Ideas & Strategies

CLAS promotes learning by providing a space for peer interaction around online video content.CLAS can also be a useful tool for targeted self and peer assessment for performance based activities. CLAS provides the opportunity for transformative student learning by allowing learners to engage with their peers around course content and become more independent in annotating, commenting and asking questions regarding course materials. Studies indicate CLAS can broaden the educational experience of students by promoting  collaborative peer learning as well as the development of self-directed skills including motivation, self-management and self-monitoring.

How Are UBC Instructors Using CLAS?


Alfredo Ferreira in Vantage College uses CLAS for linking language in math practice >>

“Videos of instructors solving mathematical problems on CLAS were annotated by students, allowing them to build the link…


Robert Taylor uses CLAS in Conducting and Symphony Orchestra Courses >>

“CLAS is a fantastic way for students to review their own work and for professors to give highly…


Misuzu Kazama uses CLAS for Language Learning >>

“CLAS allows both recording of student speech and feedback through the annotation tool…


Marina Milner-Bolotin uses CLAS for mini-teaching by Teacher-Candidates >>

CLAS allows you to have a discussion which is very purposeful and to the point. I find that it not only…

How can CLAS help improve student learning?

Classes that use this technology have shown an overall improvement in student performance because they build on self directed learning skills and promote increased peer collaboration and engagement with course content. These are some specific ways CLAS can enhance student learning:

  • CLAS increases opportunities for students to engage with course content outside of class time.  Rather than just passively watching online video content, students are encouraged to actively annotate, comment on the material and ask questions.
  • Flagging key points in the video and taking notes can aid in retention of concepts while providing a useful study aid for future review.
  • It encourages peer collaboration and interaction around online media.  Sharing annotations and questions with their peers facilitates personal interpretation as well as social learning.
  • Actively annotating and commenting on course content promotes the development of self directed learning skills such as self-management, self-monitoring and motivation. Students can assess their learning progression by comparing their annotations against their peers and use it as a benchmarking process.
  • The shared annotations and questions in CLAS help to make student understanding of the material more transparent to the instructor.  Reviewing these can help to guide discussions and follow up during class time and guide course improvements for future terms.


The videos are posted to CLAS allowing the student to watch their performance from the perspective of the ensemble. They then make annotations in CLAS relating to specific things in their performance since the annotations can be tied to specific points in the video. These annotations can then be reviewed by the professor and are used in determining a large part of the student’s grade.

–Ellery Ferguson, School of Music

Ideas for Using CLAS

Flipping the classroom: CLAS is a good tool for organizing online video content for a flipped classroom approach.  It helps to encourage more active engagement with the material and adds a layer of peer interaction that reaches beyond the face to face class sessions.  Instead of just watching the videos, students are encouraged to actively comment, ask questions and discuss the material other students.

Reaffirm Learning/Exam Preparation: Students can use CLAS as a studying tool. Annotating and commenting on the material helps , are a reflection of what they learned and how much they understand. The effect of reviewing their annotations and their peers in the process of study promotes increased comprehension of the learning materials.

Peer Collaboration: CLAS allows for discussion, guidance, support and feedback that aid in the construction of knowledge through the sharing of annotations. While students actively engage with course content and build knowledge together, they become responsible for one another’s learning as well as their own in helping each other to understand, learn, and improve together.

Peer Assessment: For courses where there is a performance element or presentation, CLAS can be used as an effective tool to facilitate targeted peer and instructor feedback.  Record student presentations or performances and then upload them to CLAS. Students are able to review and provide targeted feedback on the performances of their peers.  Feedback can be focused on specific points in the timeline as well as on the overall performance.  Through this activity, students learn to formulate constructive feedback of their peer’s work and become more self reflective of their own performances.

Self-Assessment: CLAS can be used as a mechanism to integrate self-assessment so students can learn to constructively critique their own work. Students can then watch their own videos and use the annotation features to analyze, critique on and reflect on their own work.

Tips for using CLAS

  • To save time while flagging important points, leave the description or note field blank and press the save button. Once the video has been watched, you can go back to each flagged point to enter the descriptions.
  • The “trend” graph captures the frequency of annotations that occur. Use the graph to identify where important elements in the media should be considered.
  • Keep videos short. Although traditional class lectures are one hour in length, students have much shorter attention spans watching video-base lectures online. It is recommended to keep videos under 7 minutes.
  • Before recording and uploading the video, be aware of copyright and ensure that you have the rights. For more information on copyright, please refer to their website at


Time for Training and Content Development.  Time and technical training is required to learn the system, as student satisfaction is tied to a smooth process (particularly when marks are involved).  Also, Filming your own videos can be time consuming initially and the process of uploading video takes time as well.  Although there is an upfront time commitment to create content and learn the system, this won’t be required for subsequent terms and students will continue to enjoy the benefits.

Instructor Workload to monitor discussion.  Although the comments and questions in CLAS can provide useful insight into student learning, it can be time consuming in large classes to monitor all of the student comments. If there are TA’s, a good workflow is for them to monitor questions and comments on CLAS and then flag for the instructor any items that need to be addressed.

Student attitude and motivation.  CLAS is a new tool and there may be some resistance from students to having to learn a new technology. Make sure to communicate clearly to students the benefits of using CLAS and define what the expectations are surrounding its use.

Additional Resources

  • Dawson, S., Macfadyen, L., Risko, E.F., Foulsham, T., & Kingstone, A (2012). Using technology to encourage self-directed learning: The Collaborative Lecture Annotation System (CLAS). In: Future Challenges, Sustainable Futures ASCILITE 2012, 25-28 November 2012, Wellington, New Zealand.
  • Gašević, D., Mirriahi, N., & Dawson, S. (2014). Analytics of the effects of video use and instruction to support reflective learning. In: LAK’14 Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Learning Analytics And Knowledge, 123-132. Doi: 10.1145/2567574.2567590
  • Risko, E.F., Foulsham, T., Dawson, S., & Kingstone, A. (2013). The Collaborative Lecture Annotation System (CLAS): A New TOOL for Distributed Learning. IEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies, 6(1), 4-13.