On Thursday, 10 September 2020, several members of the CSCCE community of practice met to try out and compare three virtual ideation tools; Mural, Padlet, and Jamboard – which broadly try to create the collaborative experience of using sticky notes and/or flipcharts online).
This was the second in a series of tools trials to help scientific community managers source platforms that meet their needs as meetings and conferences transition online (check out the recap of our Qiqochat trial here). In this post, we recap our shared pros and cons of the three platforms, give you access to our notes from the call, and tell you what’s next for CSCCE tools trials.
What is a virtual whiteboarding tool?
Since moving online, many of us have had to find new ways to facilitate brainstorming sessions without our usual whiteboards, sticky notes, and markers. Luckily, there are several platforms out there that were built to help with just this problem. In this tools trial, we’re compared three such tools:
Mural is a customizable whiteboarding platform that allows you to use a blank canvas, or choose from Mural’s templates and frameworks to organize brainstorming activities. You can create stickies, move them around, and add images of your own.
Padlet is also a customizable space, where users post content on “cards” (similar to Trello, if you’re familiar with that). So it’s more of a pin-board style than free-form whiteboard. You can set up your Padlet as a grid, a freeform canvas, or a map for users to add their feedback in a neat framework. Once you’ve finished your collaborative session, you can export your Padlet in a variety of ways, including PDF and spreadsheet options.
Google’s version of a whiteboarding tool, Jamboard feels like a lightweight version of Mural. Fewer bells and whistles, but easy to setup and use if you’re already using Google Drive in your organization.
Best for brainstorming
Probably Mural. If you’re starting from zero and looking to crowdsource ideas, Mural’s a great tool to look into. The whiteboard space is much larger than that of Jamboard, meaning that subgroups could work on different areas of the same Mural, although the zoom controls can take a little while to get used to. You can also move stickies from one Mural board to another, so if you’re trying to consolidate and synthesize ideas from an initial brainstorming session this is useful.
Protip: Take regular screenshots of your boards so you don’t lose track of progress!
Best for large groups
Both Mural and Jamboard have a tendency to get a bit chaotic with large groups, whereas with Padlet’s preset layouts you as facilitator can control what topics or prompts your participants address. In addition, Padlet gives you the option to moderate content and filter unwelcome contributions, making it a safer option if you’re not sure who will be participating in your event.
Protip: The map option in Padlet makes for a fun virtual icebreaker, as you can invite participants to pin a photo to where in the world they are.
Best for gathering specific feedback
Padlet’s option to create columns with prompts at the top allows users to add cards with feedback (anonymously if you configure it that way), to vote on one another’s cards, and to comment on them. This makes Padlet a good alternative to a survey where it might be beneficial for groups to work out loud together in real time on the answers. We’ve used Padlet in this way to gather feedback at our quarterly community update call (see image above). Padlet can also be used for taking answers to verbal question prompts e.g. in a virtual workshop – where the answers don’t need to be sorted into specific rows.
If price is on your mind when looking into these tools, only Jamboard is free. Padlet offers three boards for free, but more than that and it is $10/month (or $8/month if you pay annually). Mural offers an initial 30 day free trial period and then starts at $24/month. You might also want to think about your workflow. For example, if you’re already using Google Drive for your team, Jamboard might make a lot of sense since it is really easy to add a board to an already-existing folder.
I want to know more…can I access the notes from this call?
Yes! eight members of the CSCCE community of practice joined this tools trial, and, along with CSCCE staff, contributed comments to a shared Google doc. A big thank you to everyone who attended!
The next CSCCE tools trials: Gather and Etherpad
This week we will be trialling Gather (at 4pm UTC / noon US EDT on Thursday, 17 September), a tool for networking and socializing online. And next week Malika Ihle will be sharing the newest version of Etherpad (at 4pm UTC / noon US EDT on Thursday, 24 September), which now has a built in video platform. You can download calendar invites for both of these trials, and other CSCCE events, from our Events calendar.
Please note that neither CSCCE nor any of the participants (or their organizations) who attend these trials are endorsing the platforms. We will, where possible, ensure that participants have the option to enter the event as a guest and we will not provide any identifying information to the platform.