Easy Content Creation with Whiteboards

A number of video types that work well in an online environment, each with its own strengths that make it appropriate for teaching certain types of content. One of the most powerful types is whiteboard videos.

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A number of video types that work well in an online environment, each with its own strengths that make it appropriate for teaching certain types of content. One of the most powerful types is whiteboard videos.

Whiteboards are basically blank canvases on the computer onto which you can write, draw, or place different sorts of content. The ability to draw is particularly helpful for instructors teaching quantitative courses, as instructors can write out equations freehand, rather than going through the laborious process of typing them onto a computer. But drawing can be used in other subjects as well. An art instructor can teach how to identify a particular painting style by placing images of different paintings on the whiteboard and circling their defining features while recording the lesson. Whiteboards also work for assessments. Students can demonstrate their understanding of a physics principle by recording themselves solving equations on a whiteboard while describing the steps. This allows the instructor to see whether an error in the student's thinking has led them astray.

Whiteboards are also good for engaging participants in live online events. An instructor can host a class meeting on a system such as Google Hangouts and draw content while discussing topics or ask students to create the drawings while others speak. Getting students involved this way will help prevent them from checking their email during the event because there is nothing happening on the screen. 

There are also whiteboard systems that do the drawing for you by providing the image of a hand moving across the screen to pull in elements or write out text. This is sometimes called the RSA Animate format and has been used to produce some excellent TED Talks.

The following are some of the best systems for making whiteboard videos for education. Note that if you plan to draw on a whiteboard freehand, you will likely want to use a stylus rather than your finger or a mouse because both create a sloppy-looking drawing.

Freehand Sketch

Stoodle (http://stoodle.ck12.org)is my new favorite whiteboard system. It doesn't require registration—just open a whiteboard and start drawing. It also allows collaboration by sharing the whiteboard link, as well as voice and text chat. Take a look at this short overview: https://youtu.be/yiCgYEldQzs.

Web Whiteboard (https://webwhiteboard.com) is a simple system that also does not require registration, but it only allows drawing and typing, not imagery. Its advantage is that it integrates with Google Hangouts, so you can use the two together to host a live event and allow participants to add content on the shared screen. To use this tool with Google Hangouts, you need to first launch Web Whiteboard on its site and then choose the option to open a hangout. 

PixiClip (http://www.pixiclip.com) is a straightforward, basic whiteboard. You are given a blank canvas on which you can draw while recording narration. If you just want to record yourself writing out and solving equations and do not plan to incorporate any imagery, this might be a good choice. The advantage of this system is that it has a built-in recording feature, meaning that you do not have to open a separate screencast recording system to capture the video. The video is saved to the cloud, and you can then share it with your students by sending them the link. 

Clarisketch (http://clarisketch.com) is an Android app that allows you to take photos on your phone or tablet and then draw on them while narrating the lesson. Once again, the results are stored to the cloud, so you only need to give students the link for them to have access to the video. This system would be ideal for making videos in the field. For instance, a civil engineering professor on vacation might run across an interesting bridge and want to create a video on the structural elements of the bridge by drawing on a photo of the bridge while speaking.    

Educreations (Apple App Store)is a popular iPad app that can be used as either a blank canvas or to import pictures on which to draw. One nice feature is that you can scroll around the canvas when you need extra space. The pro version allows you to export the video, as well as import a variety of document types, such as Word or PDF. This makes the system ideal for providing students with screencasted feedback on their work. An instructor can download a student paper to the system, pull it up on the screen, and then record him- or herself talking about the work while circling different parts. This creates a much more powerful type of feedback than the traditional margin comments.

Sketchlot (http://www.sketchlot.com) is a whiteboard system specifically designed for education. One nice feature is that teachers can set up student accounts for assignments. Once again, having students describe how they solve an equation makes their thinking visible, making it easier to spot problems in process that lead to errors in product.

Doceri (Apple App Store) is an iPad app that comes with a variety of powerful features. Besides being able to sketch and add images, you can create live broadcasts with multiple users. Plus, the elements you bring into your whiteboard are remembered by the system, meaning that you edit videos by swapping out different parts without have to re-record the entire lesson. This allows teachers to repurpose parts of lessons for other lessons.


VideoScribe (http://www.videoscribe.co) is a good tool for creating RSA Animate–style videos. The user is given a blank canvas and can import images or choose stock images to lay onto the screen. These images can simply appear, but a more engaging method is to have the animated hand pull them in from off of the side of the canvas, making it look like they are being taped up to a chalkboard. The user can also type in text that the hand will write out on the screen. The system even allows the user to load black and white images and have the hand draw them on the screen.

The best way to make screencasts in this format is to first record your narration using a program such as Audacity and then load it onto your project. Then select the images and text you want to appear matched to what you are saying. See an example that I created for faculty training here: https://youtu.be/id_AiIljB4Q.

Explee (https://explee.com) is another animated whiteboard site. Its advantage over VideoScribe is that it has more stock imagery and types of animation from which to choose.

There is a wealth of free, easy-to-use whiteboard systems that are ideal for creating engaging content for many subjects.

Experiment with one of these systems to add engaging videos to your courses.