Teaching Resources


Resource Overview

Guide to using OrbitNote, an assistive technology for PDFs

OrbitNote is an assistive technology that makes PDFs more accessible, readable, and inclusive. It includes a variety of tools for students and instructors to work on and interact through annotations on PDFs.

At this time, OrbitNote is only compatible with Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge web browsers.  It is not compatible with other web browsers including Mozilla Firefox and Apple Safari.  OrbitNote is also new to our support portfolio, and there may be bugs as product improvements are made.  

For more ideas and technical support, email us or schedule a consult with a CTL staff member.



OrbitNote provides annotation and discussion tools that facilitate student engagement on accessible, dynamic PDFs.

Reasons to use OrbitNote

Help students process and produce language in multiple ways using text-to-speech options for reading and talk&type (Dictation) feature for writing. Students can pair these tools with other features that align with specific learning needs. 

  • Students with ADHD, language processing disorders, and visual impairments process content via audio using the text-to-speech tools and audio maker that turns pages into mp3s.
  • All student can benefit from interactive tools that help them engage with documents more effectively. They can use the highlighters to identify key points, text-to-speech to hear content out loud, as well as dictation and voice comments to review, summarize, and expand on ideas. 
Ideas for teaching with OrbitNote


  • Go over the tools available in the OrbitNote toolbar such as text-to-speech and annotation tools.
  • Learn 20 ways OrbitNote can be used to engage students with PDFs.
  • Use a pushpin or text comment to write a prompt or instructions on a pdf assignment. This can help students identify what to focus on or consider when reading. Students can respond with annotations or fill in text boxes that you’ve set up. 


  • Set up worksheets with textboxes and space for students to respond within Canvas. They can even use shapes and scribbles if appropriate for your content. If you only have paper worksheets that need to be converted to PDF and OCR’d, use both the Snapverter and OrbitNotes tools to take a picture of your worksheet and then make it accessible for students.
  • Use voice comments to provide more context and details as you give feedback on assignments. This will be much more personable and may feel more conversational. 


  • Set up peer review where students annotate and give feedback to one another on the PDFs. 
  • Combine OrbitNotes tools within Canvas with Read&Write tools to provide additional literacy support and accessibility tools for students.


Using OrbitNote in Canvas

For an overview of the following steps, see this video tutorial (2:40 minutes).

Set Up Assignments

Save the PDF for your assignment in your Microsoft OneDrive.

Create a Canvas assignment. Choose External Tool as the Submission Type and pick OrbitNote.

You may be prompted to sign in. Select from a list of your OneDrive files for the assignment. 

Select the option “Load This Tool in a New Tab” so that students can open it in full screen mode.

Once you save and publish the assignment, open the assignment and use the toolbar on top to add pins, annotations, and highlights that will be shown on students’ copies.

Grading Assignments

Review student submissions in Speedgrader. Note that there may be multiple submissions: one for the in-progress version and a second for when students turn it in.

You can use the OrbitNote toolbar to provide feedback. You can return the assignment to students and allow them to resubmit.

Using OrbitNote for PDFs in Chrome

For an overview of the following steps, see this Installation video (1 min).

  1. Get the Extension – Link to the Chrome Web Store to install https://orbit.texthelp.com/
  2. Sign up or log in with Microsoft using your WUSTL credentials to get access to the WashU institutional account.
  3. Pin the OrbitNote extension to your toolbar.
  4. Right-click on the extension and select Options.
  5. Check the box to open web PDFs.

Try out OrbitNote features by opening a PDF from your computer, Google Drive, or OneDrive. It will then load the editor page where you can use the OrbitNote tools to annotate or enhance the PDF.

All changes are automatically saved, but remember to Upload your document (button on top right) if it is not already on OneDrive (Upload option will not show up if on OneDrive; it is autosaved).

Resources and Handouts

If you see a blank screen, check to make sure your pop-blocker allows pop-ups in your browser for this site.

If you cannot go back after opening a PDF in editor mode, click the three dots in the top right corner and click Dashboard.

Have suggestions?

If you have suggestions of resources we might add to these pages, please contact us:

ctl@wustl.edu(314) 935-6810Mon - Fri, 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.