Collaborative Digital Whiteboards

At a Glance

Collaborative digital whiteboards, like Padlet, Google Jamboard, Microsoft Whiteboard and Miro, are visual communication platforms, which enable students and instructors to aggregate, display and comment on related content (media, files, links, text) in-real time.

Research Team

This investigation was led by Gemma Henderson (Sr. Instructional Designer), Amanda Valdespino (Instructional Designer) and Crissan James (Student Consultant), members of Learning Innovation and Faculty Engagement.

What is it?

Digital whiteboards such as Padlet, Google Jamboard, Microsoft Whiteboard and Miro provide a virtual space for instructors and students to brainstorm, organize ideas, and communicate concepts all the while collaborating simultaneously to a digital canvas. Today’s digital whiteboards are predominantly cloud-based and include multiple interactive features such as writing, drawing, and inserting images, web links, videos, and recorded audio.

From left: Google Jamboard, Microsoft Whiteboard, Padlet, Miro

 

Google Jamboard

An interactive digital whiteboard or physical smartboard for collaborating on ideas using sticky notes, drawing, and inserted images. As part of the Google Workspace, the Jamboard app allows students to work on multiple boards at the same time, and all boards can be saved to a UM Google Drive.

Microsoft Whiteboard

A freeform intelligent canvas where teams can ideate, create, and collaborate visually. Microsoft Whiteboard is a tool that is best for sketching and annotation assignments. It can also be integrated within Microsoft Teams, or in the browser, although some of its functions are then limited. 

Padlet

A digital “bulletin board” that allows users to gather a variety of objects into a single digital place by posting or embedding content. Instructors will need to create an account and choose either a free or paid version. 

  • Website: padlet.com
  • Not UM-Supported: Padlet’s free version allows all users to create up to three boards at a time. You can erase and create new ones to stay under the limit.
  • Unique Features: Timeline and map layouts, drawing submissions, embed boards into a website. Web, iOS, Android apps.
  • Features List
  • Educational Resources: The Basics for Educators: Video and Gallery

Miro

Collaborative online whiteboard for brainstorming and mindmapping. Students are presented with an “infinite blank canvas” which they can populate with work. Miro also includes features such as folders, set timers, and communication tools.

How does it work?

As digital whiteboards allow instructors and students to collaborate both real-time or asynchronously, they open a number of opportunities in how they are applied within physical, or online learning environments. A workflow to get started is shared below:

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  • 1. Access your account

    As Google Jamboard and Microsoft Whiteboard are UM-supported tools, instructors and students can login with their UMID. For non-UM supported tools such as Padlet and Miro, instructors need to create an account, or use their UM Office365 account to sign up and login with the tool. Depending on if you want to record student participation, students can login to the tool with their account, or contribute anonymously.

    Login options (from left): Google Jamboard, Microsoft Whiteboard, Padlet, Miro

     

  • 2. Create a board

    To use for a live, or asynchronous learning activity, instructors would need to login to the digital whiteboard application, create a ‘board,’ add a template, guiding questions or prompts, and generate a web link to share with students in class, or on a course website like Blackboard. Students can login to the tool, or contribute anonymously.

    Create a board options (from left): Google Jamboard, Microsoft Whiteboard, Padlet, Miro

     

  • 3. Contribute to the board

    All students would then submit drawings, sticky-notes, text, images, links, or comments to the board in real-time. For larger classes, multiple boards may be required, to ensure the canvas does not become cluttered, or overwhelming. Adding multiple files at the same time can overload the page, and cause the page to slow down. Similar to instructors, students can also create digital whiteboards for group-based projects or brainstorming exercises to share with the wider class, or for instructor review.

    Example of using Google Jamboard mark up features

Who's doing it?

Collaborative digital whiteboards became important tools for teaching in order to facilitate discussion, group work, engagement, and a sense of community. The following examples are generated from the University of Miami community, and from educators using digital whiteboards in their courses at their institution.

Usage Scenarios from University of Miami

Screenshot of Pre-Thesis Work in Miro
Use of Miro in ARC 699 - Directed Research

Miro

Joel Lamere, Assistant Professor at the School of Architecture

In Summer 2020, Professor Lamere collaborated with Dr. Denis Hector, Associate Professor at the School of Architecture to narrow down a collaborative digital whiteboard that can support courses and research projects at the School of Architecture. A digital whiteboard was necessary to support typical visual communication and learning experiences in architecture including the sharing of drafts in weekly-pin-up sessions, providing handwritten feedback, and presenting progress at midterm, and final reviews. After requesting a free educational license, and working with Academic Technologies’ Roberto Gonzalez to implement, Miro was adopted to support these activities for remote and hybrid classes. Since Fall 2020, Miro was adopted for teaching in Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 courses, including a graduate course, ARC 699 - Directed Research (Pre-Thesis), and an upper-level undergraduate studio - SLICES: Structural Foam + Robotic Stereotomy (Architecture Design - ARC 407/509/510/609). Professor Lamere also leverages Miro for a U-Link research project on Next Generation Coastal Structures.

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  • Uses of Miro for Teaching, Research and Service

    Creation of collaborative spaces: For each course or research project, a Miro ‘project’ was created, and students were invited to contribute to the project area throughout the semester. Within each project, Professor Lamere created a board and structured each learning activity, assignment, or event into a template that students could easily add their content to. Each board (with a template) included student names and was organized in a horizontal layout where students could add their files like presentations, drawings, or even CAD 3D models hosted in Sketchfab. Boards were created to facilitate group projects, individual projects, and reviews. While students could create their own ‘board’, the template helped students focus on sharing their progress, and reduced potential challenges when navigating a new tool.


    Peer, instructor, and external review: For key learning events such as midterm and final reviews, external reviewers (e.g. practitioners, professors, experts), were invited to a specific board and able to add comments or post-it notes to the work of each student, while the review was facilitated live through Zoom. To facilitate these more high-stakes events, multiple boards were created, to allow students to add more resources, live or asynchronously and prevent the board from slowing down. For reviews, individual critiques, or group projects, each board could be shared for students to provide feedback on each other's work. In particular, students are required to comment on the midterm and final reviews in Miro, which is usually led and dominated by external critics in a face-to-face environment.

     

    Visual course material: Professor Lamere also uses Miro to share specific course materials to amplify the visually engaging nature of the resources students read. Multiple file types and course materials were shared in Miro, including readings, precedents, secondary research, and previous student examples of pre-thesis work. If PDFs were added, the option to turn pages by page in the browser was also offered. Without access to the physical presence of fabricated models, 3D models of physical objects were also hosted on Sketchfab and shared with students.


    Research: For a U-Link research project on Next Generation Coastal Structures, Professor Lamere leverages Miro to collaborate with a graduate student researcher to share research/precedents, post drafts, and mark up drawings. This board is also used to share progress with other university partners working on this project.

Use of Padlet for sharing infographic sumbmissions

Padlet

Christine Delgado, Research Assistant Professor; Rebecca Shearer, Associate Professor; Jennifer Britton, Associate Professor, Psychology.

Professors Delgado, Shearer and Britton, adopted Padlet in a variety of ways for use within their courses to introduce new collaborative activities for discussion and flipped-based learning, in both small, and large enrollment classes.  Professor Britton is a faculty fellow of the ‘Harkness Method’ faculty learning community, Professors Delgado and Shearer are ‘Flipped Learning’ faculty fellows of the university’s QEP Learning Through Dialogue and Discussion.

As part of the LIFE 2020 Faculty Showcase, all three professors hosted a break-out session on ways they incorporated Padlet into their courses for the fall 2020 semester. Watch a recording of their session.

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  • Uses of Padlet for Teaching, Research and Service

    Introductory activities: Students were invited to introduce themselves in the first week of class using Padlet. One particular activity included using Padlet’s map template, where students would insert images or text next to the location where they lived, and geographically indicate where they are.


    Pre-class activities: Instructors uploaded activities, readings, and resources for students to engage in prior to their class sessions. This included linked PDF articles, embedded video clips, and included helpful instructions for each assignment. During class, students reviewed what was posted in Padlet to reflect and further discuss.


    Real-world applications: Once a week, students posted on Padlet any outside sources  (e.g. social media posts, articles, personal observations) that related to topics in the course. Students would like, rate or comment on other student’s posts, and use these topics to lead discussions in class.


    Sign-up sheet: Students were invited to sign up for different service-learning programs via Padlet. Instructors posted the name of the organization along with links to their websites for students to review before signing up. Students would also post questions that were later answered by the partnering organizations that came to speak in class.


    Post-class activities: After discussing topics in class, instructors would assign activities or questions for students to complete after class within Padlet. These were used as “follow-up” assessments to apply the material learned in class.


    Share assignment with peers: For media-based assignments like infographics, topics for the infographics were pasted on Padlet for students to review and choose. Students posted completed infographics within Padlet under their chosen topic. Instructors would review all infographics and then created a scavenger hunt of questions for all students to answer by reviewing each other’s infographics.


    Extra credit: For extra credit, students post links to songs or music videos within Padlet along with a description of how it related to the content in class.


    Frequently asked questions: The Padlet timeline template was used to organize questions about the course such as office hours, major deadlines, the passcode to Zoom meetings.


    Embed boards within Blackboard: Padlet was embedded within Blackboard and students are able to post and interact on digital boards without leaving their course site. To do this, the instructors embedded an HTML code provided by Padlet into the Blackboard text editor box when creating an assignment.


    Department collaboration: Padlet is currently used to outline resources within the Psychology department, including information on graduate student recruitment, faculty recruitment and departmental review activities. In particular, a Padlet was created on different technology tools to use in the classroom and what their benefits and challenges are. This was shared among faculty in the Psychology department and also across different departments within UM.

Additional Usage Scenarios

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  • Google Jamboard, Stanford University

    Stanford University

    Instructors Christopher Cormier and Catalina Martinez used digital whiteboards to incorporate Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles in their education course at Stanford University. Prior to the 2020 global pandemic, both were already using Padlet to have students post any general questions about the course so that all responses could be viewed and class time could be focused on activities. Once things transitioned to online, Cormier and Martinez needed additional tools in order to fill in the gaps of providing formative assessments, quick check-ins, and hands-on activities. They used Google Jamboard to have students reflect on course learning and provide key takeaways using drawings, sticky notes, and inserting course artifacts.They compiled all student Jamboards to create an overall vision for their future educator classrooms. Martinez noted that the positive aspect of Jamboard was that student’s posts would live on “digitally” versus a physical poster session.

  • Microsoft Whiteboard, University of Bristol

    University of Bristol

    Dr. Hazra Aya worked with the University of Bristol’s Digital Education office to create pre-recorded lectures for her undergraduate applied anatomy courses in dentistry. Dr. Aya used Microsoft Whiteboard to create mini-videos students would watch prior to attending her lecture.  Microsoft Whiteboard allowed Dr. Aya to demonstrate dental anatomy and associated processes all the while annotating or labeling her drawings. She then used the video-editing software Camtasia to record her drawings, provide audio narration, add other annotations, and insert self-check quiz questions.

  • Padlet, University of Oklahoma and University of Sydney

    University of Sydney

    View faculty examples from Chemistry, Physics, Occupational Therapy, Speech Pathology, Health Sciences, French and Francophone Studies.

    University of Oklahoma

    Dr. Laura Gibbs, from the University of Oklahoma uses Padlet to connect with her students in her online modern languages and comparative literature courses. On one digital board, students reflected on their personal growth and perceptions of receiving peer feedback. Recently, Gibbs has used Padlet as an extra credit opportunity for students to post their check-ins throughout the semester. Students are encouraged to post inspiring graphics or links to music videos that they think, “will help them cope with this impossible semester!” With both boards, students can include their name, or post anonymously if they wish to express their opinions freely. Laura has also used Padlet in the past to curate resources for her own research interests.

  • Miro, University of Groningen and University of Oxford

    University of Groningen

    Dr. Dana Mustata, Assistant Professor, Television Studies and Journalism, from the University of Groningen, used Miro to organize synchronous and asynchronous student work. In the “live” classroom, she and students collaborated on assignments together by having students move around different spaces within Miro either in groups or individually. Once out of class, students continued to work on their assignments and tagged Mustata if they had questions or needed to update on project progress. Mustata was able to better follow and monitor student’s progress while assessing their participation in Miro.

    University of Oxford

    The University of Oxford is also using Miro as part of their undergraduate admissions interview process. 

Whare are the benefits?

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  • Capture the moments of brainstorming for reference and review

    As the use of physical whiteboards are reduced in a social-distanced and remote environment, digital whiteboards allow for multiple students to contribute to a canvas, and have their work saved for future use. Unlike physical whiteboards, students, and instructors can natively export brainstorming moments as an image, PDF, spreadsheet or printable format, contributing to their study and course materials. Instructors can also copy and remake existing whiteboards to use again within future sessions, or export into a file format for archiving and auditory purposes.

    Export options for Miro

     

  • Increase participatory and collaborative experiences

    With a physical whiteboard, there is limited space for students or instructors to draw, which can potentially exclude other students from collaborating. As these tools are external to conferencing applications like Zoom or Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, and the learning management system (e.g. Blackboard Learn), students, instructors and staff can create a canvas and share without permissioning restrictions, or needing to be an instructor or facilitator. This allows university stakeholders to use these tools for participatory learning experiences in courses, research, or events.

    Example of using Microsoft Whiteboard in Microsoft Teams

     

  • Familiar, and easily accessible to students

    Each of these tools offer a variety of markup features that collaborators can use for a variety of classroom purposes, therefore reducing the need of physical materials or office supplies (e.g. post-it notes). For anonymous polling and brainstorming purposes, students are also not required to create an account to contribute to a digital whiteboard (Miro requires instructors to have an educational account for this feature).

    Jamboard mark up tools drawing

  • Templates for structuring activities

    To reduce set-up time during class sessions, digital whiteboards offer various layouts to help structure collaborative interactive. Miro and Padlet offer multiple templates, ranging from concept maps and meeting reflections, to timelines, or chat-like stream boards. Within the PC, Surface Hub, and iOS apps, Microsoft Whiteboard offers design-thinking templates (empathy maps, personas) and other project planning tools. Google Jamboard currently has no templates, but allows users to add read-only backgrounds, like using online whiteboard backgrounds designed by Canva.

    Padlet Layouts
    Padlet layout options

What are the challenges?

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  • Free vs. paid

    Some of these collaborative digital whiteboards (Padlet and Miro) are not UM-supported. Although both tools have the options to create “free accounts,” there might be limitations in the amount of whiteboards, users, or unique features an instructor can access. If a faculty member with a large enrollment course wishes to use Padlet frequently, they may require more than the three boards provided with a free account. Paid versions can then become costly for instructors.

  • Functionality limitations

    None of the digital whiteboards integrate with Blackboard’s Grade Center, nor do they offer their own grading system (exception Padlet). If an instructor was attempting to grade participation, they would have to do so manually. It’s then recommended to use digital whiteboards for more formative feedback or participation work. Other limited functions of these whiteboards include:No option to record  whiteboard collaboration live without using an external tool such as Zoom. No option to see a “timeline of changes” to track participation or past edits made (exception of Miro and Padlet).  

    Workflow of launching an integrated Padlet in Blackboard Learn

     

  • Hard to draw

    Drawing on a desktop computer or laptop can be difficult for students and faculty. Although these tools are compatible with styluses on tablets or touch screen Chromebooks, not all students or faculty have access to these kinds of devices. For more detailed sketches or handwritten assignments, students may need to upload files instead or use a tablet app such as Adobe Illustrator or Adobe Fresco (available for free to UM faculty, students and staff).

  • Inconsistent accessibility features

    As digital whiteboards often focus on sharing visual information, some have limited accessibility features or statements (e.g. Padlet, Miro, Jamboard), and therefore may affect students who require high contrast options, or assistive technologies, such as screen-readers and keyboards to engage with content. Microsoft Whiteboard promotes various options, such the ‘immersive reader’, to assist with reading comprehension, or adding alternative text to describe an image or drawing, helpful for users with visual impairments, however this available only in the Windows or iOS apps.

What are the implications for teaching and learning?

Collaborative digital whiteboards allow students to navigate coursework with more autonomy by supporting their ability to set goals, prioritize/organize learning, and problem-solve either on their own or as part of a group. However, instructors need to be intentional when using digital whiteboards as this is another tool students will need to learn and gain access to. In addition to the usage examples provided in this paper, here are some other considerations when to use digital whiteboards. 

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  • Building community

    Digital whiteboards can be used for quick icebreakers, mid-semester check-ins, or first-day introductions so faculty can get to know and engage their students, especially if teaching remotely. These tools provide spaces for all student voices to be recognized and have presence in the classroom.

  • Non-graded or low-stakes assessments

    Low-stakes assessments are important for faculty to know the progress of their students and whether they are connecting course content to real-word applications. Have students use digital whiteboards to participate in brainstorming sessions, small group break-out activities, or concept/mind-mapping  so they can easily present ideas and visually unpack more abstract topics. Incorporating these activities either during or after class will then better prepare students for more high-stakes assessments such as upcoming exams or final projects/papers.

  • Student generated content / problems

    Have students use digital whiteboards to lead topic discussions in class, plan projects or share progress and research while working in dynamic teams, or create interactive presentations and poster boards to share. These are opportunities for students to produce work that to them is meaningful and engaging.

  • Preparing and designing a course

    Curriculum mapping is a time intensive process. These tools can be used by faculty to collaborate on the design of a course, curate lesson materials, or brainstorm teaching strategies with other faculty members.

    Example of Miro being used for Course Planning

     

Where is it going?

With remote collaboration necessary for an online course or socially distanced classroom, collaborative digital whiteboards provide an opportunity to simulate the learning opportunities mediated using the physical classroom whiteboards and pin-up board spaces. Here are some highlights about the future of digital whiteboards for teaching and learning:

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  • Recording student participation

    Currently, Miro and Padlet are the only digital whiteboards that automatically attribute participation during and after a real-time learning activity, therefore could be used for graded assessments, as described in our UM use cases. Google Jamboard and Microsoft Whiteboard currently only offer real-time recording of interaction on a whiteboard, or require students to manually add their name, therefore these tools are primarily used for non-graded activities. As Google and Microsoft offer versioning and recording of participants in their other products, it is expected for this to evolve over time.

  • Inclusive access to collaborative spaces

    All tools currently require a stable internet connection for instructors to create a digital whiteboard, which can include students with limited or inconsistent internet access. Future product development sees the ability for instructors and students to create, and view whiteboards offline, then allow syncing to online versions once connected to an internet connection. Google is currently working towards offline use in Jamboard.

  • Instructor roles

    Apart from Padlet, and Miro all users have the same editing rights on a whiteboard, which can cause some issues such as deletion of the material, clearing an entire canvas or moving objects accidently.  While you can limit editing, more granular options, like locking particular content items is an emerging feature (e.g. Microsoft Whiteboard).

  • Integrations with learning management systems

    Padlet is the only tool that offers some integration within Blackboard Learn, for account and grading purposes, but requires configuration, and a paid, ‘Backpack’ license.