Teaching Commons > Teaching Guides > Technology > Social Annotation

Social Annotation

​​​What is social annotation?

Social annotation is reading and thinking about a text together. It’s the process of making digital annotations on a shared text, creating a collaborative experience out of what is traditionally a solitary activity. Imagine all of your students opening a PDF or webpage on their own, then highlighting, commenting, and sharing ideas about the text or images they see. As they add their own thoughts, they can also see and respond to their peer’s thoughts–all within the margins.

Why use social annotation?

Social annotation allows you and your students to encounter one another’s thinking around specific texts. You and your students can ask and answer questions, summarize essential points, lookup references, and add personal responses in relation to specific passages or pages of text.

Social annotation helps instructors:

  • Ensure that students are engaging in the reading
  • Understand common areas of interest, concern, or confusion
  • Plan for better in-class discussions
  • Model how to engage with texts according to your discipline

Social annotation helps students:

  • Process and understand texts by adding personal thoughts and questions to them
  • Encounter instructor and other students’ thinking about the same texts
  • Engage in conversation with their instructor and other students about topics and issues related to specific texts
  • Stay motivated to complete class readings in a thoughtful and timely manner

What is Hypothes.is?

Hypothes.is is an integrated external learning tool available on D2L that is designed for social annotation. When an instructor uploads a text using this tool, the text will appear with an annotation panel along the right side of the document. Students and instructors can highlight specific sections of the text and add annotations, which will then display in the panel and is visible to anyone associated with the course. This tool also allows for users to comment on one another’s annotations.

Students and instructors can add annotations containing different elements in addition to text, such as:

  • Videos
  • Pictures
  • Tags
  • Links
  • GIFs

Hypothes.is readings can be graded and connected to the gradebook to enable assessment of a student’s annotations. To use this tool in your class, see “How can I get started?” below.

How can I implement social annotation with Hypothes.is in my teaching?

Social annotation can be used both synchronously and asynchronously. An annotation assignment required before a class meeting can help seed a more in-depth discussion in person. For fully asynchronous courses, a robust annotation assignment provides a space for student-to-student and student-to-instructor engagement.

When choosing to implement social annotation, first consider some learning goals for the assignment. What do you hope students accomplish with collaborative annotation?

Also consider the kind of text students may annotate. Options include:

  • Articles
  • Book chapters
  • Websites
  • Course Syllabus
  • Study Guides
  • Lecture Notes
  • Assignment Guidelines

Creating Assignment Guidelines

Provide specific guidelines if you plan on using social annotation as a part of your course’s assessments. Annotation Starter Assignments from the Hypothes.is blog brings together suggestions and instructions for a few basic annotation assignments. You are invited to copy and modify the instructions for use in your own class.

Some considerations for social annotation assignments include:

  • Whether to require a specific number of annotations from each student
  • What kinds of responses do you want students to post (e.g, glosses, questions, summaries, personal responses, etc.)
  • If or how you will assess students’ work

Assessing Students' Work

Annotation assignments can be graded holistically for each student across the length of the quarter, or per each students’ engagement with a text. Regardless of your approach, it’s a good idea to provide students with a grading rubric that indicates how their performance will be measured.

Keep in mind that social annotation does not have to be a graded assignment. You may choose to incorporate annotation-enabled documents as optional resources for students to use as they study.

Regardless of your approach to grading, you can always model good annotation practice by including your own throughout the quarter.

How Can I Get Started?

If you would like to experiment with Hypothes.is or discuss ways to implement social annotations in your course, contact your instructional designer to set up an appointment to discuss different options.

If you’re ready to use Hypothes.is, begin by adding readings using the instructions for Creating Hypothesis-Enabled Readings in D2L on the Hypothes.is website.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

All browsers except Internet Explorer and legacy versions of Edge are compatible with Hypothes.is, but please note that Chrome and Firefox are the recommended browsers for D2L

Any documents uploaded with Hypothes.is (e.g., a PDF of a text scanned from a book) must be run through Optical Character Recognition (OCR). The CTL can assist with OCR optimization. Pages on a website can be linked with Hypothes.is without OCR. 

A public-facing version of Hypothes.is is available, but using Hypothes.is within D2L ensures FERPA compliance and makes it possible to link activities to D2L grade items.

Schedule a consultation with your Instructional Designer to experiment with Hypothes.is and talk more about ways to integrate social annotations with your teaching. 

If you're ready to add readings and already have Hypothes.is enabled, follow the instructions for Creating Hypothesis-Enabled Readings in D2L on the Hypothes.is website.

Yes, Hypothes.is assignments can connect to the gradebook in D2L. Instructors can also leave comments that will transfer into the gradebook.