IT Teaching Resources

Using social annotation in online classes

An article on how using social annotation in online learning environments can improve teaching strategies

Article Research Promising practices

Title: Reading and Connecting: Using Social Annotation In Online Classes
Authors: Xinran Zhu, Bodong Chen, Rukmini Avadhanam, Hong Shui, and Raymond Zhang

Key points

  • A common classroom practice or learning activity that is popular at all educational levels is the social reading of course materials and engaging students in discussing shared documents
  • Paper or online-based annotation is an important part of human cognition; it serves a multitude of functions including procedural signals, place marks, an interpretive activity, and a visible trace of a reader’s attention
  • The five types of social annotation activity design are processing domain-specific knowledge, supporting argumentation and inquiry, improving literacy skills, supporting instructor or peer assessment, and connecting online learning spaces

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many instructors to rapidly shift to online/distance teaching. With a narrow preparation window, many instructors are at a loss of strategies that are both effective in responding to the crisis and compatible with their professional practices. This article presents a systematic literature review of the use of web annotation to support reading and discussion activities in formal education. As a genre of information systems, web annotation allows users to socially engage with web resources and is used in education to support social reading, argumentation, group inquiry, and community building. From this review we identified five types of social annotation activity design: processing domain-specific knowledge; supporting argumentation and inquiry; improving literacy skills; supporting instructor or peer assessment, and connecting online learning spaces. Practical recommendations for incorporating social annotation in online/distance classes are provided.

What would this look like in a course?
  • Consider adopting social annotation as part of course activities, in addition to the verbal discussion (in class or in self-scheduled times), Canvas discussion boards, and other group activities, and scaffolding learning objectives in these collaborative activities.
  • Demonstrate best practices of using social annotation tools (e.g., Hypothesis) in class and encourage students to use them regularly as a way to collaborate.

Zhu, X., Chen, B., Avadhanam, R. M., Shui, H., & Zhang, R. Z. (2020). Reading and connecting: using social annotation in online classes. Information and Learning Sciences.