Using Hypothesis Social Annotation with Large Courses

By Christie DeCarolis | 3 October, 2023

Creating annotation assignments when you are teaching hundreds of students in one course can seem daunting, but there are many faculty across the globe using Hypothesis social annotation with their students in large courses. Here are some considerations that can help you approach designing annotation assignments for your large course.

1. Make use of the group integration in Blackboard, Canvas, and D2L Brightspace.

Our integration with the Group Sets feature in each of these learning management systems makes it easy to create small groups in your LMS and then assign separate annotation “spaces” for those groups with only an extra couple of clicks in your assignment set up. 

2. Consider making annotation assignments low-stakes, pass/fail assignments that do not require large cognitive load to grade.

If you have TAs available to you, they can also help mark annotations as complete/incomplete in the grading system. Annotations can be spot-checked on occasion to ensure students are posting meaningful annotations, but if the annotations are woven into future course assignments, this may not even be necessary (see below suggestions). 

3. Be explicit with students from the beginning as to how their annotations will help them succeed in class, and provide specific guidance on what a meaningful annotation looks like.

Will annotating the course readings help students better prepare for exams, or provide them content to reference as they write essays later in the semester? 

4. Design your annotation assignments to be part of your active learning or flipped classroom.

Students can meet in their small annotation groups during class and review the annotations they’ve made on the reading. 

  • Each group could work to complete a standardized document to submit together: this could summarize key concepts from the reading, key questions they’d still like addressed, and explain how the reading helps them meet the learning goals of the lesson, depending on your own lesson’s goals. 
  • These in-class active learning documents could be weighted more highly toward student overall grades than the initial annotations themselves–and there would be fewer to grade, since only one document is completed per group.

5. Have students annotate course documents with tags to better inform your teaching.

If having students annotate course readings with a large course seems overwhelming, it might be helpful to start by having students annotate course documents: lecture slides, study guides, or project instructions. 

  • This could help you collect common questions that students have and provide a record for students to return to in order to review the questions and responses. 
  • For example, you could ask the students to annotate lecture slides before they come to class with sections of the reading they found confusing, questions, or helpful resources. They could use the tag function to add tags like “question” or “resource” to make it easier for you to filter annotations and organize the topics during class. 
  • Learn more about using tags with annotations here. 

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