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Michael Ash

University of Massachusetts Amherst

Students complete readings and reflect on them. Classroom lectures and discussions can now take off with the presumption that most students have already completed the reading, and students do not expect the class to begin (and often end) with the instructor summarizing the readings.
Michael Ash, Professor of Economics and Public Policy, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Why did you choose to use Perusall?

I've been discouraged by the difficulty of getting students to complete and engage with readings. Many students have come to expect to lecture to deliver the entire content of the course. Critical engagement with carefully chosen and well-written texts is a critical component of higher education. Perusall facilitates that engagement.

What are your favorite features of Perusall?

Perusall facilitates comment, discussion, and debate directly associated with the text under discussion (highlights in the text linked directly to conversation in the margin).

What are you seeing as a result of using Perusall?

Getting students to engage texts has been a great challenge at the undergraduate and graduate level. A tendency to rely too much on lecture and many digital distractions have made it hard to assume that students will read assigned texts in advance. Perusall is a valuable intervention. Students complete readings and reflect on them. Class lecture and discussion can now take off with the presumption that most students have completed the reading already and are not expecting the class to begin (and often end) with a summary of the readings.

How has using Perusall changed your course?

I think of a class as an interaction among students, the instructor, and the texts (think three points of a triangle). Many classes tend to become instructor-focused, which lets students off the hook while giving the instructor a (possibly false) sense of efficacy. Perusall has helped me shift the focus towards the student-text axis, which makes for a great education and lets me intervene with guidance and questions rather than become the focus with lecture.

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