Drawing and Whiteboarding Tools for Synchronous Online Teaching

During synchronous online teaching sessions, there are many reasons why you may wish to draw or sketch out an idea with students visually, or use a “digital whiteboard” tool to collaborate and organize thoughts during brainstorming or live discussions. You might want your class as a whole, or smaller groups within it, to build meaning with complex ideas by creating mind maps or other visual organizers. You might want students to share ideas, or media from around the web, on a collaborative bulletin board filled with “sticky notes” and hyperlinks. You also may just find it easier to communicate certain ideas, or guide students through a process, by drawing something out “by hand” — an approach that mimics many tried-and-true teaching approaches based on chalkboards in the classroom.

In this post, I’ll cover a number of digital whiteboard, drawing, or sketching tools that you might consider incorporating into your next synchronous teaching session.

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Hidden Gem: Canvas Chat

The Chat tool in Canvas is a very simple and low-bandwidth real-time communication option that, if used deliberately, could provide a quick and easy-to-access way to aid communication in your class, improve your presence as an online instructor, or be a convenient way to structure engaging learning activities in your blended course. 

This post will include a brief overview of the Chat tool, and cover a few ideas for incorporating it into your online or blended teaching plans.

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Considerations for Concurrent Hybrid Teaching

Teaching in a concurrent hybrid (or, possibly more accurately, a concurrent hyflex) classroom is when you teach both in-person and remote students at the same time, usually by physically being present in the same classroom space as the in-person students. While this teaching modality has certainly been used more widely during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is also an interesting one to consider for a variety of situations in which students might require additional freedom and/or flexibility to choose either an in-person or remote learning experience. The possibilities of concurrent hybrid/hyflex teaching to increase the accessibility of courses and degree programs are the key part of why they are being considered more and more in higher education settings.

However, the challenges of concurrent hybrid teaching are real. For many instructors and students, this is an unfamiliar way of teaching and learning, and it is a unique approach that requires unique teaching solutions. While simply setting up a camera feed so that virtual students can “tune in” to the in-person event is a start, there is a lot more to consider with regards to the technical setup and, importantly, the instructional design of a high-quality concurrent hybrid course. The goal is to ensure that the remote students do not experience an inequity of teaching attention or a compromised quality of instruction. With that in mind, here are some things to consider in taking hybrid teaching beyond simply livestreaming a lecture.

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Synchronous Session Hack: Use Your Phone as a Document Camera

There are times where a hand-drawn sketch, diagram, or solution might be the best way to illustrate something to your students, or walk with them through the steps of solving a new problem.  The ideal option for doing this in synchronous video sessions would be to connect a dedicated document camera to your computer, and switch the video feed. But, what if you don’t have access to one? This post will take you though a quick alternative “hack” in order to use your smart phone as a document camera.

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