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Grading in Perusall

Perusall includes an auto-scoring feature that grades student annotations with an algorithm. This can be a useful feature for providing a low-stakes grade around student engagement with the readings. Perusall grades can be accessed using the “Gradebook” link on the left sidebar.

Because Perusall’s scoring system is fairly versatile, instructors have flexibility in how they use it:

  • For some courses, you might prefer not to use Perusall grading at all, simply using Perusall as a space for students to work collaboratively with documents. Although Perusall Assignments will automatically score student annotations, these scores are hidden from students by default, so you can ignore them altogether.
  • You might opt to use Perusall’s scoring more as an informal influencing factor in how you grade overall participation, keeping the grades invisible to students but using the information to provide a general context when you determine participation grades at the end of the semester.
  • If you want to incorporate Perusall assignments more concretely into course grading, you have the ability to override Perusall’s scores or customize Perusall’s scoring settings, both of which will give you some control over how students are evaluated.
  • If you use the Canvas gradebook to calculate your course grades, you can set up Perusall to sync scores to Canvas Assignments. If you’d like to sync students’ average Perusall scores back to the Canvas assignment you added to create the course Perusall site, you will need to navigate to the Perusall site “Settings” page (accessed via the left sidebar), scroll down to “Grade sync to LMS,” and select “Automatically sync students’ average scores back to the LMS” from the dropdown box.
    • If you’d prefer to sync individual scores from Perusall assignments to separate Canvas assignments, you can set up individual Canvas assignments linked to Perusall that will sync separately if you select the option “Automatically sync individual assignment scores back to the LMS” from this dropdown box.

Understanding and Overriding Perusall’s Scores

Perusall’s Gradebook provides context for how it scores each student assignment. You can access this information by clicking on a student’s score for any assignment. This will automatically pop up a grade breakdown for specific metrics (i.e. whether the student submitted the required amount of annotations, or whether they lost points for submitting annotations after the deadline).

A grade breakdown pop-up listing metrics for Perusall grading with scores for each metric

Overriding Perusall’s Scores

As the instructor, you can override a student’s score for an assignment or an individual annotation.

To override a score for an assignment:

  1. On the Gradebook page, find the student’s score under the correct assignment column.
  2. Click on the pencil icon to the right of the score.
  3. Enter in the new score and click the check mark (or press Enter/Return on your keyboard).

Scores for individual annotations can be revised on the document page or in a spreadsheet. See Perusall’s instructions for changing individual annotation scores.

Customizing Perusall’s Scoring Settings

Instructors can make adjustments to how Perusall calculates scores for each assignment to better align with learning goals or course grading practices. For some courses, this may not be worth the effort. For others, it may be useful and save time in the long run, especially if you find yourself frequently overriding student scores.

Making Expectations Visible

For most purposes, we recommend unchecking the option to ”Hide from students the number of comments required for full credit,” which can be found under the “Advanced” tab (and is selected by default). This will ensure that students have a clear understanding of the baseline expectations for the assignment, and it will also ensure that a student isn’t penalized for engaging with the assignment in a way that clashes with the grading metrics. (For example, in an assignment that requires 7 annotations, a student unaware of this requirement might write 6 longer, highly detailed annotations, or 20 shorter annotations, and would receive a grade penalty either way.)

Reviewing Advanced Grading Features

Perusall offers a range of options to customize the algorithm. Most of these can be found in your Perusall site settings under the “Scoring” and “Advanced” tabs.

If you do make adjustments to default settings or use the “Holistic” option, we recommend looking carefully at the descriptions of each option and the implications for your students. Some of the settings–for example, “Opening assignment target,” “reading target,” or “active reading target”–may inadvertently penalize students for positive behaviors (i.e. printing and reading a paper copy away from their computer to minimize distraction).

Finally, you might find it useful to review student grades after the first assignment to make sure that the course’s grading settings are working as intended. Before releasing your grades to students, you can fine-tune anything that seems off, and these changes will automatically recalculate student grades for the assignment.

Uses of the auto-scoring tool will likely vary based on the needs of your discipline and the individual course. If you have any questions about adjusting the grading mechanism for a particular purpose, feel free to email

Canvas Grade Sync

If you have set up Perusall assignments to link to separate Canvas assignments, grades will automatically be released when you click the “Release to Students” button, which can be found underneath each assignment in the Perusall Gradebook.

Grade Sync Tips
  • To help the grade sync process to work smoothly, you can require students to enter their student ID when they first enter the course Perusall site. (This option can be selected in Settings, at the bottom of the “General” page.) If a student incorrectly types their student ID, you will have the ability to edit it on the Gradebook page.
  • On rare occasions, a student’s score for an assignment will still not send through to Canvas correctly. If this happens, you can manually type the score under the correct assignment in the Canvas gradebook.
  • If you see a red exclamation point next to a student’s grade in Canvas, see Perusall’s explanation for this issue.