Collaborative Annotations - Providing verbal feedback on annotations

November 24, 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

After trialling an activity where a large student cohort was broken up into smaller groups for an annotation activity, Patrick de Permentier created two exercises where:

  • All students annotated on one layer, to
  • Find 3 features
  • On which they received teacher feedback

In a class focusing on the histology of bone, these exercises required students to identify microscopic bone cell types on a virtual slide based on information they had received during an earlier lecture. In one exercise, students used the annotation tool to mark three types of bone cells (shown below – click the image to view the group annotation layer).


What worked

  • Setting up the exercise was simple, with a single layer that was shared with students.
  • Providing a hyperlink to a smaller area (higher magnification) on the slide directed the annotation activity to a specific area, making review faster. Note – Zooming into a smaller area on a Slice image updates the URL to include information that specifies the area which is being viewed. Sharing this version of the URL with instructions for students to click in order to re-orientate themselves once they’ve joined a layer will direct students to a specific area to start annotating. Consider making use of a URL shortener such as to help hide the long links.
  • Students couldn’t view each other’s annotations as they were made and all annotations were anonymous. This promoted participation in the activity.
  • After students had time to complete the activity, all of the annotations were revealed on the main screens in the laboratory. Students were provided with verbal feedback on as many annotations as possible until the students agreed that they understood the cell types and their functions.
  • During the review process, the layer owner annotated examples of each cell type and associated as many of the correct student answers to each cell type so that all students had correct answers that they could review.
  • Students appreciated receiving immediate feedback.

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.
  • When viewing a layer, in order to replicate an exercise for multiple groups of students, click the arrow at the right of the layer title and click DUPLICATE to make a copy. Duplicate the layer before inviting other students, otherwise all the annotations will be copied to the duplicated 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