Top Hat: A Win for Affordability and Participation

Imagine prepping for a new semester. You pay your tuition bill, you spend several hundred dollars on books and then, the icing on the cake, you are told you also have to purchase a clicker. A small plastic device that allows you to respond to questions in class. Maybe you'll use it in another class, maybe you won't. Thankfully, throwing away money on such limited technology is becoming a thing of the past.

Thanks to Top Hat, Ohio State's new student response system, faculty can tap into the devices students already bring to class. Utilizing a BYOD (bring your own device) strategy saves students money, aligning with President Drake’s push for an affordable education.

“I love that it’s so effective and efficient for students,” said Jasmine Roberts, Strategic Communication Lecturer, “so in other words, it’s affordable for them.”

Top Hat goes beyond saving students money, though. It offers unique opportunities for the faculty who adopt it. Top Hat lets professors quickly take attendance so they can jump into the lecture, rather than wasting time to pass around a sign-in sheet. It also provides the opportunity for professors to gauge students’ understanding of the material, allowing instructors to tailor the speed of their lecture in real-time. Top Hat also integrates with learning management systems like Carmen so professors can sync grades from in-class activities.

Aimee Ulstad, Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Integrated Systems Engineering, appreciates that Top Hat encourages class participation: “It holds the individual students accountable for making their own answers and allowing them to see if they don’t know material,” said Ulstad. “I like the fact that everyone can participate.”

Jonathan Baker, Associate Professor in the Department of Statistics, uses Top Hat to gather data sets he can use and discuss in class. Baker said “I like the unpredictability of my students’ answers, and the students like the fact that it’s real-world data and it’s relevant. It makes the teaching process more enjoyable and it makes the students eager to learn and come to class.”

There were 150 active users during Autumn Semester 2015, and David Hooker, an Innovation Lead for Learning Technologies is hopeful that this number will increase. Hooker said “I would love to see lots more faculty using it, especially in large lecture halls.” He also shared that Top Hat works well in small classes, especially when student privacy is a concern because professors can gauge student understanding without requiring a show of hands.

Top Hat really is a tool for professors in all disciplines, regardless of class size. Watch the accompanying video to see how professors are using Top Hat in their classrooms.