Getting started with Visual Classrooms

Visual Classrooms is an interactive, digital whiteboard system that you can use in-class or online to engage students individually or in groups. Visual Classrooms give each student or group a collaborative white space where they can type, draw, or embed photos and videos. Instructors using Visual Classrooms can easily view, share, and comment on student work.

If you are interested in seeing how visual classroom can enhance active learning in your classroom reach out to [email protected]


Connecting Visual Classrooms to your Canvas Course

Access Visual Classrooms by adding it as an "External Tool" in a Canvas Module.

Go to the "Modules" tool in Canvas

You may want to create a "Visual Classrooms" Module for your Visual Classrooms links.

Click the "+" button to add to a Module

Choose "External Tool" from the drop-down list

Scroll down and select "Visual Classrooms" from the list of external tools and then click "Add Item"

Name the Visual Classrooms "Group" for your course

In Visual Classrooms, a "Group" is the class that you're teaching. The first time you access Visual Classrooms from your Cavas course you are asked to name the "Group" which will be associated with your course. All students who click the the Visual Classrooms links in your Canvas course will be added to the group.

We do not recommend using the "Virtual Sections". Leave that box unchecked.

Creating interactive class assignments, or "Sessions", in Visual Classrooms

In Visual Classrooms, the activities you assign to your class are called "Sessions". You will create a "Session" for each lecture in which you will have students use Visual Classrooms.

This is the link you created when you connected Canvas to Visual Classrooms

Click on the "Teacher Dashboard" and select "Sessions"

Click "New Session"

Name the "Activity" and select the "Group" you created for your course

  1. If creating a new Activity, click "Create New Activity" and give it a name. You can reuse existing activities as well.
  2. Choose the Group you created for your course from the drop-down.
  3. Select whether students will work individually or in groups, set a release date and (if desired) a due date, and click "Create Session"

On the confirmation screen, click "Join Session" to add your activity prompts.

Create "Prompts" for your Activity

Your Activity can have one or more "Prompts". Each Prompt is a different question/problem that you want students to address during class.

Click "New Prompt" on the Activity page and select the prompt type. For whiteboard-style activities, choose "Discussion".

Creating a Discussion Prompt

  1. Title: Give your Prompt a title.
  2. Peer Idea Visibility: Controls whether students can see their peer's submissions. The options are:
    • Show All: students automatically see their peer's submissions.
    • After Post: students can only see peer work after first submitting their own.
    • Hide: students cannot see other student work.
    • Anonymous AP: after posting students will see peer submissions but will not see their names.
  3. Prompt Text: use this text field to tell students what is required for the activity. You can use text, links, and embed images, audio, and video.
  4. Sketch Background: you can upload an image or file (like a chart or an activity sheet) to use as the back drop for students to use Visual Classroom's "Sketch" tool.
  5. Grading: assign points for the activity.

You can ignore the other options for now.

Click "Create" to finish the Prompt. Repeat this process for additional Prompts you want to add to the Activity.

Adding your Visual Classrooms Sessions to Canvas

You can create direct links to your Visual Classrooms Sessions and add them in Modules or Assignments in Canvas.

Go to the "Sessions" tab in Visual Classrooms

Go to the Visual Classrooms link in your Canvas Modules, then click on "Teacher Dashboard" and select "Sessions".

Copy the "LMS Launch URL"

Go to Canvas and create an Assignment for the Visual Classrooms activity

Choose "External Tool" for the submission type

Paste the "LMS Launch URL" from Visual Classrooms into the "External Tool URL" field

The process for adding Session links to Modules is very similar. Click the "+" to add to a Module, choose the "External Tool" option, and paste in the "LMS Launch URL" from Visual Classrooms into the "External Tool URL" field.

Using Visual Classrooms during your lectures

Opening your Visual Classrooms Sessions

There are two ways to access your Sessions:

  • Click on the Visual Classrooms link in Modules to open the "Teacher Dashboard", then click on the Session title.
  • Click on the specific Module or Assignment link you created for the Session.

The Session Overview

Each box represents a separate prompt that you created for the Session. You can click on the prompt title to view the student submissions

Each prompt box lists the prompt title and and instructions. There is also an "Availability Toggle" that allows you to hide or show specific Prompts. It also shows the timestamp of the last time someone responded and an activity indicator graphic.

The activity indicator graphic shows blue and green "ticks" for each submission. Blue ticks are from students and green are from the instructor. The first row of ticks are "New Ideas" (original posts) and the lower row of ticks indicate replies to posts.

Viewing student submissions to each prompt

Click on each prompt title to view student responses. Your view here is very similar to what the students see.

  • Students will click "New Idea" to respond to the prompt, and you can do as well if you want to add your own response.
  • Responses will appear as separate boxes below the prompt instructions. These boxes can be moved via "drag-and-drop" if you want to group responses.
  • You can reply to responses by clicking on the "speech bubble" icon in the lower right-hand corner of each response.
  • Use the navigation tools in the upper right-hand corner to go back to the main activity view or to go to subsequent prompts.