Asynchronous Student Engagement using Social Annotation

Learning Rebus Community

Open & Online. Post 4

Open & Online was a series of free weekly community gatherings organized by Rebus Community on a theme related to open textbooks as courseware and online collaboration. Participants received a free book on a shared instance of PressbooksEDU courtesy of Pressbooks. This program will not continue, but all resources will remain free and open.

Instructors in the current moment might find it hard to connect with students, and understand what they might be learning or taking away from courses. For many students accessing their course materials online and completing assigned readings on the web, this experience can be isolating. Discussions around the readings and sharing of analyses might not take place in the same ways outside the physical classroom or with online readings, but there are ways to help students learn together. It’s important to let them know that they are not participating in their classes or completing course work alone. 

Open tools, like Hypothesis, provide ways to change this experience so students can collaboratively read, discuss, and annotate texts, regardless of whether it is a textbook, an article, a lecture, slides, or another web-based source. Hypothesis is a social annotation tool that runs on a browser, and lets anyone (students, instructors, and others) share their thoughts on what they are reading, even if they are not in the same room, video call, or time zone. Annotations aren’t restricted to text alone—images, hyperlinks, audio, videos, etc. can all be embedded in this layer to complement the text.

Students can use the Hypothesis tool to engage asynchronously—to highlight sections of the text that they find most interesting, break down parts of the text to ask questions, or even collaborate with other students using tags to make points. Annotations can be made in public or in private groups, so students can work together in smaller groups if necessary. Overall, this kind of work can help improve students’ comprehension of texts, and help them engage more meaningfully with the content versus just skimming over it. 

Instructors can use Hypothesis to place prompts in the text or disperse reading questions throughout the assigned text. This, in combination with other comments on the text can encourage students to consider what they are reading more deeply than they would otherwise. It gives students insight into their fellow classmates’ critical thinking processes. It also serves as a tool to archive thoughts, notes, and more as students move from one text to another—which they can export and save for future reference. 

What’s needed now more than ever is a sense of connectedness, and we hope that annotations and marginalia can be a way to revive conversations and to engage with one another, even when apart. 

Video and Demo:

Apurva Ashok introduces asynchronous student engagement, followed by a demonstration of how to use Hypothesis and Pressbooks by Amy Song.


Stay up to date!