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NowComment Educational Overview

Turning Documents into Conversations®

NowComment is a project of: LLC
PO Box 6970
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6970 USA
Phone: 434-975-0780

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @nowcomment

NowComment Educational Overview

October 2014

What is NowComment?

NowComment is a free tool for discussing, workshopping, and annotating online documents. It shows threaded conversations about text passages right next to those passages, rather than at the bottom of the page or on a separate message board. Students start or join conversations on whatever passages or general themes they find interesting, important, or hard to understand.

NowComment is most commonly used to complement in-class discussions or as a flipped classroom tool, but it also works very well stand-alone for distance learning.

Touring a NowComment Document

  • The default two-pane view displays text is on the left and comments on the right. There’s also a one-pane “Combined” view.

  • Documents can include images and embedded videos.

  • Word balloons show which passages have existing comments.

  • The panes are synced so you can:

  • click on an interesting passage to immediately see any related comments

  • click on a comment to see the corresponding passage

  • There are two parts to a comment:

  • Summary of Comment (required, 255 character limit)

  • Full treatment of what you want to say (optional, no size limit)

  • To reply to an existing comment you click the “Reply” button

  • To start a new thread about a passage you:

  • double click on the text (desktops/laptops), or

  • single click and then click the “Start One” link (mobile devices)

What Teachers Like about NowComment

Taking an assigned reading as an example:

  1. Requiring written comments is an effective way to hold students accountable for doing assigned reading, and doing it with NowComment means there’s only a single online document to evaluate (in depth or with just a quick skim of the summary fields).

  1. Instructors can sort (and tally) comments by student to easily evaluate the quantity and quality of participation. Other sorting options are also available.

  1. Shy students and non-native speakers often feel more comfortable writing comments than speaking extemporaneously in front of their peers, so you often get more participation from these groups.

  1. The Document Owner (uploader) has date/time access control over:

  • when the document can be read;
    when it can be commented on;
    when students can see the comments others have made. This ability to hide, and later reveal if desired, makes NowComment useful for brainstorming, informal polling, and administering tests and quizzes.

  1. It’s easy to create workgroups/teams on the fly. For example, the instructor could create small critique groups for students to peer review first drafts and later have students share their final drafts with the whole class… all within NowComment. Students can create groups too.

What Students Like about NowComment

  1. NowComment is a socially engaging conversational environment that most students feel very comfortable with.

  1. Existing comments are shown in context — when they find something that interests or confuses or bothers them they can immediately find any relevant comments by their peers (unless the Document Owner hides comments, see above).

  1. When you want to express your thoughts there’s no need to go to another screen, and no need to quote or explain what part of the document you’re referring to: you just click and write with no obstacles or delay. It’s very easy, very efficient, and very satisfying.

  1. Students have choice — they always get to respond to what interests them without racing to raise their hand to get called on.

  1. NowComment writing feedback, either by an instructor or through peer “workshopping”, uses comments and suggestions rather than edits, so nothing is crossed out by others, no oceans of red ink, etc. [Note that NowComment does have a “suggest revision” mode, much like Microsoft Word’s “Accept Changes”, that lets the Document Owner incorporate a suggested edit with one click.]

Unlike face-to-face conversation, NowComment is asynchronous: one student’s comments don't take time or opportunity away from others, which gives all students much more latitude to express themselves:

  1. Many more ideas can be expressed in a given amount of time — students can communicate most if not all of the ideas they care about (the instructor can set comments limits if desired).

  1. Students have time to express each idea deeper and with more nuance (e.g. tangential observations, interesting implications, connections with other readings, etc.) — there’s no time or social pressure to just skim the surface so others have time for their thoughts.

Noteworthy NowComment Features

These and other features are explained on our Features Gallery page:

  • Comment Sorting/Tallying within a document

  • User Reports spanning Multiple Documents (sorted/tallied)

  • Assignments (min and max comments, due date with email reminder)

  • Comment Display Options (Full vs. Summary Field only)

  • Notification and Reminder System (email)

  • Single-Sign-in Authentication Options (LTI, Google, Facebook, Shibboleth)

  • Accounts for those without email ("Managed Users") (Aug. 2014)

  • Private Replies to Comments

  • Group Creation (quick and easy, by students or teachers)

  • Changing Documents (Appending, Editing, Track Changes)

  • Blogging (Personal or Class/Group)

  • Highlighting (Private or Group visible with heatmap)

  • Private and Public Documents

  • Social Media Integration (Public Documents only)

  • Time & Date Controls on Document Access and Commenting

  • Multiple Document Export options

  • Multiple document upload formats: HTML, MS Word, PDF, plain text

  • Handles Multimedia Content: images and videos as well as text

Further Exploration

Get a free account

Demo Documents

General document with text, images, and video:

Peer writing feedback (Emory University creative writing workshop)

Excerpt from a Middle School commenting assignment

Information Resources

NowComment Help files (text) and videos

3-minute video tour of NowComment basics:

NowComment Education Page

NowComment for the Common Core (2013 Ohio teacher training PowerPoint slides)

Pedagogical Benefits of NowComment Online Discussion

NowComment Pedagogy Blog (new, we welcome guest submissions!):


To ask a question or get a quick consult on an application idea please email [email protected] or tweet @nowcomment

DMU Timestamp: October 04, 2014 02:10

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Quickstart: Commenting and Sharing

How to Comment
  • Click icons on the left to see existing comments.
  • Desktop/Laptop: double-click any text, highlight a section of an image, or add a comment while a video is playing to start a new conversation.
    Tablet/Phone: single click then click on the "Start One" link (look right or below).
  • Click "Reply" on a comment to join the conversation.
How to Share Documents
  1. "Upload" a new document.
  2. "Invite" others to it.

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