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Best ways to annotate a pdf

Best ways to annotate a pdf

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PDF Submissions
Via Canvas

-Nicholas Hadley

Updated September 2021



In this article

In this article we will be comparing and contrasting the multiple ways to mark-up text in Canvas on a MacBook Air as well as the student-given iPad on the current operating system available to both devices respectfully.  

  • There are currently 4 viable methods for PDF mark-up and submission at this time from the author; each with their own pros and cons- to be discussed further.  
    • On the iPad: 
      • Using a PDF that has been uploaded into the instructions of the assignment that students alter in the Canvas Student App.
      • Using a PDF that has been uploaded into the instructions of the assignment that students alter in Notability and then submitted via the Share Square.        And then selecting Canvas Student from the menu. Nhadley12_1-1632430857426.png


    • On the MacBook Air:
      • Using a PDF that has been uploaded into the instructions of the assignment that students can then download onto their machines and use the Mark-up tool to alter and resubmit via File upload. 
      • Using a PDF that has been uploaded to the Student Annotation submission type in Canvas itself and submitted. 

Each method is slightly different, but produces the same result. A PDF is submitted to Canvas for the teacher to access in SpeedGrader.  


The Short Answer:

On iPads it’s easier for students to use the Canvas Student App where teachers have uploaded the PDF into the assignment instructions. 

On MacBook Airs it’s slightly easier for students to keep track of their PDFs and turn them in when teachers use the Student Annotation Tool in Canvas for the Submission Type

Please read on below for more detailed info and video instructionals. 

On the iPad for Middle School Students


Based upon testing we can see that perhaps the preferred method in terms of: ease of use, less steps, less clicks/touches, and less number of apps used; that using the Canvas Student App for student submissions is more direct for students and teachers. 

On MacBook Airs for High School Students


Both of these options are viable for students. In testing the Student Annotation Tool I did determine that Canvas saved annotations that I made in it’s cache, however if a student needs to clear their browser cache they may risk losing those details. Versus the downloaded version is saved to the MacBook’s hard drive. It’s important to note that if a student would like a copy of their annotated text in the Student Annotation Tool, they can indeed download a copy in the menu bar and upload it to Google Drive for them to keep, which is recommended for any variation. At this time I see no reason why both options could not be used, leaning more towards the Student Annotation Tool as it stays within Canvas, but I would always recommend to students to download a copy of their work. 

Instructure Alumni
Instructure Alumni
Status changed to: Archived

@Nhadley12  We believe you meant to post this elsewhere in this forum or perhaps to a Canvas course. The Idea Conversations forum accommodates singular requests for an enhancement to a specific feature as outlined in How do I create a new idea conversation in the Canvas Community?  , and as this is—well, not that—we've archived the idea. 🙂

Instructure Alumni
Instructure Alumni

Perhaps this board would be a better spot for your content:  Instructor Discussion