Using Perusall with Nexus

Table of Contents

  1. What is Perusall?
  2. What the research says....
  3. Setting Up Perusall Activity Through Nexus
  4. Instructional Design Recommendations
    1. Create Two New Categories
    2. Assignment Setup in Nexus
    3. Create Calculation for "Sum of Assignments" Category
    4. Weighting Perusall to 5- 10% of the Grade
  5. Related Knowledge Base Articles From Perusall

What is Perusall?

Students annotate the readings and asynchronously respond to each other's comments and questions about the readings in context. With novel data analytics, Perusall automatically generates optimal student groupings and social interactions, grades students' engagement to ensure they are prepared for class, and nudges those who need help to keep everyone on track. Perusall extends the collective in-class experience to between classes, enabling students to get instant answers to their questions, learn more, stay prepared, and enjoy the experience. Instead of a generic Q&A platform, passively waiting for students to participate, use Perusall to proactively engage students with each other about your readings, give them (automated) personalized guidance, and motivate your whole class.


What the research says…

  • Students triage reading—let some courses die to save others
  • Only 20–30% of students do the assigned reading
  • Teachers try to help by giving quizzes, but these take time
  • >90% of students do the reading with Perusall
  • Comprehension of reading is increased through social learning

Read: Use of a Social Annotation Platform for Pre-Class Reading Assignments in a Flipped Introductory Physics Class by Eric Mazur et al, Harvard University


Setting Up Perusall Activity Through Nexus

  1. Open your desired course in Nexus.

  2. Select [Turn editing on] under the gear icon.

       Screenshot of "Turn Editing On" Window

  1. Select [Add an Activity or Resource].

       Screenshot of "Add an activity or resource" Window

  1. Select [External Tool].

       Screenshot of "Activities" Window

  1. Select [Add].

      Screenshot of "Add" button

  1. Change the Preconfigured Tool to Perusall.

       Screenshot of "Adding a new External tool" Window

  1. Make sure the Activity name in Nexus is the exact same as your Assignment name in Perusall (which you will setup later). After filling out the required fields, select [Save and Display].

       Screenshot of "Save and return to course" Button

  1. Note, if you previously had a Perusall account outside of Nexus, you will receive an email that asks you to merge accounts. This will be the only time this email is sent to you. Select [Confirm and merge accounts] .

       Screenshot of "Confirm and merge accounts" message

  1. Go back to Nexus to the Perusall activity you just set up. Select [Open in new window] to View the linked Perusall Course.
  2. Now you are ready to create your Perusall assignment. As stated above, make sure your Perusall assignment name matches exactly the Nexus activity name you setup in step 7 (case matters!). See these instructions for setting up assignments in Perusall (skip the instructions for "Creating Your Course" and "Inviting students or course staff to join" in this document, as you are using a Learning Management Solution (LMS) integration and that is all handled through Nexus).

Note, you will only have to go through the steps to confirm and merge your accounts once. To setup additional Perusall assignments, simply repeat steps 1-7 + 9-10 above.


Instructional Design Recommendations

  • Count Perusall participation 5–10% of course grade
  • Goal is for all students to do well on this assignment
  • Build in an “insurance policy:” Set a target score for full credit that is easy to reach, to ensure that students can easily earn full credit through meaningful, organic engagement. For example, since the default Perusall assignment scores are on a scale of 0-3, you might consider counting a 2/3 as full credit for each assignment.
  • Keep it easy for yourself: Look only at students’ comments that are auto-scored a 0 or 1 to see if you agree. If you don’t, override.
  • Provide clear rationale on syllabus— get buy in
  • A suggestion– announce to students that misuse of Perusall–for example, posting comments as their own that are copied from the text or from external web sites –will be treated as every other type of academic misconduct and will, at a minimum, result in an overall Perusall score of zero for the semester.
  • Assign a realistic amount of reading— don’t “pile it on”
  • Easy introductory assignment during the first week to practice skills
    • Add comment
    • Respond to someone else’s comment
    • Mention a person by name
    • Amplify a question
    • Amplify an understanding
  • A final suggestion–provide students with two documents relating to Perusall. First, you can download and modify a one-page rubric that explains what Perusall is, how it works, and how students are graded. (You may need to edit this document to reflect the scoring settings you have set for your course.) You can also provide students with a set of example annotations with associated quality scores and an explanation for each score, to help them get a feel for what sorts of comments and questions they should be posting.

In order to accomplish bullet numbers 1-3 above using the Nexus gradebook, we recommend the following settings in your Nexus gradebook.


Create Two New Categories:

  1. In your course website on Nexus, click on [Grades] > [Setup]. Scroll to the bottom and click on the [Add Category] button.
  2. For the first category you are creating use the following settings:

    • Grade category

      • Category name: “Perusall Total”

      • Aggregation: Simple Weighted Mean of Grades

      • Exclude empty grades: unchecked

    • Category total

      • Grade Type: Value

      • Scale: Use no scale

      • Maximum grade: 100

      • Minimum grade: 0

      • Hidden: unchecked

      • Locked: unchecked

      • <click on [Show More]>

      • Grade to pass: 0.00

      • Grade Display type: Default (Real)

    1. Parent category

      1. Weight adjusted: unchecked

  3. For the second category you are creating use the following settings:

    • Grade category

      • Category name: “Sum of Assignments”

    • Category total

      • Grade Type: Value

      • Scale: Use no scale

      • Maximum grade: 1.00

      • Minimum grade: 0.00

      • Hidden: checked

      • Locked: unchecked

      • <click on [Show More]>

      • Grade to pass: 0.00

      • Grade Display type: Default (Real)

    • Parent category
      • Weight Adjusted: unchecked

      • Parent Category: Perusall Total


Assignment Setup in Nexus:

  1. You need to create a Perusall assignment for each reading you are assigning. Recommendations:

    • Assign a Perusall reading each week. Create a Perusall reading assignment each week of term so the reading load feels balanced for students.

      • Tip! To get students used to using Perusall, skip reading through your syllabus during the first class and assign it as the first Perusall assignment. 

      • Avoid the mistake of only creating one Perusall assignment/link in your Nexus course site. You need to create a new, individual Perusall assignment in Nexus for EACH reading assignment. 

    • Best practice is to assign readings in Perusall when it is essential for students to do a close read. You don’t want to assign 200 pages in a single Perusall assignment, so figure out the pages that are most important and create those readings as Perusall assignments worth points.

  2. Each Perusall assignment should have the following settings:

    • Grade type: Point

    • Maximum Grade: 3

    • Grade category: Sum of Assignments

    • Hidden: unchecked

    • Grade to pass: 0

4. The instructions that follow will provide the detailed settings you should set for each activity in order to have the gradebook count 2/3 as full credit for each assignment.


Create Calculation for "Sum of Assignments" Category

In order for the gradebook to calculate any overall average grade from Perusall where 2 or higher receive full credit, you need to use the following general equation:  calculate one "Perusall grade" for each student (Total Perusall points, divided by 2 * (# of assignments)).

  • For example, if you have 3 assignments, you need to have the gradebook add up the sum of all Perusall points and then divide it by 6 (i.e., 2X3). The “calculation” you would enter into the “Sum of Assignments” category then would be: =sum([[a]],[[b]],[[c]])/6. However, in order for this to work, you need to go and assign each assignment the respective algebraic ID Number. The following are step-by-step instructions on how to add the calculation to the “Sum of Assignments” category and algebraic ID Numbers to the respective assignments.


      1. In your course website, click on [Grades] > [Setup]. Scroll until you find in bold Sum of Assignments total

      2. Click on [Edit] > [Edit calculation] to the right of the Sum of Assignments total label.

      3. Copy and paste the following equation (starting with the equal sign) into the Calculation box and click [Save changes]: =sum([[a]],[[b]],[[c]])/6

        • Note! You will need to modify this formula according the number of assignments you have. If you have 10 Perusall assignments, the calculation would change to the following: =sum([[a]],[[b]],[[c]],[[d]],[[e]],[[f]],[[g]],[[h]],[[i]],[[j]])/20


      1. After inputting your calculation, scroll to the bottom of the page to where the assignments are listed and label the assignments with their ID numbers:


Weighting Perusall to 5- 10% of the Grade

If you want to weight Perusall so it counts somewhere between 5-10% of the total grade (which is recommended), change the overall course category to the Aggregation type of Weighted mean of grades. 

  1. In your course website, click on [Grades] > [Setup]. Scroll to the top and click on [Edit] > [Edit settings] to the right of the overall course category label.

  2. Under Grade Category, change Aggregation to Weighted mean of grades and click [Save changes].

  3. Under Gradebook setup, change the weight next to Perusall Total to the desired weight. Make sure you adjust the weight of your other assignments accordingly so the total weight adds up to 100.

Related Knowledge Base Articles From Perusall

Instructors: Getting Started

Instructors: Courses

Instructors: Assignments

Students: Getting Started

If you are having difficulty or you have unanswered questions, please contact the Help Desk through the ITS Service Catalog or call (518) 388-6400.



Article ID: 95277
Mon 1/6/20 2:42 PM
Tue 3/17/20 2:35 PM