How can I write and annotate online?

In classrooms filled with pens and dry erase markers, instructors and students can share solutions to problems, write notes on documents and diagram ideas. This post explores electronic options to replace the whiteboard, plus handwritten annotations and drawings. It collates the materials about writing and annotation published on Learning Innovation’s flexible teaching website.

Electronic whiteboards

An online whiteboard can replace all of the functionalities of its physical counterpart, but the major drawback is it awkward to erase and alter the writing. While online whiteboards require some adjustments, they can lead to interesting pedagogies and projects due to templates and the addition of multimedia.

There are three general categories of online whiteboards:

  • Classic whiteboards replace the dry erase board
  • Project boards allow for groups to collaborate on diagrams, group work and brainstorming
  • Presentation boards are used to create video or multimedia posters

This guide provides a comparison of common boards in each category. They were chosen based on ease of use and availability to the Duke community (whenever possible).

If you find writing with a mouse or trackpad cumbersome, OIT put together a guide on how to integrate tablets, iPads, and a stylus into your workflow.

Online document annotation

Handwritten feedback on student papers is not feasible when teaching online. Likewise, when readings are in electronic form and printers aren’t readily available, students have trouble taking notes.

There are online options to replace both of those pen-to-paper activities. With students can collaboratively annotate websites and PDFs. They may also highlight passages and take personal notes. This service is integrated with Sakai and training is available on Sept. 10.

Using the commenting and collaboration features available through Duke’s Box, students and faculty have the ability to write MS Office documents together and leave comments on others’ documents, as well as upload and store files. Only Duke users may access Box so it provides more security and privacy than Google Docs.

Sharing writing on paper

There are instances when handwritten drawings, characters, and figures can only be completed on paper. During live classes, instructors and students may use a phone or second camera in Zoom to share their handwriting. It is also possible to take a photo of the writing and then upload images to some of the whiteboards discussed above.

For homework and tests, students can attach photos of their writing to Sakai’s Assignments or Tests and Quizzes. Gradescope is another option for collecting handwritten work and grading can be automated for some question types and is integrated with Sakai.