Why you should use the whiteboard in BbCU

Blackboard Collaborate Ultra is one of the best tools for synchronous course meetings at UW-Madison, integrating seamlessly with Canvas.

  • Ensures FERPA compliance
  • Offers students a consistent “one stop shop” for all their course needs within Canvas

Within BbCU, the whiteboard feature is a powerful way to increase student interaction during your session.

  • Allows diagramming, drawing, and equation work
  • Keeps students more engaged than screen-casting alone

Don’t write off this seemingly simple tool. Read on to learn tips, tricks, and best practices to leverage the whiteboard in your BbCU classroom. 

Important General Tips

The whiteboard is easy to use, but here are a few things to keep in mind.

Deleting individual items. You have the ability to remove specific shapes, text, or writing from the whiteboard. To do this, use the “Select” arrow tool. Click the shape or text on the whiteboard that you wish to remove and select “delete” on your keyboard or tablet.

Clearing the whole board. Click the eraser-shaped icon at the top of the screen when you want to clear the ENTIRE whiteboard. Note: this cannot be undone, use with caution. 

Saving whiteboard content. The whiteboard will erase if you navigate away from it (for instance to display files or send students into breakout rooms). If you would like to preserve the contents of your board, simply take a screen-shot before changing views. If this feature poses a significant barrier to your lesson plans, see “Google Drawings” in the alternatives discussed at the end of this document

Use the Whiteboard to Draw, Diagram, or Write Out Equations

The benefit of diagramming or working through equations on the BbCU whiteboard (rather than on your personal tablet while screen-sharing) is that students can contribute suggestions and visually indicate areas of confusion. Students can also draw out their reasoning in the same space as yours, allowing you to spot and correct misconceptions faster. 

Note: many instructors find using a tablet beneficial for this, as it allows more precise handwriting. Simply select the pencil tool and compose away. 

Use the Whiteboard for Brainstorm Activities and Q&A

Whiteboard brainstorms offer you a quick glimpse of your students’ thinking and can help them activate prior knowledge. This space also offers students the opportunity to voice questions anonymously. Unlike the chat box, no names are attributed to white board content, enabling students to ask questions they might otherwise keep to themselves.

Alternatives to the BbCU Whiteboard (that you can still use in conjunction with BbCU)

There are many virtual whiteboard tools available on the web, but most are not directly supported by the UW. In a future post, we will address important factors to consider when using these types of platforms. Fortunately, many Google drive tools can accomplish the same goals. 

Google Docs, Drawings, and Slides are easy to create and can be quickly shared within a BbCU chat. These are particularly useful if you intend to make use of the BbCU breakout rooms – students can contribute to a class-wide document while working in small groups, and review their work together when the whole class reconvenes. 

Google Docs: The classic go-to for online collaboration, Google docs can offer a useful space for students to contribute ideas or questions. It is not a powerful tool when it comes to diagrams and equations, however. For that we recommend…

Google Drawings: The functionality here is very similar to the BbCU whiteboard, but this space will remain stable regardless of what BbCU view or room you are in. This is a great tool if you want to use a whiteboard space to generate content your students will continue to refer to in future.

Google Slides: You can use individual slides as collaborative spaces – adding text and images, creating charts, and more. This can be especially beneficial for concept mapping exercises and any note-taking that benefits from spatial organization. Slides can also accommodate a greater amount of content in one space than the traditional BbCU whiteboard (simply add slides as needed).