Perusall is a social eTextbook platform which allows students to collectively read, annotate and discuss the readings uploaded by teaching staff.

What is Perusall?

Perusall is a social reading platform available to students as an integration into the LMS. Perusall allows students (and teaching staff) to digitally annotate readings (with text, links, and embedded content). Readings can include access to chapters or sections on an eTextbook that students purchase or copyright compliant readings that you can upload. You can provide students with eTextbooks by:

  1. Accessing Perusall via the LMS (see instructions below).
  2. Going to the Documents tab.
  3. Clicking + Add>>Textbook.
  4. Searching the Perusall catalogue of available titles.
  5. Clicking on desired textbook and then clicking Request Title.

As a subject coordinator you can also upload copyright compliant or creative licensed readings to your Perusall subject, so students have access to a suite of materials. See copyright guidelines for Perusall for details on copyright requirements.

Students' annotations on the readings lets them create threads by highlighting text passages and posting questions or comments in the margin. The platform uses natural language processing (NLP) writing analytics to automatically evaluate student annotations.

Perusall allocates marks to students by running an algorithm over their contributions to discussions on readings. These marks can assist staff when marking Perusall activities as part of low stake formative assessment, but staff are responsible for ensuring all marking is fair and appropriate

The algorithm assesses the depth of an annotation along with the distribution of a student’s annotations across the text. Simplistic annotations focused around a couple of pages or passages will get a lower mark, while more complex and detailed annotations distributed across the reading will get higher marks. Perusall's engagement score allows multiple measures of student engagement to be aggregated into one single mark. Up to six different engagement metrics can be combined into this mark.

Perusall also provides data around student reading and annotation patterns. For example, the analytics can display students’ viewing time, active reading time and annotation numbers. Perusall produces a simple ‘confusion report’ around a set reading that highlights passages that students misunderstood, disagreed with each other about, or were most engaged with.

Teaching and learning applications

As a collaborative reading platform Perusall can be used:

  • To foster engagement by students collaborating and discussing readings
  • To build a sense of community among the student cohort
  • As a hurdle task for students to demonstrate engagement with the subject material.

It can also be used for low stake formative assessments.

For more on teaching and learning with Perusall see how do I assess students’ ability to analyse and discuss critical readings?

Access and licensing

The University of Melbourne has a licence for Perusall, however, any textbooks used in the Perusall interface will require the student to purchase the textbook.

During the COVID-19 situation, Perusall has negotiated with publishers to have some textbooks available to students for free.

Follow the steps below to access Perusall yourself and give students access to it in your LMS subject. You cannot access Perusall from their main website.

Getting started

To add a Perusall link to your LMS subject which will give students access to all the Perusall assignments for your subject:

  1. Go to your LMS subject.
  2. Click on Settings in the subject menu.
  3. Go the Navigation tab.
  4. Drag Perusall from the ‘hide from students’ list to where you want it placed in the subject navigation area.
  5. Click Save.
  6. Click on Perusall in the subject navigation.
  7. Agree to the Privacy Policy.
  8. Set up your Perusall course following the Getting Started guide.

Students do not need to be added into the Perusall course/subject as your students will automatically be added when they click on the Perusall link from the LMS subject.

We strongly recommend that you set the Enrolment Estimate and Target Groups Size for your Perusall course/subject once the Census date has passed and enrolment numbers are stable. Do not set up any readings or textbooks before this setting is populated correctly. Setting are found under: Settings>>Grouping. This will ensure you have more balanced groups.

Perusall as formative assessment

There is an option for creating a Perusall assignment in the LMS and having grades passed back from pass back to the LMS Gradebook. Please use this feature with caution as we are still assessing the reliability of the Perusall grade passback feature. Subjects need more than 20 students using Perusall for the grade pass back feature to become available.

Copyright guidelines for Perusall

It is important that any material you make available on Perusall is copyright compliant. Copyright in Australia is different from the US where Perusall is based. As such the information on their website may not be accurate for Australia.

eJournal articles and eBooks

eJournal articles and eBooks from library databases can only be made available on Perusall if the database licence allows us to do so. Many licence agreements only permit linking. For information on how to check a licence agreement to see if an article or book chapter can be uploaded to Perusall, please review the Copyright Office guide: How to check licence conditions for e-journals.

Print book chapters and journal articles

The University has a copyright licence that allows us to provide copies of print material such as book chapters and journal articles to students electronically. We can also make this material available on Perusall, subject to the following conditions:

  • The reading should be uploaded to Readings Online first to be checked for copyright compliance. When uploading Perusall readings, please include a note to Library – “For use on Perusall”
  • For books, only 10% of the total number of pages or one chapter can be uploaded.
  • For journal articles, you may use one article from a journal issue or two or more articles from the same issue if they are on the same topic.
  • Access should be restricted to students.
  • The reading must include a full citation and a copyright warning notice.

If you require more material then allowed under this limit, please contact the Copyright Office for further advice.


The University’s copyright licence allows us to upload 10% of the number of words from a webpage (if it is an HTML document), or 10% of the total number of pages or one chapter if the website has pages (e.g. a PDF or Word document).

You can also check the terms of use or copyright information on a website to see if the copyright owner allows content from their website to be re-used. For example, many websites, particularly government websites, licence their content under Creative Commons. Under Creative Commons, material can be easily and freely reproduced and reused.

Other types of material

For more information about whether you can upload other types of material, see limits on using copyright material for teaching or contact the Copyright Office.

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