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Today we all are gathered here, to bring an end to the endless search for the best online whiteboard for tutors. We are going to compare the most popular free options and find out which one is the best fit for online tutoring jobs.
Having a good understanding of shared whiteboards is an essential part of becoming an online tutor. Shared whiteboards allow us to work on the same board with our students online in real-time. When used properly, they provide an experience very similar to in-person tutoring. This naturally leads online tutors to look for the best option. Since not everyone has time to test all the options, the answer is not obvious. But don’t worry, we have tested the most popular shared whiteboards, and are excited to share the results with you!
This post is not sponsored and all the opinions listed here are unbiased. We test and compare the free options only to comply with Online Tutoring Mastery’s overarching principle of budget-friendliness.
Our tests are done by a tutor using a PC and a student using an Android tablet. This way we tested the shared boards’ mobile-friendliness as well. Let us start by introducing the contestants:
- AwwApp: Online shared whiteboard that works on browser.
- OneNote: Microsoft Office software, works on browser on PC but requires its own App on mobile devices.
- ZiteBoard: Online shared whiteboard that works on browser.
- Zoom: Video conferencing software, that also has a shared whiteboard functionality.
1. Test Categories
- Software and login requirement: Does the whiteboard require you or the student to create an account and login? Does it require extra software?
- Ink Look: How good your writing looks on that whiteboard?
- Sync Time: Is there a delay between the student and the tutor? Is your session going to be laggy?
- Laser Pointer: Can you see each other’s cursors when you are not writing?
- Eraser Precision: How does the eraser work? Does it allow you to erase only some parts of what you have written or images you uploaded, or does it obliterate everything it comes into contact with?
- Multiple Students: How many students can use the shared board at the same time along with you?
- Quick Paste: How easy it is to copy and paste stuff to the whiteboard?
- A4 size guide: Does the whiteboard provide you a guide/functionality to help you create A4-paper size print-ready notes?
- Rich Export Options: What are your options for exporting your work from the whiteboard? Images? PDFs? Are you able to choose the final dimensions?
- Save Your Progress: Are you allowed to continue what you have been doing after the session?
2. Test Results:
2.1. Software and Login Requirement
- AwwApp: Does not require software or login. You can create a paper and share it directly by sending the link to the student.
- OneNote: Microsoft accounts are required for both tutor and the students, and App is required for students using mobile devices. Also, using an App instead of a browser in desktop also increases the performance a lot.
- ZiteBoard: Requires free membership login. You can login using Gmail or Facebook accounts. Also, works on the browser without extra software.
- Zoom: Requires Zoom software. Tutor needs an account but student is fine without an account.
Therefore when we consider how easy it is to set things up, AwwApp is the only one you can use instantly. Other options require some registration and software installation (which can be done easily).
2.2. Ink Look
How good your writing looks like depends on the software you are using, because different software has different ways of interpreting the signals from your graphic tablet. Since how good your handwriting looks also affects how much your students are going to like your notes, this is a detail we would like to pay attention to as well.
Below, we have written “Online Tutoring Mastery” using the same hardware and at the same pace using different software. For reference, we added photoshop and paint as well.
2.3. Sync Time
- AwwApp reflects the changes in real-time with little to no delay.
- OneNote reflects changes in real-time with little to no delay IF both student and tutor are using the OneNote App. The more advanced MS Office OneNote 2016 software does not reflect the changes in real-time, Microsoft OneNote App (lighter one in Microsoft Store) should be used for real-time synchronization.
- ZiteBoard reflects the changes in real-time with little to no delay.
- Zoom reflects the changes with a bit of delay, it was the laggiest one among the four.
In this section, all of them except Zoom perform really well if they are set up properly.
2.4. Laser Pointer
Often when we are explaining stuff we would like to point to what we have written. In class, this happens by pointing with our fingers. Some online whiteboards have a pointer functionality, which allows participants to see the location of each other’s cursors. This helps to point to certain things on the board when needed.
- AwwApp: Does have a pointer function but the pointer does not trace the cursor, it works only when clicked to the screen. Therefore it is not ideal.
- OneNote: Does not have a pointer function.
- ZiteBoard: Does have a laser pointer function that works effectively (traces the cursor in real-time).
- Zoom: Does have a laser pointer function that works effectively (traces the cursor in real-time).
In our opinion the option with the best laser-pointer function was ZiteBoard.
2.5. Precision Eraser
Once you upload an image to the whiteboard, you may want to draw things on it. And if you decide to erase some of your drawings, you would like an option to erase what you have drawn but not the whole image you uploaded. This section tests which whiteboards allow you to erase things you have written on the images you upload, without erasing the whole image.
- AwwApp: It is possible to erase parts of the images you upload. It has two erasers called “eraser” and “element eraser”. The first option allows partially erasing the stuff you have written or the images you uploaded.
- OneNote: Eraser does not work on the images you upload. This allows you to erase things you have drawn on images while keeping the image. To delete the images, you need to select them and press “delete”.
- ZiteBoard: Eraser removes everything that it comes into contact, therefore it is not possible to partially erase things.
- Zoom: Similar to ZiteBoard, eraser obliterates everything it touches, it is not possible to partially erase things.
In this section AwwApp and OneNote outperform ZiteBoard and Zoom.
2.6. Multiple Students
- AwwApp: No limit on the number of students.
- OneNote: No limit on the number of students.
- ZiteBoard: Up to 3 students can share the same board.
- Zoom: More than one student can use the same board for up to 40 minutes.
2.7. Quick Paste
We would like to be able to move materials in and out of the board quickly without losing time. When students realize that you lose no time taking care of the logistics and spend all the time actually teaching, they enjoy the sessions more. Therefore I personally think it is very important to be able to paste copied images to the screen directly by pressing CTRL+V. We don’t want to lose time clicking “upload image”, and then looking for the image etc each time we want to import material. (You can have a look at our copy & paste trick for online tutors article for more info on this time-saving method.)
- AwwApp: Does not allow pasting images directly to the board.
- OneNote: Allows pasting directly to the board.
- ZiteBoard: Allows pasting directly to the board.
- Zoom: Does not allow pasting to the board. In fact, I could not even find an option to import images to the board.
In this section OneNote and ZiteBoard perform better than their rivals.
2.8. A4 Guide
- AwwApp: Does not have a built-in A4 size guide.
- OneNote: Does not have a built-in A4 size guide, but its advanced printing features can help fit things on A4 papers.
- ZiteBoard: It has a built-in A4 size guide that you can activate.
- Zoom: It forces you to use a board that has a width longer than its height, opposite of what we need.
When it comes to printer-friendliness, ZiteBoard and OneNote outperform their rivals.
2.9. Rich Export Options
Now that we have created beautiful notes on the whiteboard, we want to be able to save them properly and print if necessary. Which whiteboards allow nice export options?
- AwwApp: Can export everything on the board, useful. Free version puts a watermark on PDF exports though.
- OneNote: Since it is an MS Office program, it has advanced printing and exporting features. OneNote is the best among the four when it comes to exporting and printing.
- ZiteBoard: Has rich export options, allows you to export as A4-sized PDF’s, or to export the whole board as one large image.
- Zoom: It allows only one whiteboard size, and it only exports in those dimensions in image format. Not good.
In this section OneNote and ZiteBoard outperform AwwApp, which outperforms Zoom.
2.10. Save Your Progress
Let’s say you want to be able to use the same board with the student in your next session as well, therefore you want to keep the changes you have made. Which free whiteboards allows this?
- AwwApp: You can only save one board in the free version, thus it is not possible to save progress with multiple students. You will need to export your notes manually and save them that way.
- OneNote: Can save as much data and notes as you want. Clear winner of this section. You can keep notebooks for each one of your students. Very easy to continue from where you left off.
- ZiteBoard: Allows you to use up to 3 boards in the free version. This gives a bit of space to save your progress, but again, exporting the notes and saving your progress manually would be safer.
- Zoom: No way to save your progress.
3. Conclusion: Which One is the Best?
As the test results show, there is no clear winner (Clear loser is the Zoom whiteboard though. Nice video conferencing software, but not a nice whiteboard). The ideal whiteboard for you is going to depend on what you would like to do and how tech-savvy your student is. Thus let us summarize which board we think is the best for what types of students:
3.1. If you think your student can install software:
Even though it has its disadvantages too (like the lack of a laser pointer), we recommend using OneNote so that you can enjoy its rich features, with the beautiful realistic ink look. Once you set up your OneNote for your first session, your student is going to have unlimited access to all your notes automatically.
For example, if you are teaching a high school student, you can tell her “Please download OneNote app and create an account, I will send you an invitation”. For a typical teenager today this is a 2-minute task and then you will be ready to go.
3.2. If, for some reason, your student is too bad at using computers/technology:
If you are not confident that your student is going to be able to find and install OneNote, and create an account, you can use ZiteBoard as an alternative. Almost everyone should be able to setup OneNote, with their tutor’s guidance if necessary. But still, if you think OneNote is not an option, ZiteBoard is a very nice alternative. You can tell your student that “I am going to send you the link to the board, and you can login with your gmail or Facebook”. It’s that simple.
OneNote outperforms ZiteBoard in many aspects but considering OneNote is an MS office software whereas ZiteBoard is a browser App, ZiteBoard’s performance is really impressive.
3.3. If you have a very quick thing to show:
If you have one simple thing to show and don’t want to bother asking your student to create an account, you can use AwwApp, create a board immediately, send your student the link and you are good to go. AwwApp is good for short and simple tasks, but if you are planning to have an actual long tutoring session, OneNote and ZiteBoard are better options.
However, for such simple tasks, sharing your screen with the student is good enough most of the time, thus when you have access to these other software and screen-share you may never need AwwApp.
4. What Do You Think?
This was our take on which online whiteboard is the best. Which online whiteboard do you use? Do you agree with our conclusions? Let us and others know by writing in the comments, so that we all can become better online tutors!