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Advantages and challenges with online whiteboards (OWCP)

An OCWP can promote active and collaborative learning in your students in a way that can be difficult with a physical whiteboard. An advantage of these tools is that they support interactivity while the information on them is permanent. Through its flexible way of working, they offer you as a teacher opportunities to develop your pedagogical thoughts and your teaching. However, an OCWP can present some challenges that you need to be aware of. You also need to take digital accessibility into account.

The abbreviation OCWP

OCWP means Online Collaborative Whiteboard Platforms.

Physical whiteboard is short lived – OCWP is permanent

The information on a physical whiteboard is deleted after the end of the lesson, unlike the information in an OCWP. The ephemeral nature of the content on a physical whiteboard poses challenges for student learning, according to Price and De Leone (2008). Learning can be more lasting when students can return to the material.

To save information on a physical board, the information must be photographed and post-processed to meet accessibility requirements. The post-processing is often complicated and can lead to change or loss of information, especially since handwritten text is more difficult to scan with OCR (Optical character recognition).

With an OCWP, both students and teachers can

  • save their work in the board for future use.
  • export the boards in different file formats, for example as an image or pdf.
  • reuse a board in future lessons, for example to continue where the last lesson left off.

A physical whiteboard has physical limitations

The use of a physical whiteboard is limited by the physical environment in several different ways. The following limitations are noted by Foster and Wartig (2009):

  • The number of students who can interact.
  • The visibility and access.
  • The space on the board.

OCWPs are flexible and interactive

An OCWP lacks many physical limitations, which makes them more flexible and therefore offers greater opportunities to interactively work with and present a material. In the following list you will find examples of benefits that this entails:

  • Students can use both their own and shared boards for, for example, brainstorming, their own work, organizing group projects and presentations.
  • Teachers can copy and modify existing whiteboards, for example to create a template.
  • Students interact more with each other, which can encourage class participation and increase community among students.
  • Community activities can be done digitally instead of physically, with a little imagination in the design.

OCWPs can also be used for activities that are difficult or inappropriate to do with a physical whiteboard. For example, as an icebreaker at the beginning of an activity, for poster sessions, show-and-tell and other similar events.

General challenges

When you as a teacher choose to use an OCWP, you need to be aware of the following challenges:

  • You need time to select the OCWP and learn how to use it to support the lesson.
  • The students need to familiarize themselves with the tool, which requires time and effort from both you and the students.
  • An OCWP requires that all students have access to a stable internet connection. This can be especially tricky if the tool is expected to be used outside of class time.
  • KTH's OCWPs lack integration with Canvas.
  • A function for real-time recording is often missing. In that case, an external tool is required, for example screen recording via Zoom.

More specific challenges are highlighted on the page Areas of use of Online Whiteboards (OCWP) .

Consider accessibility

Consider digital accessibility when choosing a tool to use. Most OCWPs focus on sharing visual information and may have features with limited accessibility for some students. For example, students may need high contrast to distinguish colors, navigate with the keyboard, or use different aids, such as a screen reader.

Read more Accessibility tips .


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.