ITHAKA is investing in the leading open annotation service Hypothesis. Hypothesis—developed with funding from the Sloan, Mellon and other foundations—allows users to make private, semi-private, or public annotations on any webpage, PDF, or document. This $2.5 million investment—made to Anno, the public-benefit corporation that is home to Hypothesis—furthers ITHAKA’s mission to expand access to knowledge and education by supporting a key component of open higher education infrastructure: interoperable teaching and learning tools that positively impact student learning outcomes.

Hypothesis is available as a free browser extension as well as a fee-based enterprise service that integrates annotation functionality directly into college and university learning management systems. It has a million users globally and more than 200 institutional customers. Faculty and students are using Hypothesis in the classroom to annotate course material, generating asynchronous discussion around specific texts. This relatively simple activity of coming together virtually around an assigned reading, known as social annotation, is making an impact. At Wake Forest University, Hypothesis is now being used by over 60% of all students across all disciplines. Recent case studies, like this one analyzing social annotation in three undergraduate courses at a Canadian university, are also showing evidence of its potential.

Reflecting on our work at ITHAKA and this investment, Clifford Lynch, Director of the Coalition for Networked Information said, “I’ve followed the development of Hypothesis for a number of years, viewing it as increasingly key infrastructure to support teaching and learning, scholarship, and collaboration; the recent experience with a wholesale move to online education during the pandemic helped to underscore the importance of annotation as an instructional tool.  I’m delighted to see ITHAKA, an organization that has a long, deep, and thoughtful commitment to building and operating robust, sustainable infrastructure to support key educational and scholarly work, engage with and strengthen the robustness of Hypothesis and the breadth of its deployment.”

In addition to this investment, ITHAKA is working with Anno on a pilot project with a select number of colleges and universities to enable their faculty and students to use Hypothesis to annotate the millions of text-based resources available on JSTOR from within their learning management systems. The pilot will launch this fall, followed by a broader rollout intended to enable all JSTOR users to easily use Hypothesis for annotation both inside and outside of the classroom.

“We are excited to invest in and support Anno’s work to develop open infrastructure, including delivery of broadly accessible and interoperable tools that make the teaching and learning experience better,” said Kevin Guthrie, ITHAKA’s president. “This direction is aligned with ITHAKA’s mission and our strategic priorities, and we are hopeful that connecting Hypothesis and JSTOR will accelerate the beneficial use of annotation by faculty and students all over the world.”

Dan Whaley, the CEO and Founder of Anno said: “There are few organizations that are as aligned with our mission and ethos as ITHAKA. Their history over 25 years in growing and stewarding the world’s most essential knowledge resources, their impact orientation, and their focus on learning and student success are unique. We’re thrilled to be taking the next step in our development with them.”