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Tools for Asynchronous Learning

This guide contains information for conducting class activities at a distance or online. It provides some information on platform privacy, and some sample assignments for last-minute transitions to distance learning.

Collaborative Annotation with Hypothesis


This could be helpful as a replacement for class discussion about any text-based media in HTML or PDF format online. Hypothesis allows users to create “groups” for annotation. Students would be able to view each other’s annotations and respond, which could be useful as a surrogate for class discussion of a text

Hypothesis Logo


To foster asynchronous communication about a text by annotating passages, replying to each other’s commentary, and providing overall “page notes” with tags. Annotation tools like hypothesis encourage students to engage more directly with the text by annotating specific passages, rather than creating de-contextualized discussion boards in Canvas.


  1. Group configuration and setup.
    1. Instructor should create an account at
    2. When logged in, click on the “Groups” menu link in the upper right-hand corner of your profile page. Select “create new group” at the end of the dropdown.
    3. Name and provide a description for the group in the provided text entry boxes
    4. Copy the link under “Invite New Members” to share with your students
  2. Student access
    1. Have students create an account at
    2. For students using Google Chrome as their browser, have them install the Chrome extension:  
    3. For students using other browsers, have them bookmark the Bookmarklet Link found at
    4. Any time a student wants to annotate a page they should
      1. If using Chrome: Click on the Hypothesis icon in their plugins menu (upper right hand corner of the browser). This will bring up Hypothesis on the right side of the browser 
      2. If using another browser: click on the Hypothesis Bookmarklet, which will bring up Hypothesis on the right side of the browser.
    5. Ensure that students click on the dropdown that says “Public” and that they select the group associated with your class (they will only see this if they are logged in in the bookmarklet/plugin).
    6. Once the group is selected, students can highlight text and select the pencil icon, which will give them the ability to annotate the selected text. Students can also reply to each other’s annotations in the hypothesis sidebar

Notes on Hypothesis

  • Hypothesis is free and open source, which means that students do not need to pay to use it. 
  • Hypothesis allows users to create highlights that are only visible to them, for their personal use.
  • Hypothesis comments allow users to insert formulae using LaTeX, so it can be used in the context of STEM classes as a means of practicing this formatting language
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