Maintaining your participants’ engagement is one of the most important factors in running a successful online workshop. Using virtual whiteboards to facilitate creative and collaborative conversations is a fantastic way to do just that.
What is a virtual whiteboard?
A virtual whiteboard is an online canvas that lets users create sticky notes, write, draw and collaborate, just like they would using a real whiteboard. The folks at Conceptboard have written a great primer on virtual whiteboards here. Online whiteboards can be used for a variety of activities, such as:
Just like you would in a face-to-face workshop, online whiteboards let participants create sticky notes and post them on the board for all to see. Participants can also write directly on the canvas, add shapes, images and more.
Whether you are taking a formal approach (like using a fishbone diagram) or just listing ideas on a board, virtual whiteboards let participants work together to collaboratively solve interesting problems.
Many online whiteboarding programs come with a range of templates to help participants lay their thoughts out more visually, from mind maps to Venn diagrams, SWOT analyses, flowcharts, and more. You can also add your own visuals to illustrate your point, either by adding different pre-made shapes to the board, inserting pictures, or drawing freehand.
Why should I use a virtual whiteboard tool in my online workshop?
Virtual whiteboards boost engagement
The biggest reason why you should consider using an online whiteboard tool in your workshop is that it can boost participant engagement. Virtual whiteboards help do this in the following three ways:
1. They break up the monotony of an online workshop by giving participants a variety of experiences
Just like in a face-to-face workshop setting, leading your participants through different activities and using multiple modes of learning helps keep their attention focused and engagement levels high. Including an online whiteboard activity in your online workshop can provide a refreshing change of pace for your participants.
2. Interactive activities are more engaging than passive learning
Similarly, hands-on learning activities will almost always be more engaging for your participants than having them sit back and receive new knowledge passively. This is especially true for activities that are done in small-group settings, such as breakout groups.
3. Whiteboards unleash your participants’ creativity
There is a reason whiteboards and sticky notes are used so often for creative brainstorming - emphasizing the quantity of new ideas rather than worrying too much about their quality has been shown to result in more creative (and often better!) new ideas being generated. Giving participants the chance to illustrate their ideas in a visual format also helps get the creative juices flowing.
Collaborative whiteboard tools enhance learning
Another compelling reason to use virtual whiteboards in your online workshop is that it will improve your participants’ learning.
Learners retain new skills and knowledge far better when they have engaged with it directly, such as by discussing it with others and practicing it themselves, than they do when they are just passively exposed to it. Letting participants collaboratively engage with a new framework you have taught them, by having them work together in small groups on a whiteboard template you’ve set up, will help ensure they come away from your workshop with a firm grasp of what you had to teach.
Which virtual whiteboard should I use?
A variety of collaborative whiteboarding tools are available - some of the more popular ones include:
Miro, Mural and Conceptboard are feature-rich tools that support templates, uploading images and other files, and an infinite canvas. These tools are more appropriate for structured collaborative activities where you want your participants to work together to create something detailed and aesthetically pleasing. Miro is also integrated directly in Seshboard, letting you and your participants use it without getting lost between different windows and tabs.
Jamboard and Zoom’s in-built whiteboard function, on the other hand, are more simple, pared-down, and designed to let users quickly jump in and start collaborating on a blank canvas.
Challenges with using online whiteboards
Virtual whiteboards are a powerful tool, but you may face the following challenges when incorporating them in your online workshops:
Making sure everyone knows how to use the virtual whiteboard tool
Every virtual whiteboard works a little bit differently, and there’s no guarantee that your participants will know how to use your preferred tool. You will want to make sure everyone is on the same page (pardon the pun) and knows how to do the basics like adding sticky notes and writing text before you kick off the whiteboarding activity.
Switching back and forth between the whiteboard and your presentation
As an online workshop facilitator you know how important it is to give your participants a seamless learning experience with smooth transitions from one activity to the next. Imagine asking a virtual room full of participants to minimize this window, open that tab, oh and switch back to that other window again quickly please… It simply wouldn’t do.
How Seshboard can help
Seshboard is a live online training and workshop facilitation platform designed with the specific needs of trainers and facilitators in mind. Seshboard integrates Miro directly into your workshop session, enabling you to seamlessly transition back and forth between your presentation slides, group discussions, virtual activities, and the online whiteboard canvas. To learn more, consider booking a personal demo with us.
Incorporating virtual whiteboard tools into your online workshops is a great way to boost your participants’ engagement during the session, and ensure they come away from the session with a firm grasp of what you taught them.
Interested in learning more about how to maximize your participants' engagement during online workshops? Check out the other articles in our Guide to Online Engagement.