mentimeter
  • Microsoft Lists.

Reference list

Brame, C. (2013). Flipping the classroom. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching .

Bruff, D. (2010). Lecturing. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching .

Collaborative Learning: Group Work. (2013). Cornell University Center for Teaching Excellence .

Price, E., & De Leone, C. (2008). Archiving Student Solutions with Tablet PCs in a Discussion-based Introductory Physics Class. In AIP Conference Proceedings (Vol. 1064, pp. 175–178). AIP.

Forster, F., & Wartig, H. (2009). Creativity Techniques for Collocated Teams Using a Web-Based Virtual Whiteboard. In 2009 Fourth International Conference on Internet and Web Applications and Services (pp. 7–11). IEEE

Naresh, R., 2020. Education after COVID-19 Crisis Based on ICT Tools (pp. 464-468).

Ho, H. & Pereverza, K. Collaborative, active and reflexive learning: facilitation techniques and supportive spaces, digital and physical. Meaningful collaborators .

Wu, M. (u.å.). How to use MURAL, a digital collaboration space. Stanford IT Teaching Resources .

Contact regarding remote and hybrid with Zoom

Contact ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ (Phone: 08-790 66 00) ​if you have questions about the equipment for remote and hybrid activities, or if you need technical support.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Contact  for pedagogical support or advice on how to use remote and hybrid activities in your courses.​​​​​​​ You can also book personal coaching ​​​​​​​.

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Last changed: Jan 03, 2023