Hypothes.is Social Annotation


Hypothes.is is an open source tool/plugin for social, collaborative asynchronous annotation. Collaborative annotation is an effective methodology that increases student participation and engagement, expands reading comprehension, and builds critical-thinking skills and community in class. Annotation can also increase faculty, student and cognitive presence in classes. Annotating together makes reading visible, active, and social, enabling students to engage with their texts, teachers, ideas, and each other in deeper, more meaningful ways.

To join our UMB Hypothesis course in Blackboard, where you can experience Hypothesis in a sandbox environment and learn about it, log into Blackboard.umaryland.edu and then come back here and click on this link (won't work if you aren't logged in!).

Basically, Hypothes.is is a layer of conversations on top of the open web and PDF documents. With it, you and your class can:

    • have private group dialog about open web content (web pages, newspapers, blogs, wikis, etc.)

    • highlight and take notes on class readings, PDFs and open web content

    • reply and respond to other group members' comments - have dialog and discussion about readings

    • check for understanding of concepts in readings

    • help ensure that students have read and processed readings prior to class

    • and much more...

How to Get Started - Exploring (Non-Blackboard Integration)

  1. The main thing you need to do to get started is add the extension to your browser. We highly recommend starting with Google Chrome browser, and installing the extension/plug-in from this website. However if you'd prefer to use a different browser, you can also add the Bookmarklet on this page to your browser.

  2. Once you have installed and enabled the Hypothesis extension or bookmarklet, you can click to view the examples below, and see all the annotations on these web pages.


To view the annotation layer on the following examples, you must have the Hypothes.is extension installed and enabled on your browser (see above). Here is an example of a web article with Hypothes.is annotations, and another, a blog post that has annotations, Amanda Gorman's inaugural poem on CNN, or an article on Wired Magazine's website with annotations and discussion. You never know where you might see public annotations on web pages! But all annotations need not be public, you can also annotate privately for yourself, or privately with a group of your choosing.

Blackboard Integration

To join our UMB Hypothesis course in Blackboard, where you can experience Hypothesis in a sandbox environment and learn about it, log into Blackboard.umaryland.edu and then come back here and click on this link (won't work if you aren't logged in!).

It is possible to use the Hypothes.is LTI plugin in Blackboard to automatically set up accounts for all instructors and students, as well as a private group for each class that uses it. When Hypothesis is added to a course the app will automatically create a private group for that course. The app will also provision accounts for all students and instructors in the course when they launch the app for the first time. This means that students can begin annotating readings in Blackboard without creating or logging into a separate Hypothesis account. See a video webinar on using Hypothes.is in Blackboard.

These Blackboard-based Hypothesis accounts operate differently than public Hypothesis accounts in the following ways:

  • They are domain-specific: They only work within the Blackboard instance in which they were created, not on the open web.

  • They are separate from regular Hypothesis accounts: Users who have created accounts through the public Hypothesis service will be given new and separate accounts for use within the context of Blackboard.

  • They cannot create their own private groups: A private group is automatically generated for courses where the Hypothesis Blackboard app is installed. Neither instructors nor students will be able to create additional private groups within the Blackboard context.

  • They do not have access to Hypothesis profile and group activity pages: This is something we plan to address in the near future so that teachers and students can view their annotated comments and conversations outside of the context of a particular document.

Even though these guides are listed for Blackboard they display a Post to Public option when using the tool but since this is installed in Blackboard the only options are to Post to the Course or a Private Post to the user.

Creating Hypothesis-enabled readings in Blackboard


For a PDF-Based Activity

There are 2 main options for using a PDF for your reading: Upload or use one already in Google Drive, or use one already on the open internet by URL. (This could be a blog post, wiki page, magazine article, etc. (but with no paywall or login credentials required to view it!) NOTE: It is also possible to use files that are uploaded into Blackboard but it is a bit more convoluted. See the bottom of this page for more info and steps.)

  1. Make sure your PDFs are accessible! This quick OCR tool converts photocopied/scans to accessible text!

For most folks setting up and using a Google Drive account will be the easiest way. Anyone can set up a free account at https://drive.google.com and you can upload your PDFs to a folder that account to get started. We suggest a folder for each class you teach that uses Hypothesis annotation.

  1. Next we will create the Hypothesis Activity item in your course content/modules folder in your Blackboard course:

In a content or module folder, use the Build Content menu to select Hypothesis. Provide a name for your reading/annotation activity, and choose whether or not this is a graded activity (and how many points it is worth, if so.) These are the only 2 settings you need to fill in. Do not upload an attachment here(!), click Submit to save this item.

  1. Click on the Hypothesis activity you just created in your Bb course and you will see boxes to either Enter URL of web page or PDF, Select PDF from Blackboard or Select PDF from Google Drive. Note: If you choose Select PDF from Blackboard you will need need to take additional steps. Please see the section titled Using Existing Blackboard Course Files below for specific instructions. If you choose Select PDF from Google Drive, please review this article for specific steps.

After you have entered that URL, you are ready to click the item in your course content to launch Hypothesis. All students will have to do is add the Hypothesis extension and click that link to launch the PDF. Below is an image that depicts the things students can do to view annotations, add their own, reply to others, and have dialog about the content:

Grading Student Annotations in Blackboard


Helpful guides to getting started using Hypothesis in Blackboard


Introduction to the Hypothesis LMS App for Students


Annotation Tips for Students


An Illustrated Taxonomy of Annotation Types


Adding Links, Images, and Videos


FAQ for all LMS


NOTES on Blackboard Hypothesis Copying from Semester to Semester

Blackboard Hypothesis assignment items (in Blackboard) are separate from the annotation data itself. The former "live" on Bb servers and the latter live on Hypothes.is servers. So, for example, if you delete a Bb Hypothesis reading assignment in Blackboard, that does NOT mean you have deleted the highlights, annotations and discussion. That all lives on Hypothesis servers, separately.

This has a few ramifications:

  1. When you copy a reading assignment from course to course - it sets up a new Hypothesis private group for each course - meaning, it starts fresh, with no annotations or highlights.

  2. If you want to pre-populate a Hypothesis reading with highlights and annotations that you share with all students in your class, you can do so, but when you copy your course to a new semester/section, those annotations will not copy with the Blackboard Hypothesis activity item. There is a separate (and complicated) process for copying Hypothesis annotations and highlights from one section to another (and we don't recommend it.)

  3. We DO recommend providing detailed instructions to students for the Hypothesis activity, that may include screenshots or pointing to specifics in the document - but to do this in the assignment description in Blackboard, rather than using your own highlights/annotations.

  4. Keep in mind, in terms of moving or copying items in Blackboard: if you move a Hypothesis reading activity to another course, the Bb item will copy, but again, NOT the associated annotations.

Non-Blackboard Use

You can also set up a free public Hypothes.is account (not necessary if you use the Blackboard integration above). NOTE: Anyone can create a free Hypothes.is account, but note that if you intend to use the Blackboard Hypothes.is LTI plugin with your UMB classes (info above) that account will be a separate account. So for exploration, we recommend you set up a standard (non-Blackboard) Hypothes.is account with a non-UMB email address (use your gmail, yahoo, hotmail, etc.)

Further Resources

Podcast on social annotation to engage students-(SUNY Oswego-Margaret Schmuhl)

What is Hypothesis, how to use it, and examples -instructor resource page (Carleton College - Wiebke Kuhn)

College resource page for using Hypothesis- instructor resource page (Randolph Macon College- Lily Zhang)

Class Roster & the Social Annotation of Our Names - instructor assignment example (SUNY Finger Lakes CC - Curt Nehring Bliss)

Collaborative Online Annotation with Hypothesis - introduction to Hypothesis module example (Missouri University of Science and Technology - M. Emilia Barbosa and Rachel Schneider)Teaching students to annotate - assignment teaching students to engage in collaborative annotation (Washburn University- Becky Dodge)

The Delftia Project- how to with Hypothesis (North Carolina State University)

Printing readings with annotations- (University of Chicago- Cecilia Lo)

Student Guide to using Hypothesis- (University of California Santa Cruz- Dana Conard)

Active Learning with Collaborative Annotation (CSU Pueblo- Denise Henry)

Promoting Hypothesis after webinar- email to faculty (Middlebury- Bob Cole)

How to OCR a PDF- video (St. Stephen’s School- Jenny Huth)

Using Existing Blackboard Course Files

It is possible to link to existing Blackboard Course files, however there are several steps that are required in order to make this work by creating a course content folder specifically for use with Hypothesis.

  1. In the Blackboard sidebar, under Course Management locate and expand Content Collection and click on your course name.

2. In the Course Content window, click the Create Folder button and give the folder an appropriate name, such as Hypothesis Files and click Submit to create the folder.

3. Set permissions on the folder to allow students to view PDFs. This is done by selecting the small down-arrow to the right of the folder and selecting Permissions from the drop-down menu.

4. Once there, you will click Select Specific Users By Place and choose Course from the dropdown menu.

5. Under Select Roles check the box for Student, and make sure that Read is checked under Set Permissions. Then click the Submit button to save.

Once this is complete, you can upload files to this folder as you would normally. With permissions set the way they are, students will now be able to see these documents when selected for Hypothesis.

Understanding The Difference Between Annotation, Highlights and Page Notes

There are three ways in which you can mark up a document using Hypothesis: Annotations, Highlights or Page Notes. It is important to note that not everyone sees the work that is done using these three different styles.


In it's simplest form, annotations are visible to everyone. If you annotate a fragment of a document, the annotation will appear on the right-hand side and will be visible. it is important to note that you can change the privacy of your annotations at any time by clicking on the pencil icon at the bottom right of the annotation card.


A highlight is the digital equivalent of swiping a yellow marker over a passage of text. After you select text on a page, you can use the “Highlight” button in the adder that pops up or press the “h” key on your keyboard. These are always private to you.

Page Notes

A page note is a whole page annotation as opposed to annotating a specific passage of text. These can be made visible or private as you see fit. The intent of a page note is to is to add text and tags as you would an annotation, but on a more global level compared to the granular aspect of a annotation.