New Grading Tools – Annotate

Ryan TaylorBy Ryan Taylor, Coordinator of Educational Technology Support, Office of Distributed Education

Have you been looking for a better way to grade your students’ submissions? Have your students been asking for more detail on their grades? The new annotation tool on eLearn may be exactly what you’ve been waiting for. This exciting new feature allows for a more detailed grading experience above simply giving feedback and a grade that is added directly onto the student’s submission and can be viewed by the student through Dropbox.

What is the Annotation Tool?

With the annotation tool, instructors are able to mark, comment, type, and more inline directly on a student’s Dropbox submission. Access a student submission through Dropbox in eLearn, and you will notice a new grey bar across the top of the submission. This is the Annotation Toolbar which contains all the tools you need to create insightful annotations for your students.

Hand-written Annotations

Using the Annotation Tool to write directly on a submission is easy and only requires a mouse. Use the Pen tool to hand-write on the submission with your mouse. Choose a color and click and drag to write on the submission.

Screen capture of use of the Pen tool to cross out the word "good" in a submission

You can also Highlight by hand to give extra emphasis to an area.

Screen capture of use of the Highlight by hand tool to highlight the words "Pass every class!" in a submission

Or, choose the Highlight text option to only highlight selected text.

Screen capture of the use of the highlight text tool to hightlight the words "way I think" in a submission

Make a mistake while writing? You can use the Eraser tool to erase hand-written annotations.

Screen capture of the use of the eraser tool to erase the previously-applied highlight on the word "class"

Text Annotations

Perhaps you want to type instead of hand-writing. The Annotation Toolbar has text tools built-in as well. Use the Note tool to type a note that will be minimized in an icon which can be moved around on the submission.

Screen capture of use of the Note tool to write a note that says "Why only most?" The note is then minimized and moved above the word "most" in the submission.

You can also use the Text tool which allows you to type directly onto the submission. The Text tool does not get minimized like the Note tool, but it can be moved around the submission. Text color and background can also be changed.

Screen capture of the use of the Text tool. The words "Great job!" are typed and then the text box is moved to show the moving function of the text box.


When you are done annotating, don’t forget to give the student a grade and feedback. While annotating is great for students to get a more detailed understanding of their grade, feedback is still important because it is shown in their Gradebook.  To finish, click the Publish button which will allow the student to see all the annotations you added.

Screen capture of the publishing process of an annotated submission. A grade of 9 out of 10 is given, then Feedback of

What the Student Sees

Students will need to navigate to the assignment Dropbox and click on the submission. There they can choose to view the inline feedback which are your annotations. Notes can be seen by hovering over the icon.

A screen capture of a student viewing an annotated submission. The student navigates to the submission and chooses View Inline Feedback. The annotated Note is expanded by hovering over the Note icon in the submission.

Additional Resources

For a more in-depth look at the Annotation Tool, please visit the corresponding Knowledge Base article where you can find more information on each tool in the Annotation Toolbar and an instructional video about the use of annotations. 

For any questions about using eLearn call 615-230-3665 or send an email to and someone from Distributed Education will get back to you.