Blog from February, 2021

PDF rendering and fonts

For some reason when I created a document in MS Word using Times New Roman, then converted it to a .pdf, the font in Perusall changed to something quite different and hard to read, i.e., the kerning was all screwed up and squished. In Adobe it looked fine, but not in Perusall. This happened with multiple documents. I changed the font in MS Word to Baskerville, and now the .pdf in Perusall looks fine.

I asked Perusall help what a student who had a deadline extension would see when she logged on to Perusall. They replied that the student sees the extension specific to her, and not the deadline set for the rest of the class. This is good to know–until now I sent e-mails to students specifying extended deadlines, but then worried that they would get mixed messages when they logged on to Perusall.

This is just a general alert to newbies like me about how the Perusall Gradebook Average column functions.

It appears that each time you create an exception for a single student on an assignment, the system extends the due date for the entire assignment. That, in turn, removes it from the Average column. You can see the problem in the image below. Because I created exceptions for a number of students on most on the assignments, they are excluded from everyone's averages for the time being (as indicated by the little renewal swoosh next to the assignment title). As you can see, the only assignment in this class that is registering is the first one. The good news is that, as long as the students have clicked the links correctly on BLS to sync the grades with the BLS Grade Center, BLS will calculate the correct averages (assuming you created an average column in the BLS Grade Center, that is). It took me a bit of head scratching to figure out what was going on, so I thought I'd share. There is an explanation of how the average column works on the Gradebook page, but it assumes that you understand why the various assignment are not yet past due for all the students – hence my head-scratching.

One more thing I thought I'd add here: the "Analytics" button on any given assignment has limited functionality (as far as I can tell, it does not report grade distributions accurately at all), but what it does do it give you a nice breakdown of student performance that tell you how many hours they spent actively reading, how many comments they made, etc., which might come in handy when a student asks, "What did I do wrong? How can I do better?" Here's a screen shot of my class:

On the subject of grading: I used Perusall last semester for my survey of classical Japanese literature. It’s a 200-level double Gen Ed course (Humanities and International Perspectives). My algorithm settings were the same as this semester. The thing that hurt students’ grades the most was not that Perusall was a “tough grader,” but that students often simply didn’t do the assignment. Because I do not drop the lowest X number of assignments, each skipped assignment counts in the average. I think we instructors tend to think of our grading in terms of the A through E range, i.e., 100%-60%. But the Perusall grade, even with a point spread of 4-7-10 (which is what I use) is 100%-0%. If a student doesn't do the assignment, he/she scores 0%, not 60%.

Day extension or no?

I give my students 24 hours after the deadline to add annotations/replies. So far, it has not resulted in any problems. I know that Sheila worried students might abuse such a window, and be working on their assignment during class, but I think I've solved that problem by making the deadline a couple hours before class begins. The drop-off in terms of points they can earn after the deadline seems to be pretty steep, so if they don't get in and do the work right away (i.e., in the first couple hours), it is not worth their time.

This is not my observation, it is Tony's:

I was having a landing misfire with one of the purchased texts for the course. Basically, when you hit the BLS link it brought you to the assignment LIST instead of the actual assignment, so the connection to the BLS Grade Center was never made (hence all the red exclamation points in the screen shot). It turns out the book has a really long title and the Copy Full Title For LMS function truncates after a certain point. So the Perusall and BLS assignment titles didn’t match. P Support isn’t sure why that happened (they thought maybe it was my browser), but anyway the fix is easy. If this happens to you, you can just give the assignment an alternative (shorter) title and then use the Copy Full Title button (which copies the alternative title instead of the default title if there is one specified).

Thanks to Laura for finding this out: It seems that you cannot put the Perusall assignment links within a "Learning Module." Instead, you should put links to Perusall assignments in a "Content Folder" – otherwise, they will not open properly for the students.