Skip to ContentSkip to Navigation
University of Groningenfounded in 1614  -  top 100 university
EDU Support Blackboard Instructor Tool Guide Tools to encourage class preparation and self-study Perusall


Introduction: Collaborative Reading with Perusall

Perusall is a tool which can enhance the quality of the student’s preparation for class by completing assignments in a collaborative manner. Students annotate texts together in advance of a class session and by rewarding these annotations, it is possible to have better-prepared students for in-person class discussions. A demo with further information can be found at:

Process: how social annotation works

Social annotation tools such as Perusall, are online platforms that offer groups of students a platform to discuss academic texts or educational videos without the limitations of space and time. Students complete assignments by writing annotations (comments or questions about the text’s content) on a selected text or video. These can be both original annotations, with comments/ questions students have about the content, or responses to annotations of peers thus enabling online and asynchronous interaction. Another helpful feature is that Perusall also provides teachers with extensive analytics which they can use for feedback and providing deep learning during the lecture. Students can be graded on their annotations but also through a holistic approach focused on interaction and collaborative learning. More detailed information on how to design Social Annotation assignments can be found in our Active Learning Template for Perusall. 

Instructions: Implementing Perusall in a Nestor Course

  1. Go to your Nestor Course.

  2. Make sure Edit Mode in the top right corner is activated.

  3. Under Course Management, navigate to Customization → Tool Availability.

  4.  On the Tool Availability page, make sure that Perusall Integration and Perusall Assignments are enabled or “checked.” (Tip: Use the keys ctrl + f on Windows or Command + f on Mac to search the page for Perusall.)

  5. Press Submit.

Creating a Perusall Course

Once Perusall has been successfully activated in your Nestor course, a Perusall course needs to be created which will be linked to your Nestor Course. This Perusall course is where the actual assignments will be created. These assignments will, later on in the process, become accessible for students through a link in your Nestor Course.

  1. In the Nestor course, again under Course Tools, look for and click Perusall Integration.

  2. If this is the first time this link has been accessed in a course, the following page will appear:

  3. Choose Create this course in Perusall. Before Perusall assignments can be placed within the Nestor Course, a new Perusall course has to be created. Your Nestor course will link to the assignments in this Perusall course.

  4. Now, a new Nestor page titled Create Course in Perusall will appear. In similar fashion to regular assignments, the course name, start date and language (in which the annotations are made) can be specified here

    1. If you have already used Perusall in another course and would like to copy documents, assignments and settings from that course, select the Perusall course you would like to copy from under Copy from existing course. If you do not want to copy anything, leave this blank.

  5. Check whether the instructor enrollments are correct, and proceed by clicking Submit .

Perusall Integration Tool

Now that the Perusall Course has been created, you will be able to see a different page when once again selecting Course Tools → Perusall Integration in Nestor.

On this page, you can manage your course. It displays the amount of students in Blackboard (Nestor) and Perusall and allows you to synchronize students and groups. Since your Perusall Course has just been created, the Perusall student number will be 0. Students will become visible here once they have clicked on the link to a Perusall assignment from the Nestor course.

Setting up the Perusall Course

The course has already been created, and subsequently it can be set up further. The next section will discuss adding literature and how to use those documents to create and set up assignments.

  1. Access the Perusall Course through Course Tools → Perusall Integration.

  2. Under Actions, choose Go to course in Perusall.

a. Tip: open this page in a new tab, because using a previous page button to return to the Nestor Course when in the Perusall Course will likely not work. Do so by either using your mouse’s scroll wheel to click the link, or by right clicking the link and choosing Open Link in New Link.

3. This will direct you to the Perusall course’s Course Home page.

a. Tip: feel free to read Perusall’s instructions and to click around to familiarize yourself with Perusall. Students do not have access to the course yet, so please do not be afraid to explore the pages.

Before any assignment can be created, the documents that are going to be used for that assignment first have to be uploaded to the Perusall Course.

There is a procedure in place to check course literature with the library to make sure no copyright violations occur. E-books in particular may have limitations regarding the extent they can be used in Perusall. Once the copyrights for your course literature have been cleared, the materials can be used in your course. As a rule of thumb, most literature that can be found in the UoG library systems can be used in Perusall as well. If you would like to use a title that is not in the library system, please contact the UB on  to check whether that title is available. For more information on the use of copyrighted materials in education, please visit the website of the University Library on this topic.

Optical Character Recognition (OCR)

Students need to be able to select text in Perusall which means you will need to check whether the documents you are planning to use have selectable text. A scanned copy of a physical book for example doesn’t have selectable text. A workaround for this issue would be to use OCR technology. On UG computers Adobe Acrobat Pro DC is available to perform OCR on documents, to make a text selectable. Follow these steps to perform OCR:

  1. Open the document with Adobe Acrobat Pro DC. Make sure to open the Pro version, as the regular version does not contain OCR capabilities.

  2. Click on Tools near the top left corner of the window.

  3. Choose the option Scan & OCR.

  4. In the toolbar select Recognize Text.

  5. The document will now be converted into selectable text.

Uploading Documents to Perusall

After checking the documents for copyright and possibly having performed OCR, you can upload the documents to Perusall.

  1. Access the Persuall Course through Course Tools Perusall Integration.

  2. Under Actions, choose Go to course in Perusall.

  3. In the Perusall Course select the Documents tab in the menu.

  4. Click on the Add button in the top right corner to add documents

  5. Several options will appear, including the option to upload documents from your computer. The options highlighted in the figure below are used most frequently.

  6. If you have not used Perusall before or if there are a lot of changes in the assignment documents, select the option Documents from my computer.

Tip: If you have used Perusall before and there are no changes in the assignments, we recommend using the option Materials from another course. Here you will be able to select (for example) last year’s course and Perusall will copy all the documents and linked assignments. There is an option to adjust all the deadlines to this year as well.

We do not recommend using the option Textbook, as this may require students to pay for the usage (which is not allowed).

Using video in Perusall

Since the summer of 2020, students are also able to annotate video material. This can be material on Youtube, in a Dropbox, Google Drive or a direct video link. To add a video you use the same steps as uploading documents but instead add a video file. 

Creating an Assignment in Perusall

The documents that have been uploaded will be used to create the assignments.

  1. Click on Assignments.

  2. Click on the +Add assignment button in the top right corner. A pop-up will appear.

  3. Next to Content to assign, click the document that should be used for the assignment.

  4. Click on Next step.

Tip: The green Save Changes button can be ignored for now.

5. Set the deadline, either provide the assignment name or allow Perusall to name it based on the document and page/section range you assign, and add assignment instructions for students.

Tip: If you decide to name the assignment, ensure the name is unique. (Perusall assumes that assignments with the same name are being assigned to different students and will merge those assignments into a single column in your Gradebook, which will lead to unexpected results if that is not your intention.)

Assign an assignment to a specific user or group

Within Perusall you can assign an assignment to specific groups or individual user(s). Go to assignment settings and change Assign to to Entire class, Specific students or Specific groups.

Adding a Perusall assignment to a Nestor Course

After creating one or more assignments in Perusall, these assignments have to be added to your Nestor Course. The Perusall assignments will become accessible to students from Nestor; they will be able to click on a link in Nestor to the Perusall assignment in a question.

  1. Open your Nestor Course.

  2. Using the black menu on the left, navigate to an existing content area you wish to add the Perusall assignment to, or create a new content area

    1. Tip: Content Area is nothing more than another name for the pages where content, such as for example assignments, syllabi, and other documents can be placed. This term might occur in other manuals as well.

  3. Select Assessments and choose Perusall Assignment.

  4. On the following page, under Available Assignments, select the corresponding Perusall assignment to link to.

  5. After clicking Submit, the Perusall link should appear within the content area. This link will direct students to the assigned document in Perusall.

a. A column for the assignment will automatically be created in GradeCenter in Nestor as well.

b. If you do not want the grades to automatically synchronise with Grade Center, you can turn this either off or choose manual synchronization in Perusall under Settings → Advanced → Grade Sync to LMS. Choose the appropriate option and click Save changes.

Groups in Perusall

In Perusall, students work together in groups. There are several ways to set up groups in Perusall. Some methods require action prior to uploading any documents in Perusall. Perusall automatically groups students in the course into smaller "discussion groups," by default with about 20 students. Students will only see the comments of other students in their group, plus any threads that an instructor has started. Each document has a different set of groups formed, so students have an opportunity to interact with different people over the course of the semester. Groups for a particular document are fixed once the document is uploaded, to ensure students have a consistent view of each document.

The following methods can be used in Perusall:

Random groups 

There are two ways of randomly distributing students into groups. 

Automatic random

When assigning students to random groups, go to Settings > Grouping and select “Allow Perusall to automatically assign students to groups”. This is the default setting in Perusall The advantage of this method is that students do not have to be enrolled in Perusall before setting this up. The enrollment estimate and target group size need to be filled in correctly. The default enrollment estimate and target groups size is 20.  If for some reason the amount of students exceeds the enrollment estimate, these students will be placed in a new - most likely very small - group. This grouping method has to be set up before uploading any documents to Perusall.

Manual random

Enrolling students to random groups using manual assigning. This method can be used after students have accessed the Perusall course. Go to Settings > Grouping and select “Manually assign students to groups”. On the right hand side, select “Grouping shortcuts”. You can now select in how many groups you would like to place the students and Perusall will divide the students in these groups. Students that enroll in your course after you set the groups will be placed into one of the groups at random, but you can change this in the Grouping Options at any time. Changing groups through this setting takes effect immediately and does not require uploading documents prior assigning students to groups. 

Manual groups

This method requires students to be known in Perusall. Go to Settings > Grouping and select ‘Manually assign students to groups’. You can either use the interface in Perusall to fill in the group numbers or import from a spreadsheet. To import from a spreadsheet, on the right hand side select ‘Import from spreadsheet’. Download the template spreadsheet and fill in a group number for each student, on your own computer using Excel or Numbers.

Nestor groups

When using the Perusall Integration Tool in Nestor, you can synchronize groups from Nestor to Perusall. After setting up the groups in Nestor, go to Course Tools > Perusall Integration and select ‘synchronize LMS groups’ to add the students to their corresponding groups.

Set up before uploading documents

Changing groups takes effect on 

Perusall Integration Tool in Nestor required

Students known in Perusall before set up

Random groups


new documents



Nestor groups


new documents



Manual groups


all documents



(using group shortcut: no)

Changing groups during the course

When changing groups using automatic random and nestor groups, the change takes effect when uploading new documents to ensure students have a consistent view of each document.

For some methods you need to change to manual group assignment for the change to take effect immediately. If you change groups manually during the course, this has an effect on the students’ experience as changing groups manually influences previous assignments as well. If for example, student A responded to student B’s annotation and student B is replaced to another group, student A’s reaction will no longer be visible in the document. It has no effect on the scores. Before manually changing groups, you may want to inform students about this action.


First, check your course description in Ocasys to consider what you have promised the students. It is important that you have written in Ocasys that students are graded on “assignments”, or better, that the Perusall assignments are described, since Ocasys is legally binding. Typically, a very small fraction of the total points for a course is enough to invite students to do their work in Perusall. The system is set up to reward studying so, when students make an effort to annotate their annotations, it is easy to reach the full points for it. The Perusall part of the grade is typically arranged to reward students for their effort and engagement, rather than evaluate the level at which they are at. Ideally, every student would get full credit for the Perusall part of their course grade.

How does grading work?

  • Perusall's automatic grading engine will automatically score all student work and assign an overall assignment score.

  • View these scores by navigating to the Gradebook.

  • Within the gradebook, click on a score to reveal additional details about how the score was computed.

  • Use the pencil icon to manually override or enter a grade for a student.

  • Students will not see their scores until you "release" them. Release scores for an assignment by clicking the button at the bottom of that column, or enable automatic grade release within Settings > General.

Syncing grades with Brightspace

Average grade

It is possible to sync a students' average score with Brightspace. To do so, open your course in Perusall and go to Settings → General → Select “Automatically sync students' average scores back to the LMS” → Save changes.

The average score will be synced as soon as a student opens Perusall.

Individual assignment grade

It is also possible to sync scores for individual assignments. To do so, open your course in Perusall and go to Settings → General → Select “Automatically sync students' individual assignment scores back to the LMS” → Save changes.

Please note that a student must access a Perusall assignment, otherwise the scores will not be sent to Brightspace.

Confusion report 

A confusion report is a summary of the questions of students. When the deadline for your assignment has passed, and student annotations are gathered, click on the assignment, then click on Confusion report to generate the report. (The Confusion Report may not be available for assignments where there are only a small number of high-quality questions for Perusall to analyze.)

To view the confusion report, first click on the assignment. Now the button for the confusion report will become available and the report will appear once you click on it. To copy an annotation from the confusion report, click the copy button next to the annotation. At the bottom of the confusion report, you can find the buttons for printing or emailing the confusion report.

Frequently Asked Questions

When creating a course in Perusall I get the message: The form could not be processed because: Could not create the course in Perusall. Perusall reported: 500: enrollmentEstimate must be > 0.

Perusall courses can only be created when there is at least one student enrolled in the course.

As a workaround you can use student preview. To do this first click on the student preview icon in your course:

Then click Exit Preview in the top right corner. Select Keep the preview user and all data and click on continue:

In Users and Groups - Users you will now find an account with the username pnumber_previewuser with the course role of Student. You should now be able to create a Perusall course.

More information

More detailed information on how to design Social Annotation assignments can be found in our Active Learning Template for Perusall

Whom to contact?

Contact EDU Support or contact your faculty's Embedded Expert from ESI for tailored didactic advice in using these suggestions in your teaching. For technical assistance please contact Nestorsupport.


Last modified: 3 March 09:49 am
In need of immediate support? 050 - 363 82 82
Follow EDU Supportfacebook instagram twitter youtube