Hypothesis is a collaborative annotation tool now available in all UAF Canvas courses. Hypothesis merges the tasks of reading and discussion through the act of annotation, allowing students to hold contextualized discussions about the reading.

Collaborative annotation changes the timeline of how discussions happen. In the fall 2019 offering of ED F650: Current Topics in Ed Tech, Hypothesis replaced discussions in most weeks of the course. The instructor, Sean Holland, found that discussion began earlier in the week, since it was happening at the time of reading. This allowed for iteration and sustained interaction that lasted throughout the week, rather than a burst of activity over the week’s end. Feedback from students was overwhelmingly positive. They felt that not only was their discussion valuable and meaningful, but that their work of reading was being recognized too:

Intro session to Hypothesis

Join Hypothesis and UAF eCampus instructional designers for an introductory session to Hypothesis on Tuesday, Sept. 21, from 1:15-2:15 p.m. Register here.

“It helps me focus more during my reading if I highlight or note what I am reading. Using Hypothesis together as a class forces that annotating process to be shared.”

ED F650

“It was fun to do social annotation — and I think I prefer that style over discussion posts. It really focuses the discussion and ideas.”

ED F650

Collaborative annotation in Hypothesis permits students to share their thoughts within both textual and social contexts, without the pressure of a paper-worthy idea. Kalir (2020) argues that, “Annotation can open up transformative learning opportunities for educators and their students to take intellectual risks, share personal opinions, and make meaning together about challenging texts and topics” (p. 14). Collaborative annotation provides a radical alternative to the standard structure of read-and-respond online discussions. When faced with a substantial graded discussion board post, students may avoid asking small questions or voicing their personal connections to the material, in favor of posting a less risky response such as a summary. Hypothesis allows instructors to grade engagement in an online discussion through highlights, comments and responses, giving students more low-stakes ways to show their learning. As one student voiced: “We can have small thoughts in this [Hypothesis].”

How to use Hypothesis in a UAF Canvas course

Hypothesis began as a browser extension that allowed anyone to annotate the open web publicly. The same feature set is now available within any Canvas course, for annotations and discussions: either within the class, within a group or privately.

There are two ways to use Hypothesis in a course: either as a new ungraded module item or as an assignment that will connect to the gradebook:

Join Hypothesis and UAF eCampus instructional designers for an introductory session to Hypothesis on Tuesday, Sept. 21, from 1:15-2:15 p.m. Register here: https://hypothesis.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_CqoLxrQSTU6htl8xGKkCEQ



Kalir, J. R. (2020). “Annotation is first draft thinking”: Educators’ Marginal Notes as brave Writing.

Nathan Feemster

Nathan is an instructional designer with 8 years of experience in creating learning interactions for institutional and informal environments, ranging from physical exhibits to online courses.


Instructional Designer

Sean Holland

Sean Holland, M.A., is an instructional designer and instructor in the UAF School of Education.

Sean Holland

Instructional Designer, smholland@alaska.edu