Enhancing Whiteboard Interaction with Emoji

Blog Post created by lstock on Feb 18, 2019

Let me begin by saying that this won't be for everyone. Nothing worse than getting people's hopes up. But for some Collaborate users, you will really like this.

Every Collaborate user understands that what sets one session apart from another, is the way that interaction is facilitated. Different sessions will have different types of interaction but seasoned practitioners will always ensure their users are engaged, one way or another. I recently came across a technique which opens up some new possibilities for creating interactive whiteboard exercises. It involves using emoji which isn’t so much a feature of Collaborate but one which it just happens to support.


Smile, you can now use emoji

Over the years, support for emoji has been introduced in the major desktop environments out there. One of the caveats with this technique is that not every configuration of operating system and browser will necessarily support it. But all the latest platforms do, so the future is looking good. If you want to double check your own configuration or that of your students, you should visit

I got to wonder if we might be able to place these emoji on the whiteboard in Collaborate. If so, it would allow us to create all sorts of engaging whiteboard activities.


So let’s take a look at this in more detail then. I’m going to show you a number of examples that use this technique. (The video is supposed to show as embedded but in the meantime you can watch the video directly here).


How did you do that?

The exact steps to place emoji will depend on what desktop environment you’re using. I’ll identify the steps for Windows 10 and macOS High Sierra (and later) here, but is your go to if you’re using something different.
First bring up a new blank whiteboard in Collaborate. Go to Share Content (in the Collaborate panel) and click on Share Blank Whiteboard. Click the Text tool and use your mouse cursor to click on the whiteboard where you wish to place the emoji. This is when you enter your emoji.
The easiest way I find, to bring up the emoji picker is to use keyboard shortcuts:

• On Mac: Command ⌘ + Control + Space bar
On Windows: Windows key + ;

These keyboard shortcuts display an emoji picker as an overlay on your screen. Find and double click your chosen emoji to place it on your whiteboard. Click anywhere else on your whiteboard to move away from the placed emoji and confirm it has been added correctly.

Normal rules apply

With your emoji on the whiteboard, all the normal principles apply to this object. You can use the select tool to move it, resize it, rotate it and (having selected it), delete it. And since you can move it, you can do a ‘reveal’ by moving it from on top of another object should you want that effect. You’ll find that the first time you move an object, it tends to move ‘behind’ other objects. The second time you move it, it will come to the foreground, ‘in-front’ of other objects. You can have your students move objects using the same technique and this is when the real fun and interaction will happen.

The normal behaviour of losing your whiteboard annotations when you move slides, also applies here. Improvements on this will be coming to Blackboard Collaborate in 2019 but the jury’s out on whether emoji will be supported. Remember, it’s kind of a fluke that this happens at all so we’ll have to wait and see. I don’t suppose a product enhancement ‘Idea’ with a whole user community voice behind it would go amiss .


Tips and Tricks

I noted that on macOS, you can mark an emoji as a favourite. This is then readily available within a filtered view of the emoji list making it ideal if you plan on using a series of emoji in one of your activities. Otherwise, it can be tricky to locate them quickly. At the same time, there is also a Search tool and a ‘Frequently Used’ filtered list in macOS, that makes finding your emoji all round simpler.

Also, if you have the ‘Segoe UI Emoji’ font installed on macOS, then you actually have access to all the Windows style emoji as well.

If you are on a desktop configuration that doesn’t include an emoji picker, you could use a website that lists emojis instead and simply copy and paste your emoji from the site. With a little bit of window management magic you can utilise the website with relative ease alongside your Collaborate session window.

Finally, don’t forget that emoji has skin tones, so use those appropriately. And one other thing, does all this mean that students can place their own emoji - yes it does, if you have given them the Whiteboard privilege. And there are some interesting emoji out there . So watch out for that, otherwise you might get more engagement than you bargained for.