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12

Sep

2018

Making homework social…

 
digital textbooks

In the digital landscape, how can instructors make learning more engaging and sociable for todays student? We asked the co-founder and CEO of social reading platform, Perusall, Brian Lukoff...

 
What is Perusall and why should teachers be excited about using it?

 

Perusall is a social reading platform to help students get prepared for class. What that means is that in Perusall, class reading assignments are engaging collective activities, rather than solitary tasks.  In real time, as they are reading, students can discuss the material with each other and ask (and answer) each other’s questions.  Perusall then automatically grades the quality of the comments students post, which lets instructors turn the reading assignment into a graded assignment—with no work on the part of the instructor!  An analytics layer gives instructors insight into how students are engaging with the text; for example, the Perusall Confusion Report summarizes students’ key areas of confusion around the material based on their questions.  This is an exciting tool for teachers because it makes the material more accessible, engaging, and interesting for students, with little effort required on the part of the instructor to set up!

 

…it makes the material more accessible, engaging, and interesting for students, with little effort required on the part of the instructor to set up!

 

Can you tell us a little about where the idea for the platform came from?

We realized that too often, instructors assign reading for students to complete before class, and too many students don’t do it! Sometimes students start the reading with the best of intentions but get stuck on a tricky concept or difficult wording, and abandon the reading as there is nothing for them to do except to wait for class or office hours. Other students don’t see the reading as an important part of the course since it’s not a part of their grade, and those students simply skip the readings altogether. Our goal with Perusall is to deliver course materials through a platform that motivates students both because of the social nature—it’s almost like reading along with a group of friends, with students helping each other as they go along—and because the Perusall assignments become graded assignments that are part of the student’s course grade.

 

How has student learning changed over the last decade?

 

Students today are used to experiences that are interactive and engaging. I believe that, as educators, we need to meet students where they are—providing students with a reading experience that motivates them through the social connections with their peers—and also help them build their active reading skills.  From a pedagogical perspective, we believe that Perusall can model for students what good active reading practices look like, so that they can become better consumers of text in their academic and professional careers.

 

From a pedagogical perspective, we believe that Perusall can model for students what good active reading practices look like…

 

What’s your vision for the future of education?

I think technology has the power to transform learning and improve educational outcomes, but only when it is used in the service of strong, research-based pedagogy. One exciting trend is that more of these teaching methods are making it to classrooms in greater numbers, but implementing these methods often require a significant time investment that many faculty can’t make, particularly for those faculty that teach large numbers of students, courses, or both. My hope for the future is that learning designers can create technologies that enable instructors to both utilize innovative and effective pedagogies in scalable ways as well as develop relationships with (and between) their students that will be critical to students’ success.

 

How many Cambridge titles are available on Perusall?

 

We currently have more than 3,000 Cambridge titles available in Perusall. And if you don’t see the title you’d like to adopt in your course, just ask! We work closely with the folks at Cambridge to add new titles that are requested by instructors.

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