1. Modernize the Ancient Art of Annotating

This 8-Step Workshop was developed from several in-person sessions led by KPU’s AVP Teaching & Learning Dr. Rajiv Jhangiani. Included in this was a vibrant Community of Practice which has accumulated excellent insights into the use of Hypothesis.

These pages follow the path taken in Dr. Jhangiani’s workshops, but you can choose your own using the menu links above

What is Social Annotation?

Social annotation is reading and thinking together. It brings the age-old process of marking up texts to the digital learning space while making it a collaborative exercise. Imagine a group of students opening a PDF or webpage, then highlighting, commenting on, and sharing ideas about the text, video, or images they see, all within the margins of the text.  


Why Use Social Annotation? 

When we read and think together, a text can become a richer learning object. We can learn how others make sense of a reading or how they deconstruct the text. Annotation can help a class understand the mechanisms behind building an argument or offer them the space to flag portions of the text that are unclear. Annotating online can embed a class discussion within the text itself. 


Studies have shown that social annotation can assist students with: 


·                     processing domain-specific knowledge 

·                     supporting argumentation and inquiry 

·                     improving literacy skills 

·                     connecting online learning spaces. 


“Annotation provides information, shares commentary, sparks conversation, expresses power, and aids learning.”   —  Remi Kalir and Antero Garcia, 2019.



Hypothesisis best used in smaller courses where a single text can more easily accommodate a number of margin notes and highlights. Hypothesis is built on an open-source platform and has a strong, stated position on student privacy. It emphasizes user experience, clean interface, and ease of use.”

Cornell University. (n.d.). Social annotation. Welcome | Center for Teaching Innovation. https://teaching.cornell.edu/learning-technologies/collaboration-tools/social-annotation

Play Video

University of Massachusetts Amherst. (2020, April 12). Hypothesis – Web Annotation Tool Overview [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNSlKjYGbUo&t=30s

Some Examples
& Activities

Course Activity Ideas

  1. Peer feedback and editing - similar to the Workshop tool in Moodle, you can create peer review activities and group annotations.
  2. Qualitative coding - for methods courses, consider bringing in example data for qualitative coding where students can practice and get feedback on developing skills.
  3. Close reading and primary source analysis - Consider having students practice close reading and analysis skills with source material in a collaborative context.
  4. “Debugging” activities - Collaborative annotation can allow students to help peers to “debug” code and other development projects.
  5. Case study analysis - Courses working with case studies could use collaborative annotation as a way to surface key information from case materials. It also allows the instructor to see into the student preparation process for class.
  6. Interpreting information, data, visuals, or artifacts - Numerous courses incorporate practicing critical reading and interpretation with a variety of materials. Collaborative annotation offers an opportunity to surface details around those practices.

SourceDartmouth. (n.d.). Hypothesis annotation guide. Sites at Dartmouth. https://sites.dartmouth.edu/teachremote/hypothesis/

A Deeply Personal, Shared Experience

The following is a poem Jeremy Dean, VP Education at Hypothesis, has used in his English classes to help students appreciate the impact that annotations have on learning and to reflect on their individualized use of this effective tool. 

Annotation doesn’t just connect the reader to the content, but to all the past readers who have left their marks.

Collins, B. (2012, April 28). Marginalia by Billy Collins. Read A Little Poetry. https://readalittlepoetry.wordpress.com/2007/02/28/marginalia-by-billy-collins/

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