Perusall is a social annotation tool that integrates with Canvas to increase participation, allowing students and instructors to annotate readings, asynchronously responding to each other’s comments and questions. Students can write full comments, “like” comments, use hashtags, link URLs to their comments and use emojis. 

Perusall proactively engages students with automated personalized guidance, ensuring continual motivation. Students help each other learn by collectively annotating readings in threads, responding to each other’s comments, and interacting. Large courses are automatically segmented into smaller groups to ensure productive discussion. 

Website: Perusall 

Perusall is used to engage students in active learning to increase engagement by responding and interacting with the readings and other instructional materials. Graded activities can be imported to the grade book and integrates with Canvas through the external tool function. 

Ideas for engaging students with Perusall. 

  • Annotation of text, video, images, PowerPoint slides, or podcasts. Both instructors and students can write comments on materials uploaded to Perusall. 
  • Teach annotation – This may be a new skill for many students. Provide students some guidance up front regarding how to make annotations. You might suggest students highlight an important point in a reading and comment on why the point was important. Or how they might draw a connection between the reading and other content in the course.  
  • Peer Review – Ask students to read and respond to each other’s writing to help them think about their own writing. 
  • Annotate lecture transcripts. Ask students to listen to pre-recorded lectures or annotate lecture notes questions to the instructor.  
  • Annotate the syllabus – students can ask questions about course goals and activities. This could help better understand your students and their interests in the course. 
  • Jigsaw method – a teaching strategy that organizes student group work so that everyone has something unique to contribute to their group’s outcome. Students could run their own Perusall discussions on readings of their choosing, thus engaging directly, together, on a relevant text.

The main function of Perusall is for annotation. There is an engagement scoring method built into the app that provides metrics for: the number of times students open an assignment; how much of the document they read; how much time they spend actively engaging with content (reading, viewing, commenting); how many responses their posts garner from other students; how many upvotes their comments receive from peers. 

  • Encourage students to raise questions and have discussions around the reading assignment. 
  • Emojis may increase social engagement. 
  • Encourage learning through questions. 
  • Group and peer learning. 
  • Asynchronous preparation for in-class discussions. 
  • Asynchronous discussions for online courses. 
  • Gauge students’ level of understanding. 
  • Students complete reading assignments prior to class. 
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of certain reading material. 

4 Star –


Perusall ranks 4/5 stars for accessibility. To learn more about the accessibility review, contact  

  • Partially Supports Text to Speech (TTS) such as NVDA, Jaws, or Voiceover 
  • Partially Supports Alternative Input Experience/Keyboard Navigation  
  • Supports Screen Magnification and Color Contrast 
  • Dedication to Accessibility and Content Creator Experience 

This technology is included with the University of Denver and there is no cost for DU students, faculty, and staff. 

Adams, B. & Wilson, N. S. (2020). Building Community in Asynchronous Online Higher Education Courses Through Collaborative Annotation. Journal of Educational Technology Systems 49(2). 

d’Entremont, A. G. & Eyking, A. (2021). Student and instructor experience using collaborative annotation via Perusall in upper year and graduate courses. 2021: Proceedings of the Canadian Engineering Education Association (CEEA-ACEG) Conference. 

Publications about the Perusall Platform 

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OTL Technology Rating
BLUE technologies have cleared the rigorous DU technology review process, obtained a FERPA agreement, and DU has accepted the liability for the use of these tools.