Using Perusall with Nexus


Perusall is a social annotation tool that integrates with Nexus via assignments. Perusall allows students and their instructors to collaboratively markup documents, articles, websites, etc. online. Instead of reading a document and discussing it, Perusall brings the discussion to the text


Table of Contents

  1. What is Perusall?
  2. What the research says....
  3. Setting Up Perusall Activity Through Nexus
  4. Instructional Design Recommendations
  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. Perusall works with not only books and articles, but can help your students engage with web pages, videos, podcasts, and images!


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

WATCH: Screencast of (most of) the directions below

  1. Open your desired course in Nexus.

  2. Turn on [Edit Mode] in upper right corner.

  3. Go to the area of the Nexus site you'd like to add your first Perusall assignment (e.g., Week 1). Select [Add an Activity or Resource].Add an activity or resource icon


  1. Select [External Tool].
    External tool icon

  2. On the configuration page that results, type in "Perusall" (or anything else) for the activity name and select Perusall 1.3  from the Preconfigured tool dropdown. Ignore the [Select Content] button for now.

  3. Click Save and display to launch Perusall and create your Moodle-linked Perusall course.       Screenshot of "Save and return to course" Button
  4.  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
  5. Go back to your Nexus home page and find the Perusall activity you just set up. Click on the link to the Perusall assignment you just created.Perusall activity icon
    This will launch Perusall and create your Nexus-linked Perusall course. You only need to do the steps 1-9 detailed above once.

NOTE: Going forward, each time you launch Perusall from Nexus, a roster sync is run in the background.  Any students that are added to your course will be added to your Perusall course roster (under the Students tab), and any that have unenrolled will be removed from the course.


Setting course policies in Perusall Course

Now that you have provisioned your Nexus-linked Perusall course, go to the Perusall course. 

Screenshot of new Perusall site

  1. Navigate to Settings > General to set overall course information.
  2. Navigate to Settings > Access to manage access to your course.
  3. Navigate to Settings > Grouping to manage discussion groups. Learn more about groups here. 
  4. Navigate to Settings > Scoring to determine how Perusall will generate engagement scores. Learn more about scoring here
  5. Navigate to Settings > Integrity to configure tools for promoting academic integrity in your course. 
  6. Navigate to Settings > Terminology to customize the course terms in the user interface to match your use of Perusall.
  7. Navigate to Settings > Advanced to adjust fine-grained course options for comments, documents, and class chats. 

Adding readings to your course

  1. Navigate to Course home > Library on your course home page. 
  2. Click Add content and select the type of content to add to your course. To learn more about what type of materials can be added to your course, see here.

Creating assignments

  1. Navigate to Course home > 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. Learn more about managing assignments here.

Viewing discussions within the text

  1. Navigate to Course home.
  2. Open a document in the Library tab, or open an assignment in the 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. Conversations initiated by students will appear as yellow highlights, and conversations initiated by an instructor will appear as blue highlights.
  4. Highlight text or images by clicking and dragging your mouse, or using our figure annotation tool. (see more info here) 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. Instructor-initiated threads will appear with a blue highlight, and student-initiated threads with a yellow highlight. 
  5. 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 can click the checkmark to “upvote” the response and indicate that it was helpful for their understanding.
  6. Control the highlights that you see by clicking the All comments filter dropdown at the top of the page and selecting a filter. (For example, you can show only your own comments, only unread comments, or none at all.)

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. Learn more about groups and how you can manage the process here. 

Managing grades

Perusall's automatic grading engine will automatically score all student work in an assignment and assign an overall score. You can control how Perusall incorporates various metrics of engagement into students’ overall scores.

  • First, navigate to Settings > General> and scroll down to Scoring and analytics. There are four options

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  • Next, navigate to Settings > Scoring > General to indicate when you would like scores to be released to students. (By default, students will not see any scores for an assignment until you release them in the Gradebook, so you have an opportunity to review first.) You will also be able to adjust the overall score range all assignments are based on. 
  • Navigate to Settings > Scoring > Automatic Scoring to customize how automatic scoring works in your course. Perusall can use seven different components to calculate a student's work in an assignment; you can customize each component and its weight in the overall calculation. To customize a component, click on the colored box for that component to reveal its options. To set a component’s weight, change the percentage allocated to that component. (Your percentages can add up to more than 100%, which does not award extra credit but rather gives students flexibility in how they can earn full credit.)
  • View assignment scores by navigating to the Gradebook.
    • Within the gradebook, click on a score to reveal additional details about how the score was computed. On the resulting details dialog, you’ll be able to make manual adjustments if you prefer.

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.

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
Mon 2/26/24 12:17 PM

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This article is intended for users that have a course already built out with the LTI 1.1 integration (any course before Fall 2023) that used Perusall. You need to switch to Perusall LTI 1.3. You only need to do this one time per course that still has the 1.1 integration.
Instructors can use Perusall for peer review.