Submitted by Katrina Markowicz
For my online teaching skill, I decided to create a Top Hat account and learn how to incorporate the teaching tool into future courses that I may teach. I became aware of Top Hat while I was completing a teaching observation. Overall, Top Hat is a really neat tool which essentially would allow a professor to completely place their entire course on the Top Hat site. For example, you can take attendance, upload your lecture slides, choose an associated online textbook, upload and create exams, and create assignments. If a professor only uses Top Hat for free textbooks and course materials (i.e., Top Hat Textbook), as well as the “Top Hat Assignment” feature, students pay nothing. However, there is a fee for students if a professor were to adopt more features. For example, if the professor were to also use Top Hat Classroom, Top Hat Test, and premium textbooks/materials, the fee for students would be no more than $26 for one semester. Professors always sign up for free.
Top Hat Classroom (not free to students): When students interact with Top Hat Classroom, they can use their computers or mobile devices (i.e., mobile app or text) depending on the feature being implemented. For example, one feature that stood out to me was using Top Hat as a lecturing tool. You can easily drag and drop pre-made PowerPoint slides and use the Top Hat website to give the lecture. A benefit to this is that, if you allow it, you can allow students to follow along to the lecture on their computers. You can also annotate slides to circle key words or draw arrows pointing to specific figures. The downside is that when I uploaded some demo slides, my slides came out a little blurry. The classroom feature also allows you to take attendance for your class.
Top Hat Classroom – questions (not free to students): Another feature I enjoyed was being able to create “test-of-knowledge” questions that you can score for participation, correctness, or neither. Examples of question formats include word choice, fill-in-the-blank, multiple choice, matching, sorting, and click on the target (i.e., “click which part of the picture defines this word”). These questions can be implemented in the middle of your lecture (i.e., “real-time feedback”) or assigned to the student to complete as homework. When you complete these questions during lecture, it allows you to show the students the correct answer after answering, provide feedback after answering, and set a time limit. One feature I thought was neat was while in presentation mode, is that you can set a count-down for “last minute submissions” to close submission. After students answer the question, you can show the frequency or percent of responses across answers (e.g., for multiple-choice type questions), and then show the correct answer. Some types of questions (i.e., multiple-choice) allows the student to answer on their computer, mobile app, or text, but others require the use of their computer or mobile app. The mobile app should be supported by most phones and across iPhone and Android, but if a student has an older phone, no phone, or a different type of phone, these features could be problematic.
Top Hat Assignment (free to students): You can also assign these questions for homework. Similar to presenting these in lecture, you can set it so they can see the correct answer, provide feedback, and a time limit. As homework, you set a start and due date. These questions can be assigned to the whole class or some of the class. When you assign the question for homework, it send the students a notification to complete it.
Top Hat Textbook (Sometimes free to students): The textbook feature allows professors to choose a text book and other course materials that their students can access. These can be found in the marketplace. There were 12 “premium textbooks” and 12 “free textbooks” under “Psychology,” which is pretty limiting. There are also course notes, slide decks, and question packs available. I could not explore this content further because my account needed to be verified as “professor.”
Top Hat Test (Not free to students): The type of test questions you can implement are similar to the questions you can assign for homework or administer in lecture. A professor types in correct answers to score, and these are scored automatically. There is not a feature to test the student’s knowledge on classroom material through short (1-paragrah) and long essay questions. Though, if a professor is able to change points for specific questions, using the “word answer” question, the student could type in a longer paragraph. That is, the professor could set the correct answer to “SCORE ME” and then change the score based on correctness. Though, as a student, it is possible that they may not be able to see their answer as a whole written out as the words disappear as one types. Overall, I feel like unless this feature allows you to change certain points, it is also difficult to assign partial credit. A benefit of this is that the test feature tracks a student’s use of their computer so if they were to “look up answers” the professor would see that they left the test screen to view online content. Though, the interpretation of what the report presents is limited and could potentially make a professor have to report more students for cheating than during a pen-and-paper test.
For more information, I highly encourage anyone to visit: https://tophat.com. You can also request a demo or create your own account!