Bloc Annotations


Improve student recall and retention.

Design Methods

Lead Product Designer


2015 Q2

“I was unable to quickly recall a portion of the checkpoint where I had a specific question...I was just looking for a simple program that would allow me to take notes on a specific portion of the page, and easily recall it later when I met with my mentor.”

— A student using a 3rd party annotation tool

Ethnographic Research

Semi-structured interviews with 6 mentors, 7 students.

Discovery: Students take notes in creative ways

Validation: Should we build it?

I built a Chrome extension and tested it with student volunteers for a month to understand:

1. Will students use it?

Yes, with the caveat that they are already an active and responsible student.

2. If so, what will they take notes on?

1/3 are comments to clarify curriculum
1/3 are personal reminders for mentor meetings
1/3 are memos for the self

3. And do these notes improve their recall & retention?

Not sure, this is a lagging indicator.

“It feels natural to highlight and start typing.”
— A student in the trial experiment

Minimum Quality Product

For further testing, I spec'd out a responsive in-app annotation tool that supports minimal highlighting and note-taking in the curriculum.


If the MVP is successful in increasing the proficiency of the students that use it, we could possibily investigate opportunities to further improve engagement: