Having had so much fun with the enigmatic “Jamboard” in our previous post, we thought we’d explore the “smart whiteboard” concept further by experimenting with Cisco’s “Webex Board”, previously known as the “Sparkboard”. Like the Jamboard, the Webex Board is focused on digitizing collaboration through an interactive display that is connected to others through the internet. Unlike the Jamboard, which has a focus on the Google ecosystem of apps and accounts, the Webex Board seems to prioritize a seamless communications approach that relies heavily on users adopting the Cisco/Webex suite of apps and tools.

The screen itself comes in two sizes, the 55” and the 70” displays. In our case we used the larger model, which is quite the sight. The device emphasizes a few core features:

  • Making and receiving digital calls with the built in camera and microphone
  • Collaborating on a straightforward Digital Whiteboard
  • Annotating and marking up shared files
  • Wirelessly mirroring a screen to the Webex Board Display
  • Syncing with related Webex/Cisco apps and services

Devices such as the Webex Board, the Jamboard, and others seem to include these features in order to facilitate collaboration that revolves around established teams,in particular for design-based ideation, audi-visual communication, and brainstorming. The Webex Board’s whiteboard feature is fairly straightforward, behaving purely as a whiteboard with the option to draw in a few different colors. The emphasis is on the audiovisual communications, making it seamless for anyone who is signed up for the Webex Teams suite of apps, with the device automatically turning on and saying “Hello” for anyone  with a registered device walking up to begin using it.

But how might these affordances shape blended learning approaches for learners who cycle in and out, whether local in the classroom or participating remotely from their laptop or mobile device? Like the Jamboard, this device lends itself well to designing and brainstorming – anything that you might typically use a whiteboard for. Unlike the Jamboard, communications are much more straightforward and simple – so long as the people you are calling are already set up with the webex teams app, which suggests a more reliable version of a highly flexible blended classroom with learners or instructors both inside and outside of the classroom.  Collaboration is limited to annotation and webconferencing as a single group, however, and so learning engagements would seem to be limited to these two flavors of collaboration as well. 

Our experience with both the Webex Board and the Jamboard hint at an experience that begins to blur the lines for remote learners by giving them more options to participate with individuals on campus, however, introduces limitations specific to their respective vendor ecosystems: Cisco and Google. There are no alternate versions of the whiteboard to use, no opportunities for experimenting with third-party apps,  and collaboration relies on the vendor’s vision for collaboration: white-boarding and web-conferencing. With all of that being said, the device works really well for what it is designed to do, and we look forward to exploring more alternatives.