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Ensemble videos

This from Laura Wittern-Keller: Ensemble videos were not loading properly this semester, although they loaded fine last semester. Turns out that the files need to have the .mp4 extension on them. So, rename the file, adding the .mp4 extension, and they should load on Perusall.

When you type something in the "Instructions for students" box of your assignment, it will look like this:

O.K., I thought, but how do the students see that? The answer is that they see it twice. First, it is on the opening page.


That's fine, but remember that if you're linking to the assignment through Blackboard students won't see that opening page. They'll be taken directly to the assignment.

Second, it pops up in a window when they open the assignment:

Notice that the top is what I wrote. The bottom part, about the number of comments, was added by Perusall because I unchecked this box in the course scoring advanced settings:

So, if you uncheck this box, there is no need to separately type the number of comments required in the "instructions for students" box.

I had a student who submitted a bunch of comments late, but Perusall labeled them as "on time." In this case, I had a 24 hour window after the deadline which allowed for replies. Turns out that if a student creates a comment after the deadline AND THAT COMMENT IS A REPLY, the system calls it "on time." However, this is more or less irrelevant because I also have a 24 hour window for late submissions with diminishing scores. In the end, the student didn't much credit for her work, but she did accidentally find the loophole that would let her submit "late" material and get some (meager) credit for it. If I closed the late scoring window, then the loophole would close. I'm not going to do that midstream, but will keep it in mind for future semesters.


Text resizing

This from Tony:

I have discovered that the Perusall text resizing function is unreliable in the Firefox browser (which is my go-to browser, alas). It is more reliable in Google Chrome. It seems reliable in MS Edge as well. It does work most of the time in Firefox, just not always, which can be a problem with reflowable texts.


FYI, you can work with the bookstore so that students can buy their Perusall texts with financial aid money, if that applies to them. It's not simple, though. There's no place in the order form to indicate that you want Perusall vouchers, not print books or otherwise purchased e-books. You can indicate the ISBN, but that still doesn't indicate specifically that you want Perusall vouchers, not any old version of the e-book. I sent an e-mail to the bookstore instead, including the Perusall link that explains what the bookstore needs to do. (https://support.perusall.com/hc/en-us/categories/360002173173-Bookstores). We're still working on getting the order straight, but hope springs eternal.

When students log on to Perusall and click on "My Scores," they see a page that lists all the assignments, the submission deadline, and the total score for that assignment. It looks something like this (my screenshot doesn't have scores because it is my "test student"):


If they click on the numeric score, they'll see partial breakdown of their score that looks something like this (as long as you have UNCHECKED the box in advanced settings that says, "Hide grade feedback from students")


They can also download their scores in a spreadsheet.

Great video guidance from Kim. She just couldn’t demonstrate the next step, the transfer to Perusall, but copying the link to the video is the crucial step: after that, it’s just Ctrl-P to the appropriate field in Perusall. As you wrote, that means that Perusall really has changed something, and we’re no longer obliged to copy a link to a Dropbox directory in transferring a video to a course library in Perusall. I have a hunch that if you periodically clear your browser’s downloads directory you would then lose that video locally, but as long as you immediately transfer it from there to your Perusall course library that would not be a worry.

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.