Given the challenges many students have experienced navigating and accessing remote learning environments, providing the proper support is vital to set students up for success. Top Hat’s cloud-based tools combine attendance tracking with interactive course content that increases in-class engagement through real-time feedback.  

The goal of Penn State IT’s enterprise-wide service agreement with Top Hat in September 2020 is to provide instructors with the tools to design courses that will engage students within and outside the classroom. Since its release in late fall 2020, the Top Hat vendor has been actively supporting instructors with personalized demonstrations and webinar training sessions.  

Top Hat is available for instructors to learn how to incorporate features into their spring 2021 courses. Penn State IT Learning Development is offering two upcoming Top Hat training sessions for instructors on Building Engagement Opportunities into Your Course. Register now for one of these sessions: 

  • Thursday, December 17, 2020, 10:15 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. EST 
  • Tuesday, January 12, 2021, 10:45 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. EST 

Top Hat offers instructors opportunities to create more effective, interactive courses with features such as polls, live discussions, tailored assignments, and learning insights that motivate every student, from the front to the back row or via Zoom, to participate and have a voice. 

With core Top Hat features available at no cost to students, and without the purchase of a standalone clicker device, students can participate in Top Hat activities with their smartphones. Students can also login to access Top Hat via the web for added convenience.  

Top Hat’s informative learning insights track students’ progress to identify areas that may require further course review or revisit content as necessary. Students can also monitor their own participation through the Top Hat activities to gauge their progress in mastering the course material.   

No matter the class size, Top Hat’s integration with Canvas allows instructors to seamlessly synchronize rosters and grades with the Canvas gradebook, enabling the accurate recording of graded participation and attendance in large, remote courses. This type of real-time feedback from students allows instructors to assess the level of engagement in a course, particularly in remote classrooms.  

“Top Hat allows instructors to upload PowerPoint presentations and embed discussion prompts within the slides that engage students without having multiple applications open or switching between windows,” said Amanda Jones, Instructional designer at Penn State IT Learning Development. 

Active learning pedagogies that emphasize discussion and collaboration can make the virtual classroom a more inviting place, and live discussions with peers allow students to build connections with one another to create learning environments that extend beyond the traditional classroom. 

“Instructors currently using Top Hat have used the polling feature to spark class discussions, create homework and reading assignments, and used questions to check for understanding during lectures to help students master the course material,” said Jones.  

Instructors interested in prepping to use Top Hat in  the spring can start by completing this form to request a personalized demonstration with a Top Hat education technology specialist or register to attend one of the training sessions provided by Penn State ITLD.  Additional vendor supported resources and guides are also available for instructors and students.  

For more information, visit tophat.psu.edu.    

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