Encouraging and Supporting Discussions Through Online Annotations

Juan Pablo Alperin

Grant recipient: Juan Pablo Alperin, Publishing Program

Project team: Kathleen Burckhardt, research assistant

Timeframe: May 2016 to April 2017

Funding: $5,000  

Course addressed: PUB802 - Technology & Evolving Forms of Publishing


Final report: View Juan Pablo Alperin's final report (PDF)


Description: Seminar courses are predicated on the notion that students learn by critically reading a text, and subsequently engaging in discussions with their peers and with the instructor. This project seeks to expand on this practice by bringing discussions about assigned texts online with an online annotation tool, Hypothes.is (https://hypothes.is/).

Recent experience using Hypothes.is has been extremely positive, with students making upwards of 100 annotations on a single text on some occasions, and largely considering that the annotations help them focus on their reading. However, after using the tool in two courses, it became clear that students were not coming back to the text after they had made their annotations. By not coming back, they were missing the opportunity to engage with peers that made comments after them. Furthermore, several features were identified as lacking from the existing tool design, such as the ability for the instructor to flag or “star” valuable posts, and for students to be able to “like” each other’s posts as a form of recognition and positive reinforcements of their work.

As such, this project proposes to expand the Hypothes.is tool by adding the ability for the instructor to “star” student posts, and for students to be able to “like” each other’s. More importantly, the proposed project will establish a new notification mechanism that will alert students via email of moments and comments that they should be engaging with

Dissemination: If possible, it would be ideal to set up a series of daytime talks at the three campuses to share the experiences of using Hypothes.is.

There has already been interest from other faculty members within the Publishing Program, and I believe it would be of interest to many social science and humanities programs, or any course that critically engages with written materials.

Alperin, J. P. (2017, May). Shining a light on critical reading with annotations. in C. Battershill (Chair), Open Pedagogy. Symposium conducted at the Digital Pedagogy Symposium, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC.

Alperin, J. P. (2017, May). Shining a light on critical reading through online annotations: Explorations into the use of Hypothe.Is in the classroom. Presentation at the iAnnotate conference, San Francisco, CA.

Keywords: open-source software, online annotation; hypothes.is

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