Collaborative Annotations - Find multiple features

November 16, 2015

Upon the release of the Slice annotation tool, a team of academics at UNSW Australia trialled the functionality in eight class activities. In this series, we’ll be sharing what worked, what didn’t and how you can try this in your own classes.

Overview of activity

For a class of approximately 80 students, this activity required students to work in four groups of 20, to label multiple features. At the end of the activity, the class received overall feedback.

As the first to test the new functionality, Professor Rakesh Kumar designed an activity where students annotated an example of squamous cell carcinoma of the lung in a histopathology class. Students were asked to identify eight features using different coloured polygons and pins.

Students anonymously annotated, without being able to see the annotations made by their peers. After a set period of time, all annotations were revealed. Professor Kumar gave verbal feedback on one group's layers.

What worked:

  • Asking students to annotate a number of features on the one layer kept the activity simple to organise – rather than developing multiple layers for individual features
  • By encouraging the use of a particular colour pin/polygon, the annotations formed a ‘heat map’ allowing the misconceptions to be quickly identified

Pins for hyperplastic/dysplastic epithelium

  • Anonymising student results promoted participation in the activity
  • Verbal feedback on multiple examples was well received.

What didn’t work:

  • While students generally used the right colours for the annotations, they needed to be encouraged to give their annotations a title - this makes review easier.
  • Polygons can be harder to review than pins. However in some cases polygons allow you to gauge a student’s understanding of the scale of a feature. Consider encouraging the use of only pins if scale isn’t important.
  • Breaking students into four groups to reduce the number of annotations on a layer, but then only providing feedback on one layer, disappointed some of those students who didn’t have their work reviewed.

Tips for conducting a similar exercise:

  • Use the ‘Jump to’ feature to quickly review annotations. Click the blank space next to the title of an annotation, or on the description of the annotation to ‘jump to’ and highlight each annotation when you are zoomed in.
  • Encourage students to give annotations a title and consider having all students annotate on the one layer.

General Advice: Register all of your students on Slice first and then teach them to annotate. This makes trialling a different style of class much easier. To register your students or to use collaborative annotations in your own classes, watch our short video or contact