The history of whiteboard animation is the history of people teaching while writing on a chalkboard, doodling on a napkin or painting on a cave wall. Visual story telling is so old it runs in our veins. Other than videos of lectures (which don't really count) the first video of some one drawing to breakdown a complex idea wast the UPS video directed by Errol Morris.
It was an important stepping stone but it was not until videos commissioned by the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (which for obvious reasons goes by RSA now) that we saw what we think of today as a whiteboard animation. They had a series of lectures with great content, but who wants to watch a 10 minute lecture on the crisis of Education? They faced the same problem we all do. How do you get people to listen to the important message you need to tell.
Their answer was to make a video version of graphic facilitation, a practice of having an illustrator draw on stage a visual interpretation of what is being said. The goal is to engage other types of learners and to deliver the message to other parts of the brain. Using video they achieved far more than they could from stage in a theater, concert hall or small room. The illustrations can be speed up to match the speed with which the ideas are being introduced, and if a still image is not enough they simply animated it a little. The result was millions of views, and their ideas became topics of discussion across the world. They exceeded their objective. Since then the idea has been used and refined, and continues to be the best way to explain abstract ideas to today's society.
There will always be a place for this classic approach but the more exciting things these days are happening in whiteboard animation plus.