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Using MS Whiteboard for Collaborative Problem Solving


Following the emergency pivot to online in 2020, Stefan Roesner maintained interactivity in his organic chemistry tutorials by utilising the whiteboard feature in Microsoft Teams. He later adapted this to in-person teaching in settings without a traditional whiteboard. During both online and in-person tutorials, Stefan imported templates he had created using ChemDraw to the Microsoft Teams whiteboard feature. This allowed students to work on the same problem simultaneously during the tutorial.

In addition to reproducing face-to-face interactivity even in online settings, Stefan found that a major advantage of using Teams’ whiteboard feature is that it allowed him to save and export the whiteboard as an image file. This means that Stefan was able to send the annotated whiteboards to students who missed tutorials and that students had access to a library of previous whiteboard slides.


Stefan RoesnerLink opens in a new window, Chemistry

Module: CH167: Carbon & the Chemistry of Life (2023)

Lesson plan

  1. Students were set a problem and asked to hand in their answers in advance of the tutorial.
  2. Stefan marked and returned the students’ work in advance. This meant he usually had a sense of which students answered well and common mistakes.
  3. Stefan prepared the problems to be discussed during the tutorial beforehand. He used ChemDraw to make the templates.
  4. During the tutorials, either online or in-person, Stefan imported templates into the Microsoft Teams Whiteboard as a png file.
  5. Students answered the questions collaboratively during the tutorial either on their own devices or taking it in turns to use a shared tablet connected to a screen.

Tutor's observations

It was interesting to see that students who were second-year students in the pandemic year were quite happy…I guess most likely because they were exposed to in-person tutorials in their first year so they knew how it worked beforehand and it was easier for them to switch to the virtual environment, [whereas] first-year students in the pandemic year found it more difficult because they never had in-classroom tutorials and it was harder to get the flow going.

This can be reproduced not only for chemistry but also other sciences where you basically just discuss problems…but of course it can also be used just as a whiteboard, for a brainstorming session [for example].

Drawing with a stylus is much more precise that drawing with a mouse, saying that only half of my students had a device [that allowed them to draw with a stylus] but the students who did draw with a mouse actually became quite good at it.

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CH161: Introduction to Organic Chemistry