Perusall Header Image

As of August 2020, Perusall has been integrated into Canvas for all courses at Penn.

On This Page


Perusall is a social annotation tool that allows students and faculty to engage with, and transform, written material in a style akin to social media posting. Student and faculty engagement of the material in the text helps facilitate and transform class discussions.


Perusall has many noteworthy features, including:

  • Allowing for collaborative annotation within and around a shared text or website.
  • Offering options for individual or group comments and note sharing.
  • Giving students/instructions the ability to organize concepts, responses, and discussion themes via hashtags.
  • Enabling multi-media annotation possible via videos, images, external linking, etc.
  • Presenting a dashboard for uploaded documents/linked websites for easy navigation organization, engagement analysis.


There are a few benefits of using Perusall, including:

  • Providing an avenue for formal or informal interaction with course content.
  • Creating a space for low-stakes discussion surrounding web-based resources within and around that resource.
  • Offering exportable snapshots for collections of quotations and figures
  • Allowing instructors to directly adopt textbooks into the platform.
  • Providing granular information about student interactions with content, including engagement time, “confusion reports,” posting frequency and downloadable csv files of all student annotations within a text.
  • Making content accessible through option to “read aloud” in multiple languages

While Perusall is integrated into Canvas and is free to students and faculty at the University, Perusall is also connected to a pay-site. Perusall has relationships with several publishers to make textbooks available for students to purchase and use through the Perusall platform. Penn Library licensed resources are not typically linked with Perusall. Even if the Library has a separate license for the content an instructor wishes to place in Perusall, the Library license may not extend to the use of the resource within Perusall. More information on the appropriate use of Library licensed materials can be found at Use Policy for “Penn Only” Electronic Resources and Using Electronic Resources.  

Instructors may also use Perusall to share public domain materials, open access resources, and their personally prepared course materials, such as syllabi, and class notes. For works that are still within copyright, instructors are responsible for ensuring that their use of the Perusall tool complies with Penn’s Computing and Acceptable Use Policy, as well as applicable copyright laws and other related policies, including appropriate use of Canvas.  

As a general rule, the following types of resources are not compatible with Perusall:

  • eBook links
  • Content available through Course Reserves and posted in the “Course Materials @ Penn Libraries” button in Canvas sites
  • Works temporarily available through Hathi ETAS
  • Videos that require PennKey authentication for access (only publicly available videos can be added to Persuall)
  • Lengthy portions of in-copyright works
  • ILL Materials
  • Reference works
  • Entire journal issues
  • Photocopied materials that do not comply with University copyright guidelines

For any course-specific questions related to these guidelines, please contact for support.


As with any feature-rich tool, it may take a bit of time for students and instructors to get acquainted with Perusall. With that in mind, please feel free to consult the following information on using the platform.

Adding the Perusall button to Your Course

  1. Click Settings on your course navigation menu.
  2. Click the Navigation tab, which is near the top of the page.
  3. Scroll down, click the Perusall button, and drag it above the line that reads “Drag items here to hide them from students.” Alternatively, you can click the three-vertical dots on the right of the Persuall button > Enable.
  4. Scroll down again and click Save.

Adding Your TA to Your Course

1.   After navigating to Perusall’s “Course home” via the link in Canvas, click on the settings tab.
2.   Once on the settings page, navigate to the Access tab.
3.   Add TA’s email to “instructors with course access” box.
4.   Click Send Invitations.

Adding Readings to Your Course

  1. Click on Library on your course home page.
  2. To add a book from Perusall’s catalog, click Add > Textbook.
  3. To upload a reading (PDF or EPUB format) from your computer, click Add > Documents from my computer or Add > Documents from Dropbox.
  4. To add a web page as a reading, click Add > Web page.

The default setting for documents uploaded to Perusall is that they cannot be downloaded by students. We recommend that this setting remain disabled to prevent any unauthorized sharing of copyrighted content.

To view this setting for a specific Perusall document, go to Library, click on the document and click Edit. To view this setting for all Perusall content in a course, go to Settings > Advanced.

Creating Assignments

  1. Click on Assignments on your course home page.
  2. Click Add assignment and select the document you want to assign.
  3. Select the part of the document to assign, specify a deadline, and click Save changes.

Setting Discussion Policies

  • Navigate to Settings > General to set overall course policies about assignment availability and scoring.
  • Navigate to Settings > Grouping to manage discussion groups. Learn more about groups
  • Navigate to Settings > Scoring to determine how Perusall will generate engagement scores.
  • Navigate to Settings > Advanced to adjust fine-grained course options.

Viewing Discussions Within a Text

  1. Navigate to Course home.
  2. Open a document in the Library tab, or open an assignment in Assignments tab.
  3. When you (or your students) open a document, you’ll see highlights superimposed on the document that represent comments that students have entered.
  4. Highlight text by clicking and dragging. You will see a new conversation panel appear on the right side of the page. Enter a comment or question, and press Enter to save it.
  5. When you start a comment thread, the text you highlighted will show in blue; student comments are highlighted in yellow.
  6. When someone responds to a question or comment, the original author receives a notification by email and can post their own response by replying to the email. Students that ask a question can also indicate that one or more of the responses answers their original question.
  7. Control the highlights that you see by clicking the All comments filter dropdown at the top of the page and selecting a filter.

Managing Groups

To avoid an unwieldy experience for large courses, students are automatically placed into groups for each document; students can only see and respond to comments and questions made by other students in their group.

Managing Grades

  • Perusall’s automatic grading engine will automatically score all student work and assign an overall assignment score.
  • View these scores by navigating to the Gradebook.
  • Within the gradebook, click on a score to reveal additional details about how the score was computed.
  • Use the pencil icon to manually override or enter a grade for a student.
  • Students will not see their scores until you “release” them. Release scores for an assignment by clicking the button at the bottom of that column, or enable automatic grade release within Settings > General.

Known Issues in Canvas with Perusall

  • Perusall assignments are marked late in Canvas and the timestamps in SpeedGrader do not match the timestamps in Perusall. 
    • Solution: Ignore the marker in Canvas or do not put due dates in Canvas. 
  • Grades do not sync from Perusall to Canvas Gradebook and display a red [ ] icon for some students in Perusall.
    • Solution: Have the students enter the assignment through the Canvas assignment link. This can even be done after they have been graded. Then re-sync the grades from Persuall. For more information, see: Why aren’t my grades syncing back to the LMS? 

Additional Resources and Questions

Last Updated: 28 Sep 2022