What is an online whiteboard?
As much as I love an online whiteboard and have been making use of them for a number of years, I’m also aware that not everyone knows what they are.
I ran a poll on Linked In recently about people’s confidence in using online whiteboards and was surprised to see that a quarter of respondents didn’t know what one was.
There could be more than one reason for that of course; maybe they’ve never come across an online whiteboard before, not realised that’s what it was or maybe they call it something different.
Either way, I’m going to do my best to demystify them and explain how you could start using one in your work.
My hope is that it helps people see the potential for adding more interaction into workshops, meetings and all array of online sessions.
What is an online whiteboard then?
Essentially, I see it as the equivalent of a blank wall or flip chart from the real world. Imagine a blank canvas online that you and your participants can all access simultaneously and contribute to in real time.
People can add post it notes, text, images and so much more. You can move things around (just like you would a post it note on a flip chart in a room), add colours, group things etc.
Everything you’d want to do in real life can be done on them as well as everything you’ve never imagined (yet)!
You could choose to have all participants accessing the same board or you could assign a different board (or section of a board, depending on your chosen tool) to different groups in breakout rooms.
Ok, I’m liking the sound of this, but what exactly can I use them for?
Whilst the possibilities really are endless, here’s a few easy things you could do to get started…
Pose a question and ask people to add a post it note with their answer. You can then explore, discuss, group or do whatever else you want to do with this information.
Use it as a measure of how people are feeling. For example, you could add some emojis ranging from ‘meh to marvelous’, and ask people to make a mark against the one they are currently feeling.
Use it for group work – when assigning a task to groups, ask them to capture their thoughts on a whiteboard so they can share it back in the main discussion afterwards. As you will have access to all the whiteboards in real time, it’s a great way to keep an eye on what people are doing instead of sitting in the main room and just hoping! (we’ve all been there right?!)
The benefits of using a whiteboard
There’s some huge benefits to using an online whiteboard in your online work:
- It increases the interaction in sessions and therefore improves engagement.
- It allows everyone to have a say, not just the person with the pen!
- It allows quieter people to speak up by adding their thoughts themselves.
- It’s all saved so you can share a copy afterwards (either through an image or as a link to the board itself)
- You can do things you’d never have been able to do in person (for example – you know when you are all trying to read the same flip chart and have to wait for people to move out of the way? Now you can all see everything!)
- It adds variety to your sessions and makes them stand out.
Not all online whiteboard are made equally.
Now that you’re convinced that an online whiteboard is worth a try, how do you find one and which one should you use?
Gosh, how to answer that one.
There are SO MANY of them available, each with its own pros and cons. I can’t say I’ve tried them all, but there are a couple that I have been using and recommend to others.
- Google Jamboard
I explain more about these two whiteboards including and the pros and cons in my blog “Google Jamboard vs Miro – a comparison to help you choose which one you need“
But essentially; Google Jamboard is quick and easy to use and works well for basic tasks (and is free in all Google accounts); Miro is great for more complex or multiple tasks and has many more advanced options.
Mural is another favourite amongst facilitators and I’d liken it to Miro in terms of its functionality.
That’s all I’m going to mention here, because if this is your first exploration into online whiteboards I don’t want you to spend hours getting lost down the rabbit hole of “which of these 30 tools should I use…..”!! Pick one, try it and see if it works for you.
But what about the technophobes?
Yes, it’s another tool for you and your participants to get used to. But with some careful set up in advance you can make it easier.
If it’s you who’s worried about the tech, then I’d suggest having a play yourself, reaching out to someone who can help you test it out and doing a trial run beforehand to make sure you’re ready to go.
When you’re introducing it to your participants for the first time, then it’s always worth having a quick intro into how to use the tool itself. You can set up a play area on your board for people to try it out and you can demo it to them on a screen share. You could even share information and a test board in advance for people to play with and then they turn up at the session ready to go.
I also know of people who use a zoom producer who will take care of the tech and explanations side too – a great option if you would like to have someone in your corner, even if just for the first few times.
I want to try it out…
Let me make that easy for you then!
Check out the Play Area I’ve created so you can give Google Jamboard and Miro a go for yourself.
I need help…
And if after all of that you would like further help then give me a shout. My Playdates could be used to show you how to use these tools, support you to set up your own or to co-create activities you can use within them. Drop me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have fun playing 😊