What is TopHat?
TopHat is an online presentation and student engagement application that allows instructors to take attendance, poll students to gauge understanding, and spark discussions. TopHat’s functionality is similar to “clickers” but utilizes students’ laptops and mobile devices, avoiding the need to purchase an additional device. TopHat is integrated with Blackboard so any participation grades saved in TopHat can be automatically transferred to the Blackboard Grade Center.
The presentation tool is a desktop application that you can use to control the Top Hat system while simultaneously operating presentation software such as PowerPoint, Keynote or any other application. The presentation tool has all of the same features as the web interface, and is meant to “float” on top of your presentation software so that no switching back-and-forth is required. The presentation tool also enables you to ask question on the fly quickly without having to have created them on the web interface of the course in advance.
The question module includes several questions types that you can use to assess student understanding and engage students, these include: Multiple Choice, Word Answer (1-2 word answers), Numeric Answer, Sorting, Matching, and Click On Target.
The attendance module allows you to quickly take attendance in class and identify which students are present or absent. Every time an attendance item is started, a 4-digit ID is automatically generated. This code is only visible on your screen, meaning that students who are not in class will not have access to the code. Students who are submitting via text messaging can simply send the 4-digit ID to a TopHat number while students on a computer or mobile device can enter the code in the area on their screen that is asking them for the code. As an instructor, you can control how long you wish to give students to answer the Attendance roll call. For these reasons, only students in-class can respond to the Attendance roll call.
You can then review the gradebook to determine how many students attended each lecture and export the information to an Excel file.
Discussions are a useful tool that are best used when students need to submit more than one or two word responses. Discussions can allow for students to respond to one another and vote on which responses they like best. Discussions can also be a useful tool for answering student questions.
The Files module allows you to upload files on Top Hat for students to download at their convenience.
Tournaments are a fun and interactive feature that allow students to compete head-to-head. Students will be matched into pairs and each pair will be presented with a question that neither student has previously seen. The first student to answer the question correctly within the allowed time and number of attempts will be considered the winner of that round. Points are then appropriately assigned for getting the question right or wrong, and if the student won or lost.
Good Reasons to use Top Hat
- To create a more interactive and engaging environment for students during lectures.
- To encourage students to attend lectures.
- To improve students’ content retention after lectures.
- To facilitate better communication between students and the instructor during lectures.
- To allow collaboration on lecture content development with other instructors.
Bad Reasons to use Top Hat
- As a replacement for major tests, quizzes, midterm exams, etc.
- Fundamentally, Top Hat is not a testing tool. It is intended to be a tool for active learning in the classroom.
- To reduce time required to administer courses.