Canvas Toolbox: Presenting Perusall

Desktop computer with a toolbox icon on the computer's screen.

Perusall is an interactive tool available for all Canvas sites, that allows students and faculty to engage with, and transform, written material in a style akin to social media posting. 

This tool allows students to approach course material in a less formal way, in comparison to discussion boards and emails. The use of hash-tagging and chat rooms also allow for better and immediate communication about certain topics.

This article is not a cumulative overview of Perusall. For a more in-depth review, please see the Perusall guide.

 This week’s Canvas Toolbox article on Perusall will focus on:

Chat Functionality

Perusall has the option for group chats, and one-on-one chats. Automatically, ‘Announcements’ and ‘General Discussion’ are created for each course, and added under the ‘Groups’ category under Chats. All students, TAs, and Instructors have access to ‘Announcements’ and ‘General Discussion’ chat rooms.

When posting a comment, users can post anonymously, insert links, videos, images, HTML code snippets, use emojis, and polls for feedback from their peers:

Perusall chat box, with options highlighted. Options highlighted are post anonymously, insert links, videos, images, HTML code snippets, use emojis, and polls.

Group Chats

Instructors and TAs can create special group chats for group assignments, or for specific sections (for sites with multiple sections/recitations).

Students also have the ability to make private group chats. This feature is best used for group work, so students have a free, readily available medium to communicate virtually with one another.

When creating private group chats, please make sure the option ‘Private’ is marked so not all students have access:

Screenshot of menu for chat settings, private option is highlighted with an arrow pointing to the field to add people to grant access to the chat.

You will also have the chance to select each student you’d like in that particular chat through ‘Other people with access.’ If you do not select other people, you will be the only member in the chat.

Chat transcripts within these groups can be downloaded, if needed, for future reference. This option appears next to the ‘Chat Settings’ at the top of the screen:

Chat settings menu screen capture, with Download highlighted.

Perusall will export a .csv with all information for that chat room.

Inside of group chat rooms, members have the option of creating new conversations to help organize threads. If Instructors would like to be notified each time a new conversation is initiated by students, they need to check that option for each chat room:

New conversation menu with 'Notify me when new conversations are started in this group chat' highlighted.

The default is that you will not receive notifications when new conversations are started within a group chat.

One-On-One Chats

It is possible to create a private “one-on-one” chat between two people. This may be appropriate if a student requires individual assistance, or if you need a less formal way to communicate with other instructors or TAs in the course.

Students can also create one-on-one chats with other students in the course.


Perusall allows users to hashtag their posts via their comments. Hashtags connect discussions across a topic area, like grades, course logistics, a problem set, or an exam.

To add hashtags to a comment, type # and select from a list of predetermined tags, or create new hashtags.

To view all conversations related to one hashtag, click on the hashtag to view all comments tagged with that particular hashtag. 

Each comment and hashtag has the following options for review: read aloud, mark for plagiarism or otherwise inappropriate, copy to clipboard, and view in context:

Hashtag menu, highlighted are the options for users: read aloud, mark for plagiarism or otherwise inappropriate, copy to clipboard, and view in context.

Importing Textbooks

Perusall allows professors to import textbooks from the Perusall library into their courses. The Perusall catalog has over 400,000 titles available covering various subjects.

Once assigned to the course, students must purchase the ebook from Persuall at the normal digital price.

Textbooks can be searched by title, ISBN, publisher, author, and description:

Perusall textbook import search tool.
Please click this image to enlarge

For more information about adopting a textbook into your course via Perusall, please visit Perusall’s FAQ on Textbook Adoption.

Student Uploads

Assignment submissions via Canvas is not the only way students can submit their work. 

In April 2021, Perusall added the Student Uploads folder to the tool to allow students to upload media, documents, and other materials for their instructors. These folders can be hidden at any time if you no longer want students to use or access them.

Instructors can also create assignments in the Student Uploads folder after content is uploaded to the folder.

Student uploads folder with 'Add Assignment' tab expanded.

It is also possible to create multipart assignments that include both student folder materials and materials outside of the specific folder.  Course grouping settings apply to the student folder materials just like any other document in the library. 

Student Uploads folder with multi-part assignment options expanded.

For more information on Perusall Student Uploads please visit their FAQ on student upload.

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