Tool Reviews



Watch overview videoOverview of Mural: A Virtual Collaborative Whiteboard (7:08)


Mural is a collaborative, online, cloud-based, virtual whiteboard that excels at supporting problem solving and creative thinking. With Mural students can visually document their thinking using a variety of modalities like text, images, videos, and drawing. The built-in templates empower creative, visual thinking. With Mural a team of students can plan, brainstorm, evaluate, design, learn, and empathize to solve challenging problems.  Mural is an excellent virtual container, or canvas, for making thinking and thinking processes visual. Because Mural is cloud-based, students can collaborate synchronously and asynchronously. Mural is web-based, device agnostic and mobile friendly with apps available on major mobile platforms. It should be noted that Mural was not designed for Educational use; however, it is a great tool for collaboration, thinking and project management.

Justification for Using this Tool

Mural’s strength is its ability to make thinking and thinking processes visual in a collaborative online environment. Other collaborative tools like Google Docs, or Google Slides, tend to be very linear in nature. The tools themselves do not offer flexibility in design so content can be arranged in a creative way that reveals one’s thinking. In Mural, users can make contributions in the form of pictures, drawings, videos, documents, and even sticky notes. These can be arranged on the canvas/whiteboard in a variety of ways. This open, non-linear organization makes it easier to show how ideas are connected to one another.  Mural also comes with a variety of templates that can be used to introduce learners to what Clark and Mayer (2011) call expert thinking models. For example, when designing a new product, or a solution to a user problem, you can select an empathy map template that helps learners to build empathy with a user’s needs by examining what the user says, thinks, feels, and does. The template models the process of empathy mapping and design thinking for creating solutions. Thinking skills and routines are explicitly modeled.

Learning content designers can also create their own canvases and templates within Mural to create engaging open-ended tasks. For example, a teacher might challenge a group of students to create a social media campaign to target a societal problem they see in their community. This type of task allows students to choose a problem of interest and apply their learning from the class to tackle that challenge. This type of learning is what Bransford (2000) calls anchored learning where students work collaboratively, for a sustained period of time, to solve a problem of interest, much like problem-based learning. Tracking the creative thinking involved anchored learning can be challenging in a virtual environment; thus, Mural could be used to record the groups’ thought processes as they move through the challenge.

Strategies for Use

Strategy 1 – Empathy Mapping for Design Thinking

Watch overview videoEmpathy Mapping for Design Thinking (3:20)

Strategy 2 – Project Management

Watch overview videoProject Management (2:25)

Helpful Resources

Resource 1 – Interview: Using Mural for Distance Education (Interview)

An interview with Michael Dain, an online instructor at Northwestern University that shows how he makes his lectures come alive using Mural. The transcript of the interview also includes screenshots of how he uses Mural to support his classes.

Resource 2 – Mural YouTube Channel (Link)

The Mural YouTube channel has over a hundred videos ranging from webinars, workshops and short tutorials. The webinars provide background information on the concepts behind the numerous built in templates for supporting creative and visual thinking.


Bransford, J.D., Brown, A. L., & Cocking, R.R. (Eds.). (2000) How people learn. National Academy Press.

Clark, Ruth Colvin., Mayer, Richard E. (2011). E-Learning and the science of instruction: Proven guidelines for consumers and designers of multimedia learning (3rd ed.). Pfeiffer.


Submitted by: Chad Mowbray
Web Page:
Bio: A graduate student exploring and learning about 21st Century teaching and learning.


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E-Learning Essentials 2020 Copyright © 2020 by Power Learning Solutions is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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