Success Story 

Appalachian State University


Dr. Lynn Gibbard

Appalachian State University


Erin Ethridge

Lecturer and General Education Coordinator, Studio Art

“Hypothesis gives every student a voice, and their voices contribute equally to the conversation. I think that is powerful. All of our brains process a little bit differently, and my hope is that, in using Hypothesis, students will understand that cognitive diversity is as important as any other kind of diversity, and that all voices are important.”


– Dr. Lynn Gibbard


“Hypothesis makes it possible for students to look at each other’s work while reading at their own pace, and it makes it possible for us to get everything done in a timely manner. It equalizes how loud or quiet various voices are in the class, and I have a very thorough record of the different kinds of conversations happening.” 


– Erin Ethridge


How do you use Hypothesis in your course(s)?

[Dr. Gibbard]
I teach communications, and although I have primarily used Hypothesis for annotating PDFs, I also use it for annotating websites.

I teach in the art department. My specialty is mostly foundations, general education classes, and sculpture classes, and I’ve used Hypothesis in all of these courses. I teach all my classes in person, and use Hypothesis for most projects and assigned readings to help build a foundation for face-to-face discussions.

What first drew you to social annotation? Any particular pain points you were trying to address?

[Dr. Gibbard]
My very first entry into social annotation was in a literature class, and my professor utilized it. I thought it was pretty powerful. I had also used it in developmental studies classes, because it helped some of my students who didn’t speak out in class. Throughout my career, I have had students share their class notes and annotate each other’s class notes. I then ran across Hypothesis in an online training course that Appalachian State had. Since then, I’ve been using it for quite a while, and I just love it.

I think there’s a lot of power in it for a lot of different reasons, including something that’s very near and dear to my heart: ensuring that we have a diversity of voices, and that we are inclusive in our learning opportunities.

For me, the appeal was getting art students to read the text. Their expectation was that, because this is an art class, there shouldn’t be any readings, and obviously, I am resistant to that idea. I was looking for a way to have a little more interaction and engagement. I first discovered Hypothesis during the pandemic, and I ended up feeling like it was a really good tool to keep in my arsenal even post-pandemic. It helped motivate my studio students to do the readings, and, at the same time, to build community.

Can you describe the before and after of using Hypothesis in your course?

[Dr. Gibbard]
The number of very substantive, thoughtful, and critical questions that I get, especially with my asynchronous online students, has increased since incorporating Hypothesis. My students’ grades have also substantially improved.

I used to feel that assigning a reading and trying to have a face-to-face discussion would only happen with students that are really comfortable with speaking in front of their peers. Not all students like to share their thoughts, and I’ve always been really resistant to calling on students, or obligating them to share in situations that might make them very anxious or uncomfortable. So, it was always difficult for me to navigate that. Also, the studios I teach in aren’t set up for close readings of texts like in a lecture class, so I felt like feedback or discussions could rarely be specific.

Hypothesis has helped with both of those problems by making it more comfortable for every student to contribute to the conversation. And because close reading is built into the tool, that makes the learning experience completely different.

Did anything surprise you about you and your students’ use of Hypothesis?

[Dr. Gibbard]
I was surprised by how much my students liked Hypothesis, and how much more engaged they were with it. Hypothesis is really the only platform that I have found that engages students at that level where they are, truly engaging for their own learning, and using it in the way that makes sense to them.

I’m often surprised by how much more thoughtful students feel like they can be and how much more they share in Hypothesis. It seems like just having that open text box where you can spend as much time as you need, and want, to say creates much more meaningful and substantial kinds of feedback.

Have you seen any examples of Hypothesis supporting equity for your students?

[Dr. Gibbard]
Hypothesis changed the dynamic in my classroom, especially for marginalized students, which almost brings me to tears. With Hypothesis, I could see that shift in the classroom.

I feel Hypothesis creates community, especially when I’m teaching in an asynchronous course. The sense of community that I see in the students has definitely developed more since we started using it.

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