Canvas and Perusall

Community Champion

What is Perusall?

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

In addition to this core functionality, Perusall offers the following features:

  • User tagging with email alerts and Perusall inbox alerts
  • RTE editor with emoji
  • Tagging of annotations as questions automatically when a user uses a question mark
  • Manual tagging of annotations as questions
  • Ability to filter annotations to view questions, unanswered questions, annotations by instructor, or annotations by a specific student.
  • automatic grading
  • Confusion report to see where students have the most questions
  • Analytics
  • downloadable .csv of all annotations in an assignment.
  • selective release to specific students.
  • manual or automatic grouping
  • public and private chat tools

Here is a video tutorial I made for my students to show how Perusall functions with Canvas:

How do I get a Perusall account?

You may sign up for an account on the Perusall website. it is a pretty easy process.

What is the cost for using Perusall?

Perusall is a newer company. There is no mention of pricing on their website. At least for now, there is no cost associated with this tool with .pdf documents you provide. However, through agreements with publishers, Perusall does sell access to some textbooks for use in Perusall.

How do I integrate the Perusall into a Canvas course?

Configure the LTI tool in a single course as follows:

1. Perusall support will email you a consumer key for this field when you email and ask for credentials.

2. Perusall support will email you a shared secret to place in this field when you email and ask for credentials. Be sure to backup the shared secret by storing it someplace because it will only be available once from Perusall.

3. Use the Perusall credentials to set up the Perusall App in your course settings as shown in the video.

Can I configure the Perusall LTI on the Canvas account or subaccount level?

 Yes. Although, since you can copy Perusall assignments from semester to semester, large scale deployment could result in some frustration when instructors must scroll through a long list of courses to use

Once I configure the Perusall LTI in the course, how do I set up a Perusall Assignment?

In Canvas, you will create an assignment, set the submission type to external tool, and select Perusall. Be sure to select "Load in a new tab." Perusall requires a new tab to work properly. 


In Perusall, you will receive an interactive tour of the interface the first time you log in. The tour is pretty good and shows how to create assignments. The next time I set up an assignment, I will record the process in the new Perusall interface.

Are there any tutorials available to teach students how to use Perusall?

Perusall offers some documents to share with students on their site as well as documentation for instructors: Knowledge base | Perusall. Here are the instructions I share with my students for using Perusall:

What are the benefits of integrating Perusall with Canvas?

By setting up the LTI with Perusall in Canvas, the Perusall account process and login process is automated for students. Names and emails get sent from Canvas to Perusall, and both students and instructors launch Perusall assignments from canvas. Users will receive Perusall email alerts when another user tags their name in an annotation similar to the Canvas community. This is especially seamless and convenient if a user already receives Canvas email alerts.

Perusall also sends automatic grades back to Canvas, but this process is not instant: the grades sync once an hour after the assignment due date has passed.

For future development, I hope to see due date and assignment name syncing between Perusall and Canvas.

What are the benefits to annotation assignments?

My students write more on an annotation assignment, with greater detail and specificity than a traditional discussion assignment. Students also seem less inclined to use uncredited internet sources. Further, I can see where my students have questions because Perusall can show me each time a question mark gets used or each time a student marks an annotation as a question.

Are there any other tips?

Yes! One nifty thing is that you can download a .csv file of all the annotations your students have done on an assignment. To download the .csv for an assignment:

1.Locate the assignment on the Perusall home page for your course

2. Click on the "All Comments" button.

3. Click on  the "Download" button in the lower right hand corner of the popup. 

Why would you want to do this? Well, if you school has a plagiarism service like Turnitin, then you can upload the .csv to your plagiarism checker. Each student's annotations are labelled with their name and grouped together, so it is easy to tell if there is a problem with a particular student.

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or comments, I would be happy to hear from you in the comments.