I don’t consider myself a great lecturer so I try and find ways to get students to engage with the course material in different ways. In lower level classes that may mean doing readings and reading quizzes before class and then doing a short review lecture and activity. In upper level classes, I want students to take more control of the material and their learning. This summer while on twitter, I saw a tweet and then subsequent thread from Remi Kalir (@remikalir) about his use of an online annotation tool call Hypothes.is in his classes.
After reading the thread, I saw the potential for students to use annotation to create a rich, shared collection of notes, so I added it to my 300-level Research Methods course. One of the great things about hypothes.is is that it can be integrated into your LMS (our university uses Moodle, but I know it works in others). My course makes use of this open source text from Saylor that I converted and created documents for each assigned chapter to upload into individual annotation assignments.
Another helpful aspect of Hypothes.is is the ability to create private groups for annotations. This means you can have your students join your hypothes.is group for the individual class or section and they can view each other’s annotations. If you have multiple sections or teach the same class over semesters, each class can have their own group.
Here is a peak at how this looks in my LMS:
As recommended in the thread (see above), I introduced Hypothes.is on the first day of class and had students first use it to annotate the course syllabus. This served a dual-purpose of introducing the tool on a low-stakes assignment, and making sure that they carefully read the syllabus.
After that assignment, students worked through all of the assigned readings from the text. At mid-terms I asked students their thoughts about this and other parts of the course and made some adjustments based on their responses.
Based on their feedback, here is what I have students do and how it’s graded:
The primary goal for this assignment is to get students reading more deeply and to make connections with the material beyond the class. I grade for variation in annotation so the reading ends up with a mix of reworded definitions, new examples, and outside resources for further explanation. I also give points when students ask and/or answer questions. One of my favorite things to see is students answering each other. It gets them engaging with the material in a whole new way. Also, when students ask questions, I can go in and provide answers to unanswered questions, and also use them to figure out what I need to spend more time on in class. Another kind of annotation I give points for making connections to previously covered material and/or material from other courses. As a 300-level class, I am looking to help students start to build connections with what they are learning and to see their coursework as interconnected.
In my midterm feedback students had mixed reviews about the usefulness of the assignments. Some students found it very useful, others did not. Those that did not had varied reasons for disliking it and I addressed several of them when I updated the grading. I look forward to getting their feedback again as the semester comes to a close.
I have really enjoyed using this assignment in this class and I am busy finding new ways to leverage annotation and the hypothes.is tool in other classes. I think it will be particularly useful in online classes as a way to get students interacting beyond the standard discussion assignments.
If you have ideas on how to use this tool, or you use it yourself, comment below!!
Written by Ciara Kidder