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PDF Collaborative Annotation


I'm trying to find a mechanism to collaboratively annotate a PDF with my class. We're reading some dense material and I'd like to have a more social and collaborative reading experience. I know I can do a collaborative google doc or ether pad doc, but I don't seem to be able to collectively comment on a PDF (even on that's been OCR-ed) in google docs. I know there are some webapps like diigo, or evernotes skitch, but I'd like to be able to do this inside of CANVAS. I'm thinking of something along the lines of how litgenius allows for collective annotation ( ) Any ideas or anything obvious that I'm missing?



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Community Champion

Hey roy_kamada -

Cool idea! It sounds like you'd be OK with a 3rd-party app, so long as it was accessible from within the Canvas environment - that is, you're not saying you need a Canvas-native function. Assuming I've got that right, I've got two ideas:

  1. Use the Redirect Tool (in course Settings > Apps tab) to put something like litgenius into your Course Nav menu, so that it's framed within the course environment;
  2. [experimental-ish!]: is a web annotation project, basically built as a browser plugin, which allows for an annotation layer on top of any website or resource. Even works with OCRed pdfs online. Annotations can be shared or private.

I'll be interested to see any other suggestions people may have!

Hi Gerol,

My only issue with litgenius is that it converts the text to the website skin which I don't particularly like, but also which takes the text out of its original formatting. I suppose that's not a deal breaker, but it looks a little less professional. I'd really like them to be able to work on something that's more like the original journal article.

I've heard some of of the guys who worked on litgenius works for them now. I'll email him and see how helpful a tool it might be. Thanks for the suggestions!


Once you find a tool that you like Roy, I think Gerol​ hit the nail on the head with his suggestion to use the Redirect tool which will allow you to embed some external site within your class setting.

Here's an example of the redirect tool which is hosting a Padlet in my public course: [Redirect Tool] Show 'n' Tell Padlet

 @G_Petruzella ​ that tool looks pretty interesting! I only saw that my comments could be "public" or visible by "only me" so I'm not sure how that would pan out in a class setting. In order for a student to make their annotations visible to their classmates they would have to make the doc "public" which seems to appear in the public  stream which shows all annotations -

Thanks, Jordan! I like Padlet! What do you use it for? Is it mostly just a common area of the course used to build community or do you use it to assess anything?

From what I could tell, can only be used publicly or privately so far. One thing I liked about the litgenius platform was that you could make a specific class page for a text and only members of your class could annotate it.

Deactivated user​...

Re: Padlet, I noticed you can sign in to the site as well as just post stuff anonymously.  Is there any benefit of signing in?  I tried embedding Padlet in a course page, and it works nicely.  Also showed this to one of our Accounting instructors how easy it was to embed.

 @Chris_Hofer ​ Deactivated user​

From what I see, logging in to Padlet gets you the ability to edit lookandfeel, receive daily notifications when things are posted, export Padlet to image, pdf, etc.

Thanks.  I've been having difficulties with the interface logging on from an embedded Padlet.  Basically, I get a white screen inside my Canvas page.

 @Chris_Hofer ​ Interesting! Here's my experience: In Chrome 46, I click the 'key' icon to login, and get the login prompt. Since I created my account with Google, I attempt to click the 'Log in with Google' button, but this indeed seems not to work within a frame. If I CTRL+click, though, I can get it to authenticate me in a new tab, and then just refresh the embedded Padlet to be logged in. Don't know if this works analogously with a username/pw login.

Thanks for the tip!

Yes Chris and Gerol, if I remember correctly I was logged in on another tab so it just worked without a hitch for me. I didn't consider how it would work if I wasn't already logged in on another tab. Valuable conversation here!

Community Participant

New post in blog introduces Canvas integration.

Community Team
Community Team

This is an excellent conversation that we want to see continue.  I have unmarked this as a question so that it can live on as a discussion!

Community Champion

Hey roy_kamada et al. - A new follow-up: a faculty member at my institution is test-driving a service called Perusall this semester. I think it may still be in the beta stage, but it looks worth checking out at least. It integrates with Assignments/Gradebook, and has an algorithm for auto-evaluating student participation in the collaborative activity.

That sounds awesome! Thanks for the heads up!