ID Showcase – Engaging STEM Students with Perusall – CLUSTER M71 and SOC GEN M144

Engaging STEM Students with Perusall – CLUSTER M71 and SOC GEN M144

In this course showcase session, the instructor will compare two different Biology and Society courses that have integrated Perusall as one of the engagement solutions for a large general education course and an upper division elective in the Human Biology and Society major.

The presentation will include the following aspects:

  • How Perusall has been selected and integrated
  • Benefits for collaborative learning and critical thinking 
  • The challenges of using Perusall in interdisciplinary science courses

Presenter Bio: 

Prof. Michelle Rensel is an adjunct assistant professor in the Institute for Society and Genetics (ISG) and the coordinator of the freshman Biotechnology and Society GE Cluster course. Prior to joining the Institute, she completed a PhD and postdoctoral work in behavioral endocrinology. As full-time teaching faculty in ISG, she teaches a broad range of upper and lower division courses that bridge the life and social sciences, and regularly implements new instructional strategies to improve learning, belonging, and retention in the life sciences.

Presented: Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Selected Q&A from the Showcase

What is the average enrollment in the cluster?Cap enrollment is 240 (usually reached); 6 TAs all year; sometimes a little dropoff in enrollment in winter but little from winter to spring.
If copying a course to a different quarter, will the Persuall set up be copied over too, such as the assignments list, instruction, etc.?Yes – you can select what you want to copy! (You could just copy over the library, or you could copy individual readings, or you can copy the whole thing).
How much do you/other faculty in the cluster annotate in Perusall, or comment on annotations?Prof. Rensel usually does not intervene. Sometimes students tag her and ask a question, and then she responds. But usually not! If she intervened, it would be in a smaller course to guide discussion. Students also benefit from feeling like Perusall is “their thing”.

There haven’t been issues so far with students saying anything horrible – they spend time talking about codes of conduct.

It seems that you have to manually build individual assignments in Perusall, is that correct?Yes and no. Once you add your resource you can create your annotation assignment for that resource. Please note that you can use your Perusall course scoring settings for all your assignments – you do not have to set your scoring settings for each individual assignment.
Do students see other people’s annotations before they post their first comment? Did you have any issues with repeated points or syntax?Students have noted plagiarism by other students. Students can choose to turn off seeing other annotations but they need to make that choice.

Oftentimes there are double annotations (could be from wifi issues or glitches) – there is a setting to automatically flag duplicates.

Is the grading that happens in Perusall automatic?Yes – you can set (and later change) the scoring settings and the annotations are auto-graded. You can set a formula in the grading scheme so students have multiple ways to reach full credit. You can also adjust students’ scores before releasing them to the gradebook.
How is “Reading to the end” determined?The reading metric gives credit based on how many pages the student has viewed. If the student only viewed half the number of pages, they would receive 50% of the score.

If students are commenting on a video or podcast, students will receive full credit upon opening the assignment as there are no pages in a video or podcast assignment.

Does an instructor need to create the scoring columns? Is there a limitation of how many columns/criterion? Or is that fixed?The columns in the scoring criteria show up as fixed options – you set the percentages of what things are worth.
What is roughly the distribution of scores you might expect?The goal is that everyone gets 100% – they do the reading and they do their annotations! Occasionally some get flagged as plagiarism – re: Michelle, Perusall doesn’t do much to detect that but students themselves have detected it! It’s not the norm but it is a possibility.

There is continued discussion in the class about best practices for using Perusall, so students are aware of how to use it.

Is there a way to filter by section so TAs can read over before their section?You can set up groups by section – but it was manual! There is a way to manually import now. You can import Canvas/Bruin Learn groups to Perusall.

If students move groups, their initial comment threads move to the new group and disappear from the old one.

When students are working on an assignment, do they have the same view as you are showing here? The texts are all covered by annotations.No, they do not have the same view; they can see each other’s within their groups.

There is an option to see what comments display. “My Comments” is the menu item that includes the flexible view of how they can view the comments.

Did students engage more with reading using Perusall compared to how they did reading before the tool?Students felt positive about using the tool and provide meaningful annotations.
How do you connect what the students post with your lectures and interaction with the students?With a smaller course you can use their annotations as inspiration for discussions. Other folks using it in seminars use it to have “questions in back pocket” when discussion stalls!

It is harder to make the connection in a big lecture course with lecture materials.

Do you know if it would be possible for students to upload materials that would become part of the assignment?In the “Library” section there is a “Student upload folder” so that students can share files directly. You may still need to put these materials into an assignment.

This Google Doc contains the comments, questions and answers collected during the showcase.

Cake and Coffee with OTL

March 8 10:00 am 12:00 pm

We are hosting a meet-up for past participants of OTL’s Designing Your Online Course workshops. Faculty can drop by the tables in front of the Young Research Library (YRL) and join us for coffee, tea, platters of bagels, pastries and mixed fruits.

Instructional Design Showcase – Prof. Wiley

November 17, 2022 @ 10:00 am 11:00 am

N171 – Public Health Nursing is designed and taught by Prof. Dorothy Wiley.

This showcase demonstrates how Prof. Wiley uses several features and tools in Bruin Learn and digital portfolios in support of the competency-based curriculum design in this hybrid Nursing course. Prof. Wiley uses Modules in Bruin Learn to support course content organization, which helps students easily recognize their learning path. The emerging technology of Learning Glass adopted by Prof. Wiley produces high-quality instructional videos and lectures to encourage student engagement with learning materials. Prof. Wiley also experiments with the approach of learning pods and the digital portfolio to allow students collaboratively document and contribute to where they can apply what they learned from the class to the local community.

What to Expect in this Showcase
N171 has experimented with several educational technologies and applied different pedagogical strategies to increase student engagement. In this presentation, the instructor will share their experiences with the following aspects:

  • Using Modules in Bruin Learn to organize content for this hybrid course
  • Using Learning Glass to pre-record lectures
  • Creating and redesigning several learning activities to support competency-based learning
  • Using different educational technologies to help students build their learning portfolio and encourage collaboration across projects

Faculty Bio:
Dorothy Wiley, a professor with the UCLA School of Nursing, has clinical expertise in community and public health prevention strategies, including the sexually transmitted diseases HIV and HPV. She led UCLA’s randomized clinical trial study site that contributed to the first HPV vaccine approved for use in the U.S. Her areas of scholarly expertise and interest include sexuality, sexually-transmitted diseases, including HIV and HPV infection; cancer screening, cancer prevention, vaccine efficacy, molecular biomarkers for acute and chronic infections and infection clearance.

This is an online event
Register to receive the Zoom link and calendar invitation

Instructional Design Showcase – Prof. Wong

November 3, 2022 @ 10:00 am 11:00 am

MATH 32A is designed and taught by Prof. Richard Wong.

This showcase demonstrates how Prof. Wong uses Bruin Learn and other educational technology tools to establish an interactive and collaborative teaching and learning environment for a math course. Prof. Wong organizes the learning objectives of this math course using Modules in Bruin Learn, which allows students easily track their learning progress. Prof. Wong adopted Gradescope and Campuswire to support student collaboration and provide instant and constructive feedback on assessments.

What to Expect in this Showcase
In MATH 32A, the instructor has used Bruin Learn’s native features as well as integrations to encourage students’ participation and collaboration. The presentation will share the experience of:

  • Using Modules to organize course learning objectives
  • Using Gradescope integration to grade and return quizzes and exams
  • Using Campuswire to create an environment where students are encouraged to ask questions and work collaboratively.

Faculty Bio:
Richard Wong is an Assistant Adjunct Professor at UCLA in the department of Mathematics. He has taught both large (210-student) and small (25-student) courses on multivariable calculus. In his courses, he uses inquiry-based and active learning techniques to make his classroom a welcoming environment where students are encouraged to actively engage with the course material.

This is an online event
Please register to receive the Zoom link and calendar invitation

Instructional Design Showcase

Instructional Design Showcase

The Online Teaching and Learning instructional designers work with faculty, librarians, software companies, and others to showcase interesting courses and uses of instructional technologies. Through these showcases, we:

  • Celebrate the faculty’s teaching and design efforts in their courses,
  • Share examples of innovative course design to enhance teaching and learning,
  • Address pedagogical approaches and strategies in various courses and disciplines, and
  • Highlight features of the Bruin Learn platform and other technologies. 

OTL often collaborates closely with the Bruin Learn Center of Excellence and other campus partners to bring these showcases to the UCLA community.

Using Slack to Build an Equitable and Diverse Learning Community in Education

This showcase demonstrates how the instructor uses Slack in undergraduate courses to engage and welcome students, streamline communication, and conduct formative assessments. Several possible pedagogical uses of Slack will be shared and discussed, including: community building; shared course FAQs; TA communication; making students’ thinking accessible to their peers; “Slack Hands” (a strategy for more inclusive participation); and collaborative study guide for quizzes. More…

Scandinavian Studies 60 – Introduction to Nordic Cinema

This showcase demonstrates how the instructor transforms students’ in-person learning experience to asynchronous online. By adopting different learning strategies and approaches, the instructor introduces blogging, podcasting, and peer review to students to encourage their participation and fosters an active learning environment. The informal discussions that increased in the podcasting activities allow students to engage deeply with the content and also interact more with their peers. Several features of Bruin Learn, such as modules, discussion, pages, have also been used and designed to welcome students in this asynchronous Nordic Cinema class. More…

SCAND 60 course screenshot
CLUSTER M71A course screenshot

Engaging STEM Students with Perusall – Cluster M71 and Soc Gen M144

This showcase demonstrates how the instructor selected and integrated Perusall as one of the engagement solutions in two different Biology and Society courses. The two courses are different in many ways, one is a large general education course, and the other is an upper division elective in the Human Biology and Society major, but both are benefited from using Perusal to encourage collaborative learning and enhance students’ critical thinking. More…

Islamic Studies M20 – Introduction to Islam

This showcase demonstrates how the instructor and TAs have applied different design approaches to build the Introduction to Islam course in Bruin Learn and adopted a few educational technology tools to bring an immersive learning environment to students. More…

Islamic Studies M20 course sceeenshot

Hypothesis – A Social Annotation Tool

This showcase demonstrates the set-up, ideas, and pedagogical strategies of using Hypothesis, a social annotation tool, for different subjects and modalities. UCLA Professor of Urban Planning, Adam Millard-Ball will informally discuss how he implements Hypothesis for social reading assignments in his courses. More…

Public Health Nursing Bruin Learn page

Nursing 171 – Public Health Nursing

This showcase demonstrates how Prof. Wiley uses several features and tools in Bruin Learn and digital portfolios in support of the competency-based curriculum design in N171 – Public Health Nursing. More…

Mathematics 32A – Calculus of Several Variables

This showcase demonstrates how Prof. Richard Wong uses Bruin Learn and other educational technology tools to establish an interactive and collaborative teaching and learning environment for MATH 32A – Calculus of Several Variables. More…

Math 32A Bruin Learn page

Geography 5 – People and Earth’s Ecosystems

This showcase demonstrates how Prof. Kyle Cavanaugh uses UCLA’s Bruin Learn course template and CidiLab’s Design Tools to redesign his Geography 5 course, including organizing the syllabus and module pages. More…

iClicker & iClicker Cloud – Students’ Response System and Polling Tool

The iClicker & iClicker Cloud showcase provided a quick product overview and examples of how instructors use iClicker before, during, and after class. More …

Ally – The Accessibility Tool

The Ally service in Bruin Learn checks for accessibility issues and generates alternative formats, guides instructors on how to improve their course content, and provides institutional-wide reporting on content accessibility. More …

Leganto – Course Reading List

The UCLA Library uses the Leganto platform to help faculty manage Course Reading List in Bruin Learn. Course reading lists allow UCLA instructors to incorporate up-to-date links to Library resources and easily compile other freely available online resources into their courses. More …


German 1 – Elementary German

This showcase demonstrates how Prof. Magdalena Tarnawska Senel successfully applied Universal Design for Learning principles in the course design and created several student “Action & Expression” activities in Bruin Learn. More …

Digital Humanities 101 – Introduction to Digital Humanities

Prof. Ashley Sanders covers a variety of digital tools and approaches to organize, explore, understand, present, and tell stories with data in her DH101 course. More …


Digital Humanities 150 – Pirates of the Mediterranean through Text Analysis

Prof. Ashley Sanders uses text analysis to study the fascinating history of Pirates of the Mediterranean in DH150. She also uses Leganto, the Library’s Course Reading List tool. More …

Liberating Structure: Scaffolding Digital Project Integration with Bruin Learn

Presenters shared the experience of course development and re-design that includes curated content collections, methods of inquiry, and digital project work, using an innovative curriculum template in Bruin Learn. More …


Sociology 1 – Introductory Sociology

Prof. Jessica Collet integrated various course design solutions in Sociology 1 to provide students with different types of interactions with course materials, lectures, and chances to communicate with peers. More …

Statistics 100A – Introduction to Probability

Prof. Juana Sanchez implemented various pedagogical strategies to increase communication opportunities and engage students in her Statistics 100A course. More …


Instructional Design Showcase – Prof. Liu Zeleny

June 2, 2022 @ 10:00 am 11:30 pm

This showcase is an interactive presentation that includes 45 minutes of demonstration and 45 minutes of discussion. 

The demonstration shares the experience of course development and re-design that includes curated content collections, methods of inquiry, and digital project work, using an innovative curriculum template in Bruin Learn.

Working with collaborators and partners in the UCLA Library, LMS Transformation Academic Team, and other campus units, the presenters will describe and illustrate examples from different courses that have been created over the past year. The collaborative, interactive portion with Zeleny, Chris Gilman (Digital Curriculum Program Coordinator, UCLA Library), and Greg Steinke, Instructional Designer, LMS Transformation) will discuss ideas and plans for upcoming courses with showcase participants.

Sharing the 3-Unit Course Template in Bruin Learn

Working with digital media in the classroom

Different pedagogical approaches for student learning and engagement

Using Bruin Learn creatively for teaching innovation (with examples) 

Integrated support for course design, implementation, and assessment

Making the most of UCLA’s resources and expertise

Presenters Bio

Chien-Ling Liu Zeleny, Ph.D. Chien-Ling is a historian of medicine. Her research has focused on cross-cultural medical encounters between Western Europe and East Asia in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as part of the larger scholarship of world history in connection with contemporary issues in global health. She teaches at the Department of History and Institute for Society and Genetics at UCLA.

Christopher Gilman, Ph.D. Digital Curriculum Program Coordinator, Digital Library Program, UCLA Library. Chris has over two decades of experience developing innovative and rigorous programs for teaching and learning with media and digital scholarly tools.

Greg Steinke, M.Ed. Instructional Designer, LMS Transformation. Greg has over 15 years of supporting faculty through instructional design, media project support, and academic technology.

Engaging Students in Asynchronous Classes

engagementHow do I know they are there? –How do they know I’m here?

In this interactive workshop, instructional designer Kim DeBacco will review and recommend strategies for maintaining contact and presence with students in online classes when everyone can’t be together synchronously – either physically, or in live Zoom sessions. The benefits of implementing presence strategies include student persistence, enhanced student achievement and satisfaction, and the creation of a lively, online intellectual community, leaving no student excluded or isolated.

This is being offered in conjunction with the Center for the Advancement of Teaching’s Fall Teaching Forum.


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