What is Perusall?

Waterloo has approved the use of Perusall for our courses. If you wish to use Perusall the first step is to email learnhelp@uwaterloo.ca to turn it on.

Perusall is an interactive document tool that allows you and your students to discuss specific words, sentences, and passages in a written text by highlighting key portions of a document for comment and discussion.

Perusall was originally designed to be used with textbooks (many of which can be purchased by students digitally within Perusall) in order to allow students to ask for clarification and engage in discussion around difficult topics in their readings. In addition to being a place for reading textbooks together, Perusall now also includes the ability to upload files of your own, including videos, or to copy websites into the system.

As a result, Perusall can be used as a discussion tool for examining just about any piece of text. Example uses could include discussions of literary works (such as for an English or philosophy class) or journal articles (seminar courses), course textbook readings, foreign language course readings, or analysis of current events as portrayed in the news media. See this YouTube video for a quick overview of Perusall.

Visit the Waterloo Copyright website to understand the copyright implications for using Perusall.


The University of Waterloo has approved the use of Perusall for our courses. If you wish to use Perusall email your request to learnhelp@uwaterloo.ca to turn it on.

Once it’s been turned on by ITMS, you will need to create a link in your course that points to Perusall. To do so:

  • Within one of your content modules (LEARN>Content>Add a module), select Existing Activities > External Learning Tools > Create New LTI Link (you will need to scroll to bottom).
  • Enter Perusall for the title and https://app.perusall.com/lti/launch for the launch point.
  • Select Edit Properties In-place in the dropdown next to the newly-created link, and check “Open as external resource”.
  • Reload the page.
  • Click on the new Perusall link. Perusall will launch and a course will be created that is connected to your D2L course. This short video from Perusall outlines the steps.
  • Set up your readings and assignments within Perusall.If you wish to have each assignment appear as a separate link in LEARN follow the steps in the section below.

IMPORTANT: If you wish to sync the grades in Perusall you will need each assignment have its own separate link in LEARN and students must enter the assignment through that link.

  • Hide your original Perusall link from users (you can use that to enter to see the entire course).
  • Within your content modules (LEARN>Content>Add a module), select Existing Activities > External Learning Tools > Create New LTI Link (you will need to scroll to bottom).
  • repeat the LTI creation as above for each assignment but rather than entering Perusall select “Copy full title for LMS” in the assignment in Perusall.
  • go back to the content area in LEARN and repeat the steps above pasting the title you just copied as the title and using https://app.perusall.com/lti/launch for the launch point.
  • This short video from Perusall walks through setting up assignments individually.


  • Do not alter the title of the page in LEARN as it must match what is in Perusall (either assignment title or the word Perusall) for the LTI to work. You may add description text in the description area below the title.
  • A number of different file types can be uploaded (including pdf, word, excel, video).
  • Instructions from Perusall on set up in D2L can be accessed on the Perusall Support website.

The first time you log into a Perusall course, you will be given a tour of the system that explains the various spaces and options available in your Perusall course.

Support and instructions from Perusall

Instructions about how to upload files, create assignments, and participate in discussions are available through the “Help” menu at the top of the page and in the Perusall support for instructors area. As students begin to complete Perusall assignments for your course, you will start to see various statistics and other analysis tools appear regarding student participation and discussion. You may wish to share their student support page with your students.

Communicating with your students about Perusall.

It is a good idea to explain why you are using Perusall and how you hope it helps them achieve the learning outcomes of the course.  You might include details such as:

  • How many annotations they should write.
  • How long their annotations should be.
  • Expectations for interacting with their classmates. For example, “At least 2 of your 7 comments should be in response to a classmate.”
  • What the goal of an annotation is. For example, “Each annotation should point to a specific rhetorical choice made in the text, and explain the effect that choice creates for the reader.”
  • What a successful annotation looks like. Consider writing a sample comment in the document yourself and asking your students to look at it as a model of what they’re trying to do.

After the first Perusall assignment in particular, touch base with your students about their work, either individually as a class. It’s likely that the first set of student annotations will not meet your expectations. By explaining ways students can improve, and highlighting a few examples of strong annotations written by their classmates, you can help them to think about how to make progress on Perusall assignments throughout the term. You might wish to have the first Perusall assignment not count (if you are scoring them).

Using automatic scoring in Perusall

Perusall includes an auto-scoring feature that grades student annotations with an algorithm. Grading is optional but this feature can be useful for assigning engagement scores.  Further information is available in Perusall's Scoring Details pdf.

Do you still have questions? Email remoteteaching@uwaterloo.ca for support requests.