Perusall is a free, web-based tool that allows instructors to to create collaborative reading activities for their students based on their text book or any other PDF or EPUB document. Students can highlight text and graphics, ask questions, add comments, or link to other relevant resources. Classmates can see the areas other students have highlighted, read their comments and questions, and respond asynchronously.  If a student is interested in knowing the answer to a question posed by another student, they can indicate this by clicking on the question mark icon.  When classmates find a student's explanation to be helpful, they can indicate this by clicking on the checkmark icon. A built-in tool, the Confusion Report, automatically summarizes the top areas of student confusion so that instructors can focus on the content that students are struggling with the most.

Now my students are engaging deeply with texts and their conversations tell me what to emphasize in our subsequent face-to-face meetings. This student-centered approach is what I’ve enjoyed most about Perusall.

BECCA PRICE, Faculty, University of Washington


Instructors at  Boston College and Harvard University have identified the following benefits of using Perusall:

For Instructors

  • Students come to class prepared having thoroughly read the material
  • Analytics, such as Heat Maps and Confusion Reports, allow the instructor to better address misconceptions and difficult concepts
  • Can be used with classes of any size
  • Provides information about individual student engagement

For Students

  • Facilitates engagement in course readings 
  • Fosters collaboration and promotes a sense of community
  • Provides reminders if reading is not completed as class nears or if pages are skipped

Best Practices

  • Before class, print a Student Confusion Report with the top 3–4 topics of confusion or engagement, and the best student annotations

  • As class begins, go through the topics recognizing good student questions or comments

  • Invite further discussion and follow-up questions

Evidence of Efficacy

Miller, Lukoff, King, & Mazur (2018) found that when student readings took place on the Perusall platform:

  • 80% of students complete 100% of the reading assignment before class
  • 90–95% of students complete all but a few of the reading assignments before class
  • Students performed significantly better on in-class exams than students using a simple annotation tool


It is important to consider accessibility when determining whether a technology fits the needs of your class. Perusall has provided information about how to address accessibility when using this technology.

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Burns, D. (1970, January 01). A cursory examination of Perusall. Retrieved from

Collaborative Discussions. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Miller, K., Lukoff, B., King, G., & Mazur, E. (2018). Use of a Social Annotation Platform for Pre-Class Reading Assignments in a Flipped Introductory Physics Class. Frontiers in Education, 3. doi:10.3389/feduc.2018.00008

teaching tipsThis Creative Commons license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon our work non-commercially, as long as they credit us and indicate if changes were made. Use this citation format: Perusall. Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo.