Collaborative Annotation Tools: Hypothesis & Perusall

Looking for ways to move students away from passive consumption of information and into active engagement with course materials?  Hypothesis and Perusall are powerful collaborative annotation tools that are integrated with Canvas. Both tools are free to UO faculty and students and are accessed from Canvas Assignments. 

Hypothesis and Perusall allow instructors to provide course materials for social collaborative annotation. Social annotation takes students to another level, not only supporting active engagement with the material, but also facilitating engagement with each other around the material. Whether annotating medical terms in a scholarly article, content on a webpage, or grammar in an original poem, learners will together gain a deeper understanding of the material.

UO faculty member Annelise Heinz successfully implemented the tools in her history course and stated that "students learn a lot from each other, their classmates point out things they didn’t notice, and they’ve gone back to the materials and learned more."  


Described as a collaborative annotation tool that makes course content active, visible, and social, Hypothesis helps students engage with their readings, instructors, ideas, and each other in deeper, more meaningful ways. Student annotations are made in the Hypothesis user interface.

One distinction between the tools is Hypothesis’ ability to interact with the Canvas SpeedGrader, with grades transferring directly to the Canvas Gradebook. By using a Canvas group, annotations in Hypothesis can be assigned to the whole class or to smaller groups.  


The developers of Perusall promote it as an online, social learning platform designed to improve pre-class reading compliance, engagement, and conceptual understanding. This collaborative annotation tool helps students master readings faster, understand the material better, and get more out of their classes. With this tool, instructors can place students in groups and are able to identify areas where students had the most difficulty. Perusall can apply auto-scoring in the Gradebook based on a students’ overall body of annotations, and those grades can be transferred to the Canvas Gradebook.  

Which Tool to Use 

There are factors to consider when adopting one of these annotation tools. What can Hypothesis or Perusall do pedagogically that Canvas cannot? Will the application’s learning curve outweigh its benefits? Will it positively impact student experiences and outcomes? Finally, it is vital that faculty be well versed in using the tool and prepared to provide guidance and resources for students to succeed. 

Review the table and links below to help decide if Hypothesis or Perusall is right for you. 

Hypothesis & Perusall Features Comparison

tool Feature Hypothesis Perusall
PDF annotation X X
Website/Webpage annotation X X
Image, video annotation   X
Tagging annotations X X
Create private annotations  X  
Search, filter, sort annotations X X
Identify difficult reading passages   X
Auto-scoring   X
SpeedGrader (Canvas) integration X  
Transfer grades to Canvas Gradebook X X

Further Reading

Social Annotation in the Digital Age   

Pandemic Pedagogy: Annotation as Close Reading