Are you an educator searching for a free, virtual whiteboard for your online teaching? Struggling to find the best fit even after trying all the different options? This article is for you!
As we get comfortable with online teaching, some things are just best done with the tools that we have known and loved all this while, and one such tool is the whiteboard. By providing a proper space on which teachers and students can visualise lesson contents and openly discuss ideas, lessons are certainly spiced up regardless of the physical or virtual settings. The whiteboard is simply a timeless tool that has never ceased to be crucial for both teachers and students alike, and we have compiled a list of 5 free, virtual whiteboards that you can use for your online teaching, ensuring that your students have a meaningful time learning, even in the midst of a crippling pandemic.
Transforming your entire screen into a virtual whiteboard, IPEVO Annotator allows you to write on any files that are open on your screen. This means you can annotate wherever on your presentation, and whenever; perfect for any spontaneous questions and discussions during online classes. Even if you do not want to annotate on your presentation, a simple click can make your entire screen into a blank whiteboard. This allows you to easily toggle between your class materials and a whiteboard, adapting to the dynamic needs of each lesson.
However, no one virtual whiteboard is perfect. IPEVO Annotator does not have the function to save your annotations unless you create a recording of your online lessons. The next-best alternative will be to take a screenshot of your annotations, which might be time consuming and simply distracting. Also, there is no option for you to insert text boxes, making annotations tardy, especially if you’re working with only a mouse or your laptop’s touchpad.
To get a better idea of IPEVO Annotator, you can check out their tutorial videos here.
Miro is a simple and intuitive digital whiteboard designed for collaboration. Its outstanding features are its many existing templates and moveable sticky notes functions, which are useful for getting projects started quickly, and keeping them organised. This makes Miro a tool that can help you incorporate group activities into your online teaching, which can allow students to combine their efforts in cross-checking each other’s work, making your online teaching more engaging. Miro’s note-worthy feature will be the mind map templates. These templates can be useful for helping students visualise concepts better by drawing connections between the topics, making online learning more fruitful. Miro also has an infinite whiteboard so you will never run out of whiteboard space, providing you with more freedom and less disruptions during your online teaching. Additionally, teachers can make good use of the video conferencing, screen sharing, and presentation modes to keep online lessons engaging. For its free version, Miro offers 3 whiteboards per account and does not require viewers to sign up. This means that your getting into your online lessons will be a fuss-free process for your students.
However, besides the convenience and accessibility, the paid version will be required should you wish to have for your online teaching infinite canvases, the ability to export your whiteboard in high definition for your students’ reference, and access to the video chat function.
You can check out this YouTube video to learn more about Miro.
3. AWW APP
A Web Whiteboard (AWW) App is a free browser whiteboard app that can spruce up your online teaching. Being touch-friendly, it is ideal for drawing especially on touch-screen devices. This can let you cater your online teaching to individuals who may enjoy a more tactile experience. AWW App also has an intuitive interface with the tools tab on the left hand side, and the controls on the right hand side. Beyond the basic tools available such as markers, erasers, and sticky notes, AWW App also allows you to zoom in and out or to pan across your whiteboard, freely navigating the entire space throughout your online lesson. AWW App does not require any downloading or installation, making it a convenient option. To begin online teaching, all you have to do is simply create a new whiteboard and share the link with your students.
However, there are some limitations in the free version. It only allows you to export your notes with an AWW watermark that cannot be removed, meaning that materials created during class and shared after for future references will not be of the best quality. Alternative methods include taking screenshots of your whiteboard, but might be time consuming and disruptive. Additionally, the free version does not allow you to manage your participants, posing a potential threat to class progress as just about any student can hijack their classmates’ work by erasing or drawing on the whiteboard. In order to enjoy other premium features on AWW App, you will need to create an account starting from $10/month. The free premium trial only lasts for 14 days.
Demonstrations on how to use AWW App’s functions can be found on their Youtube channel.
Designed for collaborations, Limnu’s selling feature is its name-pinning function. On Limnu’s whiteboard, you can pin names to specific parts of the whiteboard, and direct each student or group of students to those specific places on the board. This means online teaching is now more engaging as students can have the chance to engage in group work beyond the usual one-directional lecture. More importantly, this feature allows you to pay attention to each individual’s needs, customising your online teaching in ways that might not have been possible in a physical classroom.
However, Limnu only provides users with one page, which means that different students will have to work on different assignments all on the same page and at the same time, creating an online classroom that may be too messy and distracting for some. Similar to other free virtual whiteboards, the free version does not allow you to save your work, and in order to access other functions, you may need to opt for a paid plan (free access to limnu only lasts for 14 days).
Here is a demonstration on Youtube.
Screenshot of HeyHi’s online whiteboard
Now that you are aware of 4 free, virtual whiteboard options for your online teaching endeavours, it is our pleasure to introduce HeyHi’s virtual whiteboard.
HeyHi’s virtual whiteboard is a notable platform through which educators can host virtual classes with a shareable whiteboard as its dominant feature. Specially catered to online teaching and learning, HeyHi is free for download, and users can set up a virtual classroom for up to four participants, making this the ideal app for facilitating small group discussion, an engagement method that has been proven to improve examination performance of students. You can also invite up to 100 participants for webinars.
With online learning, HeyHi Whiteboard allows teachers and students to continue reaping the benefits of the traditional whiteboard with even higher levels of efficiency. For example, unlike traditional whiteboards, HeyHi’s whiteboard is expandable so that teachers can have complete freedom and access to an infinite amount of space. Just by swiping to shift to another section of the board, or by zooming out, you will never be hindered by the limits of technologies in your online teaching. You can also create new whiteboard pages without affecting the original ones that you and your students have been working on. After class, students can download everything that has been written on the whiteboard for easy future references. This also helps them learn better as when they are no longer pressured to hurriedly copy notes that risk being deleted as the class moves on, they are reassured and can pay full attention to the lesson content. Revision is also made more convenient and accessible, ensuring your students have the chance to reinforce their learning regularly.
User shifts to another section of HeyHi’s online whiteboard to continue writing. Gif created on imgPlay.
Differentiating HeyHi from other virtual whiteboards is also its unique user-interface. Upon entering a lesson on HeyHi, students will immediately see a gridded whiteboard that occupies much of the screen, where the video image of their teachers and classmates are only on the right margin of the screen. This deliberate placement is specifically to help students focus better. With the video images of participants being less obvious, a more conducive learning environment is created where students are less likely to be distracted by the faces and videos of their peers and teachers during lessons.
HeyHi’s online whiteboard. Photo by HeyHi.
Besides opportunities for collaborative learning, HeyHi’s whiteboard app also allows online teaching to foster creativity in students. This is achieved by allowing students to create mind maps, a tried-and-tested strategy that reliably timelessly enhances students’ learning by connecting the dots between the various contents. Mind Maps as groups activities will also allow students to build and maintain their friendships with their classmates even as they learn in isolation.
Screenshot of HeyHi’s online whiteboard
Beyond delivering quality tools for online classes, developers at HeyHi also take security seriously. HeyHi Whiteboard app mandates that all online lessons be accessible only by a Meeting ID and access code, which helps to ensure the safety of online classes. Parents need not worry about their children being affected by hackers with malicious intent.
HeyHi’s incredible versatility as a virtual whiteboard app makes it the perfect one-stop solution for your online teaching needs. HeyHi is simply not “just a virtual whiteboard”. It is also an app that helps lighten educators’ workload by automating administrative matters. Teachers can leverage HeyHi’s calendaring feature to deconflict and schedule online consultations. During video conferences, HeyHi also records students’ attendance for you.
Even after the COVID-19 pandemic, HeyHi whiteboard is still useful. It can be used as a tool to produce educational videos that you can use in conjunction with physical lessons. Why stop benefiting from the use of a virtual whiteboard just because the pandemic is over? HeyHi’s Whiteboard allows teachers to record their writing and illustrations to create pre-recorded lesson contents, which can then be easily played back to aid your students’ future learning and revisions.
Left: Student books an online consult with the teacher. Gif created by the writer on imgPlay.
Right: Screenshot of HeyHi’s attendance taking tool.
At the end of the day, the most crucial feature of HeyHi is its accessibility. HeyHi’s application is compatible with Macs and is free for download at the Apple App Store. You can refer to HeyHi’s pricing page for more information on the different subscription tiers.
As we go through this pandemic, we must not let the challenges of online teaching stop us from providing our students with the best. Adapting our current best practices into the realm of online teaching can be a way to continue maximising our students’ potentials, and hence, a virtual whiteboard might just be one of the most crucial tools every teacher needs in their virtual classroom.
If you’re looking to better equip your classrooms, we hope that this list of free, virtual whiteboards has helped you find the best fit for you and your students. Among them, HeyHi is an attractive option because it is a multi-purpose software that truly makes online teaching easy, effective and engaging.