Digital ink

Recordings of digital handwriting.


Digital ink allows teachers or presenters to annotate on and interact with slides, and can make static slides or a simple screencast more informative. Digital ink can be used by a presenter to ‘write’ on slides: highlighting important information, clarifying confusing content, or working through problems visually while explaining what they’re doing verbally.


UMEP Calculus Extension Studies, University of Melbourne, 2017

When designing videos for a Calculus Extension Studies programme, Anthony chose to typeset formulas using LaTeX publishing software, then annotate the graphs and problems using digital ink.

What the research says

Students have reported that handwritten annotations using digital ink appear more “personal”, “natural” and “engaging”. However, typeset text-on-screen was perceived to be clearer, neater and easier to read (Cross, Bayyapunedi, Cutrell, Agarwal, & Thies, 2013). A separate study also reported that tutorial videos featuring digital ink were more engaging than PowerPoint slides or code screencasts (Guo, Kim, & Rubin, 2014). When it comes to recall and student performance, there is some evidence that digital ink is an improvement over text onscreen, however varying the style of delivery (for example dialogue vs monologue) appears to make a greater impact (Lodge TBC.).

Production tips

  • You can experiment with digital ink using any iPad that supports the Apple pencil.
  • Freehand annotation is an art, so as with anything, practice is crucial.
  • Test your digital ink videos on a couple of mobile devices – are they legible?
  • If the text in your presentation is crucial to student understanding, it should be typeset rather than handwritten for enhanced accessibility.
  • Digital ink is very time consuming to edit, update or fix in post-production. Consider other, more accessible ways to present your material visually.

Further resources

How to annotate slides and PDFs on an iPad Pro

How to record your iPad using QuickTime on a Mac

How to record a screencast on your Apple iPad

How to record a screencast on your Microsoft Surface

University of Melbourne self-service recording studios

Further reading

Cross, A., Bayyapunedi, M., Cutrell, E., Agarwal, A., & Thies, W. (2013). TypeRighting: Combining the Benefits of Handwriting and Typeface in Online Educational Videos. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 793–796). New York, NY, USA: ACM.

Guo, P. J., Kim, J., & Rubin, R. (2014). How video production affects student engagement: an empirical study of MOOC videos (pp. 41–50). ACM Press.