What is Perusall? Benefits, Features, and Use Cases

Learn how Perusall transforms traditional reading assignments into interactive, social learning experiences. Developed at Harvard, Perusall enhances student engagement and comprehension through collaborative annotation tools and integrates seamlessly with LMS platforms.

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The traditional approach to textbooks – passive reading and isolated note-taking – can leave students disengaged and struggling to retain information. Perusall offers a compelling alternative, fostering active learning through a suite of collaborative annotation tools. This article explores Perusall's functionalities, the benefits it delivers to both students and educators, and its diverse applications across various disciplines.

What is Perusall?

Perusall is an educational technology tool that transforms traditional reading assignments into interactive, social learning experiences. Developed by professors at Harvard University, Perusall aims to increase student engagement with reading materials by integrating collaborative annotation features. It allows students to comment on texts, ask questions, and engage in discussions directly within the document.

Here's what makes Perusall an interesting tool:

Collaborative Annotation:  Students can highlight, comment, and reply to each other's annotations, creating a dynamic discussion around the material.

Seamless Integration:  The platform integrates with popular Learning Management Systems like Canvas, Blackboard, and Moodle, making it easy for educators to use.

Real-time Analytics:  Educators gain access to data on student engagement, allowing them to adapt their teaching based on how students interact with the material.

How Perusall Works

What is Perusall

Perusall takes textbooks from static pages to interactive learning hubs. Here's how it works:

Instructor Assigns Readings:  The instructor assigns readings through Perusall, which can be accessed through a web browser.

Students Engage with Text: Students actively read the assigned material. They can highlight key passages, ask questions for clarification, or leave comments to share insights.

Real-time Discussions:  Annotations spark discussions. Students can reply to each other's comments, ask follow-up questions, or offer different perspectives, creating a collaborative learning environment.

Automated Feedback (Optional):  Perusall offers instructors the option to use automated scoring to assess the quality and depth of student annotations. This can provide insights into student engagement and comprehension.

Integration with Learning Management Systems:  Perusall seamlessly integrates with popular LMS platforms, allowing instructors to easily track assignments, view student progress, and incorporate Perusall activities into their courses.

Benefits of Perusall

Perusall offers numerous benefits that enhance the learning experience for both students and educators.

For Students:

  • Transform Textbooks into Thriving Discussion Hubs: Perusall ditches the dull, one-way reading experience. Highlight, discuss, and question – it's like having a built-in study group for every assignment.
  • Unlock a Deeper Comprehension of the Material: Collaborative annotation lets you dig deeper. Ask questions, see different perspectives, and solidify your grasp of complex concepts through active engagement.
  • Sharpen Your Critical Thinking and Communication Skills: Discussing ideas with peers hones your critical thinking and communication. Learn to articulate thoughts and respond constructively to others, developing valuable skills for any field.

For Educators:

  • Boost Engagement with Active Learning Activities: Perusall gets students actively involved, leading to better completion rates and a deeper understanding of the material through interactive discussions.
  • Effortless Grading with Automated Insights: Automated feedback systems save you time while providing valuable insights into student comprehension and participation. Use the freed-up time to focus on providing more personalized feedback.
  • Data-Driven Teaching with Real-Time Analytics: See how students interact with the material. Use real-time analytics to tailor your teaching and address areas where students might struggle, ensuring no one gets left behind.

Impact on Education

Perusall significantly impacts modern education by transforming reading assignments. It tackles challenges faced by both educators and students in traditional learning environments.

From Passive Reading to Active Comprehension

Typically, reading assignments can feel passive. Perusall changes this by making reading interactive and social, encouraging students to engage actively with the material. Highlighting, discussing, and questioning lead to a deeper and more lasting understanding.

Catering to All Learners

Learning styles vary, and one-size-fits-all methods often fall short. Perusall embraces this diversity. Visual learners can highlight key passages, auditory learners benefit from discussions sparked by annotations, and kinesthetic learners engage actively through questioning and discussions.

Building a Thriving Learning Community

A strong sense of community is crucial for student success, both in-person and remote. Perusall fosters interaction and collaboration, allowing students to connect with peers, share perspectives, and learn from each other, thereby boosting motivation and overall academic performance.

Challenges and Considerations

While Perusall offers many benefits, there are some challenges and considerations to keep in mind.

Bridging the Digital Divide: Not all students have equal access to technology. Educators need to ensure equitable access to devices and internet to maximize Perusall's impact and avoid unintentionally widening the achievement gap.

The Learning Curve Climb: Both educators and students might feel lost at first. Providing proper training and ongoing support can ease the transition and ensure everyone gets the most out of Perusall.

Quality over Quantity: Automated grading is a perk, but it shouldn't overshadow meaningful discussions. Educators should emphasize insightful contributions over sheer volume of annotations to keep discussions focused and productive


Perusall represents a significant advancement in educational technology, transforming traditional reading assignments into interactive, collaborative learning experiences. By promoting active learning, improving comprehension, and fostering a sense of community, Perusall addresses many challenges faced by educators and students. Embracing platforms like Perusall can pave the way for a more engaging and effective educational experience in the digital age.

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