In the fall of 2012, we asked students from two literature classes at MIT to complete a baseline survey at the beginning of the semester and an exit survey at the end of the semester.
Based on the baseline survey, we discovered that almost all the students had limited writing experiences at the start of the class and almost no experience with annotations as a part of a writing process. All but one student indicated that they were unfamiliar with any annotation software either.
With regards to annotating texts in general, almost half (47%) of the students indicated that they had limited or some experience related to annotating texts, with half of the students modestly assessing their annotation skills. Only 33% of the students mentioned any annotation experience prior to taking this literature course.
At the beginning of the semester, 93% reported that they did not know any annotation software. However, most of the students surveyed expressed a strong interest in learning new annotation software, indicating a very strong motivation towards learning. Despite the lack of prior experience, most students also expressed a high level of comfort about learning a new annotation software.
Even with this high level of ease, the majority of students remained mostly comfortable with expressing their thoughts and ideas during class discussions. While they were motivated to improve their writing skills and become better writers, students were less inclined to revising or discussing the annotation process and their writings in the classroom. They hoped to develop their writing and reading skills mostly with the help of the instructor and writing advisor. Almost half of the students did not see the value in using classroom discussion to go over the annotation process. Only a few believed that they should talk about annotation during the course.
Students did hope to improve their writing skills in this course, and they expressed the hope that Annotation Studio could help them achieve this goal. However, most students preferred to revise their drafts and receive instructor’s feedback in pursuit of that goal.
By the end of the class, the exit surveys revealed that many students now acknowledged the value of annotating, and they now understood how to use the annotation process to create a better piece of writing. For most students, Annotation Studio helped them access the texts assigned for the class.
According to the exit survey, the majority of students credited Annotation Studio with improving their writing throughout the semester. As Annotation Studio helped students collect evidence from the text to build better arguments, the majority of students also credited Annotation Studio with helping them construct better arguments in their papers.
Furthermore, the majority of students liked the layout of Annotation Studio, finding it both easy to use and to navigate.