Perusall: Making Reading Impactful through Collaboration

A woman reading from her tablet device

FIU Online’s Monthly Faculty Webinar explores the potential for Perusall to improve and completely revamp your students’ attitudes towards reading instructional material. The “Read or Not to Read? With Perusall, that’s no longer a question” faculty webinar, presented in September 2021 by FIU Online’s Maikel Right and Jeni Lopez, demonstrates how to use Perusall to incentivize reading in your classroom. 

Instant Replay: To Read or Not to Read? With Perusall, that’s no longer a question

The Problem Instructors Are Facing

From the syllabus to assignment instructions and even textbooks, most students are not reading the required material in their courses. Research tells us exactly why they are not reading:

  • Books are too expensive and are only relevant for part of the semester.
  • Reading is work and not exceptionally engaging.
  • The task of completing the required material is so daunting that students would rather escape or cheat.

Why Reading Matters

When our students do not read the course content, they have a less impactful course experience. They under-perform or believe that they have no support. Additionally, instructors find themselves assisting their students only through emergency response teaching instead of preventative teaching. Instructors are being called to perform emergency patching, answering questions about something that was covered in the course material and spending less time talking about higher level concepts in the reading material. 

If They’re Not Reading The Material, They’re Not Learning 

Right said, “when students aren’t reading, it inhibits creativity because it’s not introducing significantly new ideas and challenging concepts to their worldview”. They come in and out of the course with the same polar views. We want our students to understand whether they agree or not with the opposing views that direct them towards truth.

Instructors assign reading material with purpose and reason. By not engaging in it, students inhibit their opportunities for growth and understanding of a particular field. 

How Do We Incentivize Reading?

Grades aren’t enough. When looking for solutions, we look to places where we know we’ve seen success in engaging learners. We borrow from those places things that we know that work. Social media allows us to consider the successful elements that this environment leverages to make content more engaging and how it’s able to develop community. Additionally, gamification components increase students’ motivation to make goals, persist and look for achievements within the course. This brings us to true collaboration, which though related is distinct from group work.

Collaboration leads to growth when we listen and work with what others are contributing. The Learning Design Innovation Team at FIU Online found one of the best tools that can help increase student engagement with course material is Perusall. 

What Is Perusall?

Perusall is a social learning platform that incentivizes reading and makes reading collaborative and interactive. The platform incorporates a novel e-book reader with collaborative annotation tools to ensure students learn more, come to class prepared, and become more engaged in the learning experience.


Right called Perusall, “Facebook living within the pages of a book” to illustrate the components of community development that occur in social media that we want happening in our textbooks. Social media incentivizes learners to go back, to grow, to contribute, to share knowledge, and to analyze knowledge and Perusall allows us to leverage these same incentives within e-learning.

Perusall Features

Perusall drives collaboration, increases engagement with reading material, and builds community while motivating students to participate in assignments. Take a look at how Perusall’s features create a reading experience like no other.

  • Perusall Dashboard provides an overall assignment progress component that collects and displays data on student engagement with the assignment. 
  • Student Activity Report displays various statistics about each individual student’s engagement with a particular assignment. The annotations heat map report shows instructors the days and time when students posted comments.
  • Automatically-Generated Confusion Report summarizes general areas of questions/confusion. This allows educators to answer students’ targeted questions from the reading. 
  • Perusall’s customizable and automatic grader uses linguistic features and different variables to measure the quality of student’s engagement with the material. However, instructors can choose to override these scores. Interested professors can familiarize themselves with the guides in “Threshold Scoring” and “Overriding the Perusall Scores”.

What Sets Perusall Apart?

Perusall is like playing sports for fun and not realizing you’re getting in a full-body workout. It disguises the aspects of reading that are unpalatable and helps reluctant readers find joy in the written word. Features that set Perusall apart from others:

  • Chat tagging
  • Textbook integration
  • Confusion report
  • Automatic grading
  • Time and access analytics
Screen capture of Perusall in action

Powerful Assignments With Perusall

Listed below are some powerful assignment ideas that instructors can build around their courses using Perusall. Right broke down each assignment type and how instructors can successfully increase student engagement and collaboration with assignments.

  • Collaborative Instructional Document
    Have students review assignment instructions and ask targeted questions. 
  • Text Guided Discussion
    The chat feature within Perusall can promote test specific discussions.
  • Feedback Activity
    Students can give feedback and discuss that feedback with each other and you.
  • Reading Tracker
    Assign required times of log-in and amount of time within reaching material.
  • Perspective Assignment
    Discuss tone structure and agenda within the document while highlighting text. 

How To Set Up Perusall In Canvas 

Perusall already exists within Canvas, so instructors don’t have to submit a request. In your Canvas course, Lopez suggested the following these steps to set up Perusall and how to create an assignment:

  1. In Canvas, go to Settings
  2. Click on the Navigation tab
  3. Look for Perusall at the bottom, click the three dots to the right and click enable or drag Perusall to the top
  4. At the bottom click save 
  5. Find Perusall on the left-hand navigation in Canvas and click it to begin setting up your account. 
  6. Once you are in Perusall, set up your course by following the guided instructions. 
  7. Set up an assignment in Perusall and sync the grades into Canvas by clicking copy full title for LMS
  8. In Canvas, create an assignment
  9. When the assignment box displays, click more options on the bottom left 
  10. Paste the assignment title that you copied from Perusall into Canvas
  11. Adjust the assignment points in Canvas
  12. Submission type, select external tool 
  13. Click find, and scroll down and click Perusall, click select
  14. Click load this tool in a new tab 
  15. Click save and publish
  16. Students must access Perusall through the assignment in Canvas, not through the Canvas navigation menu. 

For support, please contact, visit, or reach out to your instructional designer.

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Future Faculty Webinars

Be on the lookout for FIU Online’s future faculty webinar on instructional strategies and effective ways to use technology in your online classroom. If you have any ideas for future faculty webinar topics, we’d love to hear them. Contact Christina Schettini ( to share your topic ideas.

In the meantime, enjoy reading some of our other faculty webinar instant replay articles.

Monica has been an Instructional Designer with FIU Online since 2022. Her area of expertise includes communication sciences, creating interactive e-learning experiences through interactive e-learnings, collaborating with professors to create departmental courses, developing, and designing institutional presentations, and leading the discussion on supporting students to create their own narrative by suggesting resources that provide multiple means of expression. Since 2017, Monica has been providing consulting services in educational technology to support various learner types. Her mission is to help faculty become comfortable and confident with instructional design and learning design strategies so that they may better serve their learners.

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