Skip to Main Content

Hypothesis for Collaborative Web Annotation: Home

Now Integrated witih Canvas

Using Hypothesis for Collaborative Annotation in Canvas

Using Hypothesis for Collaborative Annotation in Canvas

Hypothesis is collaborative web annotation software that was integrated with Canvas in Fall 2018, enabling easy integration of social annotation into Evergreen programs.  In the past two years over a dozen Evergreen programs have used Hypothesis, and use has doubled as we rather abruptly moved into remote online learning in the Covid era.  It is very simple to use, and upon request Paul McMillin ( can provide a 15-minute demonstration of how Hypothesis works, and how you might use it.

Getting Started

Hypothesis is now automatically included as an option in every program and course Canvas site.

Three options for getting started with Hypothesis:

I. Contact Paul McMillin ( to set up a 15-30 minute demo/introduction for your faculty team.  Includes examples of previous Evergreen annotation assignments as well as the basic 'how-to'.

II.  AND/OR, go to the "For Faculty" or "For Everyone" pages on this guide.

III.  AND/OR, Use the following official tutorials:

And for insight into how others use annotation:

And, if you have over an hour to spare and want to geek out on the larger context for Hypothesis along with some demos:  

So What Could Go Wrong?

Not much is likely to go wrong.  Hypothesis is easy to learn and simple to use.  

Here is one thing though.  Some texts are not automatically in a good form for annotation with Hypothesis.  At a minimum, you need to be working with html or PDFs.   Paul McMillin can help you figure out which texts will work off the shelf, and which might require some additional work.  Some scanning support is available for when it is needed.  Try to plan in advance to make sure that you will have time to prepare your texts for annotation.  And always do a test annotation to prove that all is well before publishing an annotation assignment for your students.


Why Use Collaborative Web Annotation?


  • Improves seminar discussions

  • Develops close reading skills

  • Student comments are anchored to specific words/phrases in the text, encouraging greater specificity.

  • Bridges asynchronous work with synchronous work, improving continuity as we transition from one to the other.

  • Convenient evaluation using SpeedGrader in Canvas.

  • Students can access their private and all shared comments any time throughout the quarter, always side by side with the text being commented upon.

  • Faculty can add annotations to pose questions, provide background information, suggest interpretations, etc.

Here is one good argument for collaborative web annotation, from the creators of Hypothesis:

Let’s be honest, discussion forums are a great idea—we all want students to engage more with their assigned readings and with their classmates. But “discussion” forums fail at precisely what they claim to do: cultivate quality conversation.

Collaborative annotation assignments are a better way to encourage students to engage more deeply with course content and with each other. For one, conversations that take place in the margins of readings are more organic, initiated by students themselves about what confuses or intrigues them most. In addition, these annotation discussions are directly connected to texts under study, helping to keep conversation grounded in textual evidence.

Using Hypothesis, instructors can make PDFs and web pages hosted in Canvas annotatable. Students can then annotate course readings collaboratively, sharing comments, and replying to each other’s comments. Instructors can also create annotation assignments using Hypothesis so that students submit their annotation “sets” for feedback and grading in Canvas.

I would add to this that students are not only making comments "directly connected to texts";  annotations are directly tied to specific words, phrases, sentences, or paragraphs, encouraging close reading.  And when done in a shared environment  online, close reading becomes both a private activity (between reader and text) and a collaborative activity (as students read and reply to the annotations of others).  As such, collaborative annotation is perfect for our era of remote learning -- it helps provide structured activity off-Zoom, while providing a persistent bridge between private reading and engagement with classmates and faculty.

Daniel J. Evans Library - MS: LIB2300 - 2700 Evergreen Parkway, NE. Olympia, WA 98501 - 360-867-6250