Indiana University Launches Large-Scale Research Project on Social Annotation

By remikalir | 8 December, 2020

Indiana University + Hypothesis Partnership

Hypothesis is excited to announce a new, multi-year research project in collaboration with Indiana University Bloomington (IU) to investigate how social annotation improves reading and writing practices for undergraduate students in core English literature and composition courses for majors and non-majors. The study aims to enroll up to 8,500 students and 150 instructors across dozens of sections of five different courses. Starting in January, 2021, the study will conduct four semesters of data collection and initial analysis, with additional research activities planned through 2025.

Project Updates

As announced earlier this fall, Hypothesis launched an ongoing program to research the power of social annotation, with a focus on the use of social annotation in education. This IU study is the first project in our larger program of research, and has been developed by Principal Investigator Dr. Justin Hodgson, Associate Professor of English at IU, and his team, in coordination with Dr. Remi Kalir, Hypothesis’ first Scholar in Residence. The planning of this IU study has been — and will continue to be — guided by the principles central to Hypothesis’ work with AnnotatED partners: to advance collaborative, open, partner-driven research about social annotation.

The IU research study builds on the already extensive use of Hypothesis at IU, in general, and specifically within Department of English courses. Just this fall term, Hypothesis has already been used by over 2,500 IU students making more than 85,000 annotations in over 120 classes. Within IU Bloomington’s Department of English, Hypothesis is currently featured in a dozen courses, ranging from first-year to graduate-level offerings; including introductory composition, drama, fiction, and poetry courses.

“We are excited to learn about student social annotation practices and their impact on student writing,” said Dr. Hodgson, who went on to explain how changes to English 131 provided an opportunity for this research in an IU course that emphasizes students’ critical reading and analytical writing skills. “When the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated we move online, both last spring and throughout this academic year, we started thinking about the kinds of learning experiences we could offer students in this new format, and how we could retain rich student engagement with course texts. We turned to Hypothesis because it offered the ability for us to not only maintain critical reading and analysis components, but to actively enhance that experience through the affordances of networked technologies — anchoring student conversations and discussions in course texts.”

When asked about the distinctiveness of this study, Dr. Hodgson noted: “There has long been a correlation between how well students understand a given essay and their ability to apply those ideas in their writing. We want to see if the addition of social annotation to course activities has a measurable impact on student reading and writing practices. The scale of our study is unique, too, as we will reach over 1,200 students a semester in just our English 131 sections. I put together a research team, including our partnership with Hypothesis and Dr. Kalir, because I knew this study required multiple scholarly perspectives and expertise, and because of its potential value both within and beyond writing studies.”

Dr. Jeremy Dean, VP of Education at Hypothesis says, “I’m especially excited about this project because it brings my work in social annotation back to its origins. I first discovered this technology while teaching composition at UT Austin. I’ve long engaged my students in social annotation, knowing from my own experience that it builds their critical reading and writing skills. With this study, we’ll be able to explore if what I’ve seen happen in my classes plays out at scale: Do students who annotate become better readers, and therefore, better thinkers and writers?”

The goals of this study include learning more about:

  1. How students respond to their course readings through Hypothesis social annotation, as well as the ways in which social annotation informs their subsequent writing practices (for example, how students compose analytical essays).
  2. How students participate in social annotation as active learning through shared writing and social interaction, and how student participation varies among different courses and course contexts (for example, between composition and poetry courses, and between fully online and hybrid courses).
  3. How instructors incorporate social annotation into their instructional planning, teaching practices, and assessment of student learning.

Over the terms of the study and beyond, we expect this project to build a rich trove of annotation and student success data that scholars will be able to mine for insight for years to come. With multiple streams of data included in our study design — such as annotation data and metadata, social learning analytics, student assessment measures, surveys about student perceptions of social annotation use, and interviews with instructors — we anticipate offering the field multiple quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-method analyses of the ways in which social annotation impacts student learning and success. We plan to begin sharing more details and first outcomes from the study during the spring 2021 academic term, with a goal to submit more formal analyses for scholarly publication by fall 2021.

The research team includes:

Justin Hodgson, PI: Justin is an Associate Professor of Digital Rhetoric in the English Department at Indiana University, author of Post-Digital Rhetoric and the New Aesthetic, the Founding Editor of The Journal for Undergraduate Multimedia Projects, and an Adobe Digital Literacy Thought Leader. His research explores the intersections of rhetorical studies, digital learning and digital pedagogy, play and game theory, and art and aesthetics.

Miranda Rodak, Co-PI: Miranda is an Assistant Clinical Professor and the IU English Department’s Director of Undergraduate Teaching. She specializes in active-learning pedagogy, writing across the curriculum, and professional writing. In addition to designing and supervising multi-section writing courses, she coordinates professional development opportunities for graduate student instructors.

Alexandra Penn: Alexandra is a visiting lecturer at Indiana University, where she recently earned her PhD in English Literature. She specializes in poetry, with interests in both British romanticism and American contemporary poetry. She has served as an Assistant Director of IU’s composition program and teaches courses in both composition and literature.

Laura Rosche: Laura is a PhD candidate in English (Rhetoric) at Indiana University. She has taught first-year composition, public speaking, professional writing, and digital rhetoric courses at IU, and has served as the liaison for Online ENG-W131 at IU Bloomington.

Mary Helen Truglia: Mary Helen is a PhD Candidate in English (Literature) at Indiana University Bloomington. She specializes in Early Modern women’s writing, has served as an Assistant Director of IU’s Composition Program, and has pedagogical experience with and interests in student reading and writing practices across composition and literature courses.

Sarah Fischer: Sarah is a PhD student in English (Rhetoric) at Indiana University Bloomington, focusing on student writing practices as well as writing pedagogy, both in the classroom and in the writing center. She has taught first-year composition and public oral communication courses.

Chris Andrews: Chris is a PhD Candidate in Learning Sciences at Indiana University. He is studying how social annotation can be used to support learning in the classroom. He has taught undergraduate learning theory courses for pre-service teachers and previously was a high school teacher. He has an MA in Teacher Education.

Jeremy Dean: Jeremy is Vice President of Education at Hypothesis and a scholar-educator with 15 years experience teaching at both the college and high school levels. He received a PhD in English from the University of Texas at Austin, where he worked as a project leader in the Digital Writing and Research Lab.

Remi Kalir: Remi is an assistant professor of Learning Design and Technology at the University of Colorado Denver, the 2020-21 Hypothesis Scholar in Residence, and a cofounder of the Marginal Syllabus. He studies how social annotation enables collaborative, open, and equitable learning.

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