Case Study

Transform Your Educational Approach: Discover How Moravian University Enhanced Student Engagement with Hypothesis

Crystal Fodrey

Crystal Fodrey, PhD

Associate Professor of English and Director of Writing, Moravian University


At Moravian University, a small private regional comprehensive institution in Pennsylvania, educators embarked on a mission to not only enhance student engagement and critical reading skills but also to ensure that their freshman students arrived prepared and connected even in the virtual realm. They discovered Hypothesis, a powerful social annotation tool that would play a pivotal role in achieving these goals. Crystal Fodrey, Associate Professor of English and Director of Writing, shares her insights into how Hypothesis transformed the teaching and learning experience at Moravian University.

Getting Started with Hypothesis

Moravian University’s journey with Hypothesis began during the early stages of the pandemic when educators were seeking ways to engage students in discussions, especially in asynchronous settings. Crystal, who primarily oversaw first-year writing courses at the time, recognized the need for a tool that could foster student interaction, critical thinking, and ensure that students arrived prepared for their first semester. She was introduced to Hypothesis and immediately saw its potential. 

Crystal started sharing Hypothesis at faculty workshops, emphasizing its user-friendly nature and its seamless integration with the Canvas Learning Management System (LMS). The faculty’s positive feedback played a significant role in driving adoption.

“Introducing Hypothesis at our faculty workshops tends to spark adoption, particularly when it’s recognized as valuable and enthusiastically endorsed by influential colleagues.” – Crystal Fodrey, PhD

Success with Summer Reading

During the summer, Moravian University faced a challenge with incoming freshman students not fully engaging with the assigned summer reading. To address this issue, Crystal and her team turned to Hypothesis. They transformed their summer reading program by requiring students to read Ellen Carillo’s A Writer’s Guide to Mindful Reading and practice critical reading skills through annotating that plus a selection of New York Times articles about generative AI. 

This initiative aimed to improve critical reading skills, generate discussions, and ensure students were better prepared for class discussions once the fall term started. The results were incredible; over the summer, 500 freshman students created 6,000 annotations over their summer reading materials. This ensured that the students would come prepared for the fall semester and ready to engage. 

It was a resounding success and is leading to further adoption of Hypothesis in other courses. Crystal noted “Hypothesis is incredibly intuitive, fostering an environment that promotes learning and encourages students to engage deeply with their reading materials.”

What Can We Learn from Moravian University’s Experience?

Moravian University’s journey with Hypothesis provides valuable insights for other institutions looking to enhance student engagement and critical reading skills:

Ease of Integration:

Hypothesis seamlessly integrates with various content types, making it easy and accessible for educators to incorporate into their courses.

Faculty Advocacy:

Having faculty members who are enthusiastic and outspoken about their use of social annotation can drive adoption across departments.

Building Connections:

Hypothesis provides an opportunity for students to stay connected with their peers in both a virtual and in in-class format. Staying connected keeps the students more engaged with the content and coursework. 

Preparing Students:

By implementing Hypothesis into your pre-course reading, students will arrive to your classes prepared and ready to engage.

Developing Critical Reading Skills:

Hypothesis is a valuable tool for teaching and assessing reading skills, ensuring students are thinking more critically and engaging with the readings. 

Creating Student Connections

Moravian University recognized that fostering connections among students before they arrived on campus was a crucial element of their educational approach. With the integration of Hypothesis, this became a reality. Here’s how it made a significant impact:


Early Bonding:

Hypothesis provided an avenue for incoming freshmen to virtually meet and interact with their future classmates. This early bonding allowed students to establish connections, share thoughts, and collaborate in an academic context even before their first semester began.

Building Community:

Through social annotation, students engaged in meaningful discussions, asked questions, and responded to their peers’ insights. This sense of community helped alleviate the initial apprehension many students feel when entering a new academic environment. It gave them a network of friends and colleagues to rely on from day one.

Enhancing Learning:

These pre-semester connections had a profound impact on the students’ learning experiences. When they eventually met in person, they were not strangers but friends who had already shared intellectual journeys. This facilitated smoother transitions into campus life and classroom discussions.

Moravian University’s success story with Hypothesis exemplifies how a small  institution harnessed the power of social annotation not only to increase engagement and critical reading but also to ensure that freshman students arrived prepared, connected, and ready for their first semester. Through an unwavering commitment to student engagement, fostering critical reading skills, and creating virtual connections, they have left an indelible mark on their students’ learning journey.

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