Last updated December 3, 2023

If you are teaching online, one of the tools you will find incredibly useful is an online whiteboard! In addition to being incredibly useful in a virtual classroom, you can use digital whiteboards inside breakout rooms (for running group activities online). Knowing how to use an online whiteboard will make your online classes much more enjoyable for participants and make learning more adaptable. So let’s take a look at everything you need to know about using an online whiteboard!

Using a virtual online whiteboard

What Is An Online Whiteboard?

An online whiteboard (also known as a digital whiteboard or virtual whiteboard) is used exactly the same way as a classroom whiteboard would be used offline.

An online whiteboard, as the name suggests, is a board with a white background and which you can write things on with various colored markers.

The board can be used by different people interactively and because it has a shiny background, it is easy to see the different colors on it. Thus, the drawings and notes made on the whiteboard are easy to see.

In a virtual classroom, an online whiteboard is a wonderful tool that you can use as a teacher to make the classes more interesting and to draw and write things onto a screen that everyone can see in real-time.

Tip: You can also use digital whiteboards inside breakout rooms, whereby your participants work in mini-classrooms as they do group activities online.

How To Use an Online Whiteboard in a Virtual Classroom

If you are new to teaching online though, the very idea of trying to work out how to use a virtual online whiteboard might be overwhelming.

Fear not! Using an online whiteboard is actually quite easy and in this post, I’ll explain the options and provide some tips on using them.

I am going to use Zoom as an example here but these video-conferencing platforms (that you can use for Online teaching) all have a whiteboard feature:

So, to give an example using Zoom, you would take these steps.

Using a Whiteboard in Zoom

Step 1- You Will Open a Meeting

Start a meeting as you normally would by logging into your Zoom account as the administrator of the account.

Then click the ‘meetings’ tab and set up your meeting. Then click to ‘start your meeting’ (see image below).

Zoom classroom and organizing a class meeting

Step 2 – Share Your Screen

In Zoom, once you are inside a meeting (that you are using to teach online) you then click on ‘Share Screen’.

Sharing the whiteboard on Zoom when teaching online

Step 3 – Share the Whiteboard

Next, one of the options you will see is ‘Whiteboard’. Click ‘Whiteboard’.

Then click ‘Share’ in the bottom right of the screen.

Opening the whiteboard in Zoom

Step 4 – Whiteboard Toolbar

You will now see the whiteboard toolbar and be able to play around with the whiteboard including to:

  • add text
  • draw images
  • put a spotlight over anything you want to highlight on screen
Whiteboard toolbar

Common Online Whiteboard Features

Once you are using an online whiteboard, whether you are using Zoom, Adobe Connect, or another program, the features tend to be roughly the same. These features are as follows:

  • Text – so that you can write text on the whiteboard
  • Draw – enables you to draw a variety of shapes and to draw freehand on the interactive screen.
  • Spotlight – is extremely useful if you want to direct the gaze of the viewers to look at a certain area on the whiteboard.
  • Eraser – can be used just like an eraser (rubber in British) to erase things onscreen.
  • Format – is where you change the text size, color, and style
  • Undo/Redo/Clear – features much like on MS Word where you can undo and redo changes or clear them.
  • Save – extremely useful so that you can share the whiteboard with participants after the class as needed.

Using a Whiteboard Inside a Breakout Room

The great news also is that you can use whiteboard inside the breakout rooms.

This is important because it means that, as you put groups of people into a breakout room for group activities and for team-building and ice-breakers, you can have them use a whiteboard within their breakout room if the activity or game requires it.

The combo of breakout rooms + whiteboard means that running training activities for teaching online is more than possible!

There is a brief video on how to use a whiteboard in a breakout room here.

What Is the Best Online Whiteboard Software?

A question we often get asked is what the best online whiteboard software is and which one we recommend.

I have to be honest and admit that we have got onto the Zoom bandwagon (and we are aware of the security features and considerations with Zoom and other platforms) and we love Zoom because overall it is really quite easy to use, especially if you are a new teacher online.

GoToTraining we have found also has all of the key features needed and it is popular with many freelance trainers.

WebEx has all the key tools also but I found it hard and confusing to use compared to Zoom. I have heard of some trainers though who love WebEx so PLEASE feel free to add your own comments at the bottom of this post in the comments section, about what platform you consider best for online teaching!

Online Training Platform Comparisons

WhiteboardBreakout RoomsChatScreen SharePollQuiz
(This table is correct to the best of our knowledge – if we are wrong on any feature you can let us know. You can also now set up polls in advance in MS teams)

(Breakout rooms were added by Microsoft teams at the start of 2021)

Where Can I Find a Free Online Whiteboard to Download

The one free whiteboard that I have sometimes used, but only for very small collaborations, is ‘Web Whiteboard‘.

You can also use the free version of Twiddla but its very limited if you use the free version.

Employee training PowerPoint's and materials
>> Buy course training materials

Do you know of a good free option for an online whiteboard? If you do, it would be great to hear your comments below!

Dr Valeria Lo Iacono