Recipe: Online Whiteboard Tutorial

Finding appropriate online meeting spaces for design students can be tricky. Design is not a 1-many, purely didactic, or content-driven subject. What happens in a tutorial is emergent, constructionist learning – it very much depends on what is presented and the tuition session, therefore, has to respond to this.

In a studio, we often do this as desk tutorials (desk crits; 1 on 1’s; etc.) and what we say is a tiny part of the communication. Designers say a lot visually using paper and pens in these sessions too.

A good online alternative is to use an online whiteboard – an online application that lets multiple users draw, scribble, add images, write, etc. on a blank area.

This is a quick recipe for holding a basic online tutorial for small student groups using an online whiteboard.

Serve to:
Small tuition groups of 5-8 students

Prep: 30 mins
Session: 60mins

Low (lots of free whiteboard apps)

Can be tricky working online to start but becomes familiar very quickly




  1. Set guidelines for the presentation to suit the project / activity need (e.g. 3 minute quick pitch; Client Q&A simulation; formal presentation; etc.)
  2. Get students to prepare for the session :
    1. Set a mini brief for the presentation and feedback using guidelines above
    2. Having images ready (i.e. optimised for web use!!!)
    3. Practise using the whiteboard tool
  3. Post a running order or have a sign-up and get students to attend all sessions.

During the activity

  1. Hold a timed presentation and discussion to give each student enough time – it may take a few goes to get good at this!
  2. Make use of visual interaction on the whiteboard and encourage students to do the same: sketching over images is a good way to communicate.
  3. Encourage students to engage in peer critique and dialogue – the less you teach the more learning can happen…
  4. Invite student to
  5. Make sure you take a screen capture of each over-marked work and share this with students as part of their feedback. Encourage students to do the same.
  6. Consider recording the session if students are comfortable with that (but note issues of permissions, hosting and sharing)

Follow up

  1. Summarise the discussion/feedback for each student and try to use feedforward to focus on change required for next time.
  2. Or, if your students are at that stage, encourage them to summarise their own feedback (and confirm it with them). Ideally, get student to summarise their feedback

Notes and tips:
Have an online image search ready to quickly copy and paste images to help explain

Remember, this is a tutorial, not a lecture or other mode of teaching – keep it constructivist 🙂

Published by Derek Jones

Derek Jones is a Senior Lecturer in Design at The Open University (UK), part of the OU Design Group, and the Convenor of the DRS Pedagogy SIG. His main research interests are: the pedagogy of design and creativity, embodied cognition in physical and virtual environments, and theories of design knowledge.

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