What Is It?

Explain Everything is a digital whiteboard app for iPads. Using Explain Everything with an iPad stylus pen allows you to record screencast videos that can include the writing and drawing you would normally do on a classroom whiteboard. You can also easily add shapes, images and animations.

Explain Everything can be used to create lecture videos that can be easily uploaded to Moodle/Panopto, or individual feedback videos for individual students. A feedback video could show you marking up a student paper submission in real time as you talk through your comments.

Explain Everything can also be used to collaborate with students either synchronously or asynchronously, although this requires each participant to have an iPad and the app.  Synchronous collaboration allows each participant to contribute to a shared whiteboard and build something together. Asynchronous collaboration allows each person access to a shared whiteboard on their own time.

Why is this useful?

Faculty from a broad range of disciplines report success using digital whiteboard videos in their courses. In one study, a heavy majority of General  Chemistry II students reported Explain Everything lecture videos to be helpful or very helpful. The main detriment reported by the students was the inability to interrupt with questions. In addition, the author of this study used Explain Everything to mark up and give feedback on individual student Power point presentations. Over 80% of Chemistry seminar students reported this teaching style to be helpful. The author reported that even when teaching face-to-face courses, Explain Everything videos were used for snow days when class did not meet. (Ranga, 2018)

An instructor of anatomy used digital whiteboard videos to deliver lecture material and reported positive feedback from students. This instructor notes that providing the whiteboard videos online did not lead to a decline in in-person class attendance, and suggests that these videos are most effective when smartly integrated into the course curriculum chronologically, rather than all housed together in one location or folder. (Border, 2019)

Graduate students in Social Work used digital whiteboard to complete a collaborative project and reported increases in social engagement, intellectual engagement, and emotional engagement (“a very fun change of pace”) as defined by the course instructor. This author noted that when an instructor struggled with technology, students sometimes perceived that as a lack of subject knowledge. (Campbell, 2019)

In basic and intermediate Accounting, instructors created digital whiteboard videos explaining core concepts, such as T-Accounts. They observed that while almost no students watched every minute of video they produced, there was a clear correlation between number of video minutes watched and earning a higher grade in the course. Even small increments in the number of video minutes watched led to better performance and higher grades. They write that students reported appreciating the ability to re-watch the videos and to watch them at their own pace, i.e. watching the difficult parts at a slower speed multiple times, and watching the easy parts at a faster playback speed. (Lento, 2017)

Explain Everything and other digital whiteboard apps can also be used to provide personal feedback to students. One faculty member in Education made five-minute feedback videos for each of their students, and reports that students found them to be “overwhelmingly positive.” Students called them “personal, authentic, supportive, stronger and clearer,” with one student writing, “I felt a higher degree of authenticity given that I could see the person’s face… [and] was able to read and interpret visual signs and cues.”  Another student reports that being able to “see” the feedback made it seem more positive “whereas if it had been written I might have interpreted it differently.” (Henderson, 2015)

Medical students who recorded themselves practicing a dexterous suturing task and then receiving video feedback on their technique were able to complete similar tasks five times faster than other students who did not receive video feedback. (Naik, 2018)

How do I use it at Carleton?

Here is a short video by Carleton’s Dann Hurlbert offering an overview of Explain Everything. The Explain Everything site has some useful videos that allows you to see it in action, and here’s a link to a more in-depth AT Skillshop video.

Carleton has licenses available for Explain Everything. If you’re interested in claiming one, just fill out the form on the Software Request page (use the “Request Service” button) and we’ll contact you. Carleton also has a number of iPads available for faculty to borrow, or you can use your own.

Teaching Tips

  1. High-quality audio is the most important component of a successful video. (Border, 2019) An external microphone helps sound quality greatly, and also helps to avoid covering up the built-in mic with your hand, and avoids picking up loud tapping sounds from your pencil or stylus.
  2. Lecture videos should be 10 minutes or less. Research shows that students lose focus after about 10 minutes.  (Morris, 2013) For complex concepts or subjects, make a series of shorter videos rather than one long one.

Urgent CARE

Need a quick example or description of how one of our tools can be viewed through CARE?

Not sure what CARE is? Please see this blog post on CARE for more information.

Community: Explain Everything can help build a community of learners. Students can collaborate on a whiteboard space together to work on projects (Campbell, 2019), and see other students’ ideas to celebrate their work to foster a sense of pride in the classroom community, or provide feedback to share in community learning and engagement.

Agency: With Explain Everything, students can choose how to interact on the whiteboard as it allows them to draw, add typed text, and images, or add video or voice enhancements.

Representation: Explain Everything can be used by individuals to practice value-affirmations. Students can “write”, insert images, do a video, etc., in Explain Everything to “reflect on, and perhaps discuss core personal values.”

Equal Access: Because it is a digital whiteboard, Explain Everything can open up the possibility for students who have a difficult time writing on a chalkboard (ex. wrist mobility) by utilizing digital assistive writing tools that will interface with Explain Everything.

Want to help others out with CARE strategies and Explain Everything? Please enter your strategies in the Poll Everywhere section below. As a reminder regarding personal or sensitive information, these will be available to those who visit this site. General content moderation may be on, so your shared strategy responses may be delayed.


Border, S. (2019). Assessing the Role of Screencasting and Video Use in Anatomy Education. Biomedical Visualisation, 1–13. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-24281-7_1

Campbell, D. (2019). Can a digital whiteboard foster student engagement? Social Work Education38(6), 735–752. https://doi.org/10.1080/02615479.2018.1556631

Henderson, P. (2015). Video-based feedback on student assessment: scarily personal. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology31(1), 51–66. https://doi.org/10.14742/ajet.1878

Lento, C. (2017). Incorporating Whiteboard Voice-Over Video Technology into the Accounting Curriculum. Issues in Accounting Education32(3), 153–168. https://doi.org/10.2308/iace-51584

Morris, C. (2013). Screencasts: How effective are they and how do students engage with them? Active Learning in Higher Education15(1), 25–37. https://doi.org/10.1177/1469787413514654

Naik, A. (2018). Personalized video feedback improves suturing skills of incoming general surgery trainees. Surgery163(4), 921–926. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.surg.2017.11.006

Ranga, J. (2018). Multipurpose Use of Explain Everything iPad App for Teaching Chemistry Courses. Journal of Chemical Education95(5), 895–898. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.jchemed.7b00676