The classroom whiteboard is used by instructors in many ways; for example, writing solutions to problems, diagramming relationships between concepts and brainstorming vocabulary. In online teaching, integrating digital whiteboards into live meetings present several challenges, but also open up pedagogies not possible with dry erase markers or chalk, such as annotating as a group.

Below are our choices for three different categories of online whiteboards. Contact Learning Innovation if you are looking for functionality not met by these options, or we invite you to explore other whiteboards on your own.

Handwriting digitally can be difficult with a mouse

All of the whiteboards allow multiple users to annotate. The boards can be saved in at least one way (PDF, video or a permanent URL).

The primary drawback of using an online whiteboard is that free-hand writing is challenging. This cannot be solved solely by a particular whiteboard. It might be necessary to use pre-drawn figures instead or rely on text more often. Unsteadiness can be mitigated by using an external tablet for writing or using a document camera to share writing on paper. This workshop and handout from members of OIT’s Academic Production team on “Writing Digitally” provide further information about the hardware options relevant to using online whiteboards.

The workshop Exploring Online Whiteboards and its workshop slides provide you with an overview of the three different types of whiteboards we discuss on this page: online whiteboards, project boards and presentation boards. This workshop also covers important considerations to take into account when choosing to introduce a new tool to your course.

Online whiteboards

These whiteboards replace the standard classroom whiteboard. All of these whiteboards allow multiple users to annotate. The boards can be saved in at least one way (PDF, video or a permanent URL).

The Zoom whiteboard has basic functionalities such as drawing, adding shapes and text, a pointer and a highlighter. A PDF of the whiteboard can be saved. This video offers examples of using the Zoom annotation tools interactively with students. One advantage of annotation in Zoom is that the tools can also be used anytime in Zoom, for example, to write on slides.

AWWApp is an example of a more advanced whiteboard. Files can be uploaded to a board for annotation, plus there is infinite board space. Users with paid accounts have boards with permanent URLs, while boards on the free version of the tool can only be saved as PDFs. There are templates such as a brainstorming board.

For STEM disciples, GoBoard is the top choice. It offers a large array of mathematical expressions and graphing, plus the ability to upload photos of hand-written drawings. For collaboration outside of a Zoom session, there is live chat and video. Boards have a permanent URL and can be saved. The number of collaborators is limited to five total. There is a free version that can be accessed immediately. Contact Learning Innovation for information about an account upgrade for departments.

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Project boards

The boards in this category are best for project work, mind maps, diagramming, visualization, storyboarding and digital products. All of them allow you to export your boards, attach or insert files and have a large number of templates for your use.

LucidChart is an online diagramming tool available through OIT. It is designed for collaboration among teams and project management. It can also be used in a live class or by individuals to create visualizations. Its strength is the wide range of templates it offers. Team members can live text and audio chat. When a project is complete, Lucid Charts can be converted into slides. MindMeister is a similar tool offered by OIT that is best for mind maps, outlining and assigning tasks.

If you are interested in students creating multimedia posters or projects, Padlet is a user-friendly board that allows students to rapidly add cards with audio, video, links and files. It can be used during a live class or as a project by a group or individuals. The free version of Padlet allows instructors to create three boards to share with students. This example will give you a chance to try yourself.

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Presentation boards

Presentation boards are applications designed to create videos that feature advanced annotation of slides, animations from drawings and integrated multimedia elements.

In most cases, recordings of slide presentations with the Duke-supported solutions of Zoom or Panopto are sufficient. Those tools are also easier to learn than other presentation tools.

If you want advanced functionality when recording slides and drawing, we recommend the application Explain Everything because it is the most developed of the recording tools available. There is a web application for collaborative whiteboards and Android / iOS apps for recording videos of slide presentations. It features many integrations with many outside applications for inserting content into presentations. Videos can also be edited directly in the recording interface. This is a paid service that is billed monthly.

There are many other presentation boards applications to explore including Educreations, which has a quicker learning curve, but fewer features.