Pressbooks: private annotation tools

Hello OE Global Community!!

I’m a undergrad student who is working as a research assistant on a open textbook and I am LOVING creating H5P content and making the book as accessible as possible.

Does anyone know about an annotation tool for Pressbooks that is private?

I’m gaining familiarity with Hypothesis, but I don’t love how the default is public. I’m concerned that requiring students to take the step to save privately may be a barrier to them utilizing annotations.

Also, does anyone know if they make their pressbook available to download to pdf what the H5P content looks like?

Thank you so much!


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Pinging @amysong from Pressbooks and @NateAngell ( – maybe they have some helpful pointers? :innocent:

Hello Alexandra and welcome to the community here, and asking questions is what we love to see here.

I am a huge fan of H5P, it would be great to learn more about the project you are working on and even about the types of H5P you are creating. Also you will find a number of conversations here by either searching on H5P or using tags.

For alternatives to annotating in Pressbooks, one thing to consider is that for the most part Pressbooks are a hosted service, so you cannot add other tools to the platforms. The advantage of is the social aspects, that you can see and interact with others (there are plenty of annotation tools if it’s just you annotating).

And yes, if you are using the free service, the only way to make activity private for classes is to set up groups. It can work, but relies on students remembering to choose their group first.

There are options to better manage it if you have connected to a course management system like Canvas, where students access annotating via that login and not the public one. But that’s not an option for all schools (it costs $$).

To me I’d want students to maybe take on public annotation as a way of adding to public knowledge, like the successful projects of students working on Wikipedia articles. Maybe it is something that can be scaffolded, but also depends on the way annotating assignments are created.

For H5P, when saved to PDF, the content is replaced by a box indicating that it is a placeholder, and offering a URL that can be used to access the H5P content directly (this of course is not useful for situations where students lack connectivity). I wrote a bit about this for a previous project supporting H5P use in Pressbooks

It would take more effort, but in some cases an alternative activity might be written that would work in print (not quite the interactive experience) that is included in the index… or I have wondering if it might be wrapped in CSS that would hide it when viewed on line but display when printed (to PDF).

So for now there is no “alt” tag for H5P or something that could be generated from the content types itself. I know there is some interest out there, but for now, the only way I can see is creating a different version of the activity that might achieve the same outcome.

Thank you so much for coming in here as a student and asking questions, and please feel welcome to ask (and answer others) anytime.

Keep on cooking with H5P!

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Hello Alexandra!

  • tl;dr version: if Hypothesis doesn’t do it, you might want to check other annotation systems, like Memex.

Sooooo glad you’re here! We keep talking about people who, like you, are doing the OE work from the ground up. We rarely get to talk with you.

A valid concern! Also tagging @apurva and @hughmcguire as they may shed some light on the decision to keep Hypothesis set up this way, both in textbooks specifically and, I’m guessing, Pressbooks generally.
In terms of working in the open, it sure makes sense. It’s very similar to the “Open Notebook” concept in Open Scholarship. And with Open Peer Review in, say, Open Journal Systems (OJS) - Software - Public Knowledge Project. /cc @UNizami
As you note, though, it’s an issue when we want to collaborate privately.
Which is why it’s useful to set the system in such a way that annotations remain private. I’m guessing that Hypothesis itself can default to private, though it might require tweaking a bit of code (if Nate doesn’t know how to make that work, Jon Udell would).
Some solutions might have to do with setting groups (which could be strange in Pressbooks) or embedding the book in a Learning Management System, where the Hypothesis plugin does default to private (and teachers have to tell students to share with them).

If these ideas don’t work, there are other annotation systems out there. Some are commercial solutions which might make room for special agreements. For instance, Memex (which is based on some of the same code as Hypothesis) does default to private and allows for anonymous annotations (therefore not requiring accounts, which is itself a big issue). The Memex software itself is Open Source (MIT License). The service built with it is freemium.
Another solution could be Amanote, which was originally designed for private notetaking on course material. At the time we were working with them on our lab on collaborative annotations, Annoto claimed that it could even annotate H5P content, though I never had direct evidence of that.

Unless things have changed recently, it’s replaced by a link and QR code so that people can access it outside of the PDF. While there are other ways to embed H5P content in downloadable files (in EPUB3, for instance), there are multiple issues with accessing such content from a reader app.
There has been an idea to Create static activities for select H5P activity types during print PDF export · Issue #2189 · pressbooks/pressbooks (
(@cogdog was in that thread, so maybe I should read his post here before adding… Ah, well… Next time. :wink: )

At any rate… Hope we’re not scaring you away!

I can answer to the H5P PDF question, as it is heavily used throughout the Open RN project:

Thanks for the example, Nic!

I can claim a bit of influence on suggesting the URLs are active hyperlinks in digital PDFs and also, previously, the URL listed was just for the Pressbooks chapter, not the specific item. One issue though is for actual paper printed versions, which is not uncommon, accessing the content calls for manually entering a URL into a browser.

But also, let’s shed some light on the magnificent work of the OpenRN projectt, with, if I count right, has published 7 open textbooks for nursing, all making fantastic use of interactive H5P activities.

For Alexandra who started this topic, their use of the branching scenarios for simulations is worth looking at, plus more collections of nursing H5P you can find in LibreStudio

Perhaps having a means of auto-creating a shorter, public view link that was easier to type in ( style) would help folks? I have thought of that often as the one who checks all of those links in the growing number of Open RN books but get stuck at the possible issues with link rot and citation/ attribution transparency. And yes, there are now 7 officially - with more in progress. They like to keep me busy.

I’d be wary of short links as if the provider fails (looking at all of twitter’s links) the clearcutting of dead links would be vast, and as you suggest, it hides the source internet in a readable URL.

Perhaps the QR code approach is more viable, but then again, depends on some kind of smart phone/reader device.

Stay busy!

Hi @Alexandra.T (and thanks for the ping @jan!)…

Many here have provided great info about H5P and Hypothesis, so I won’t add much more, other than to say I if I were teaching now I would use the free version of Hypothesis (in a large part because I wouldn’t want to use an LMS anyway). While the privacy issue is certainly there, it is easy for anyone to toggle an annotation between public or fully private, so if there’s a mistake, it’s easy to fix.

Private groups in Hypothesis are another great option, as mentioned. A lot of the power of annotation comes in making it social I think, so there’s a lot to be said for helping students learn all the modes of annotation and become empowered to use them all. It’s actually a great topic to bring up for general digital literacy too — not just for Hypothesis, but for any online tool — if you have the space to do that.

Love to hear where you land!

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