Using Top Hat for Student Engagement

Do your students struggle to stay engaged during class? Do you want to encourage more participation, engagement and active learning, even in large courses? Top Hat is a teaching tool that can enable you to engage students with compelling content and activities, whether online or in person.

What is Top Hat?

DELTA Workshops on Top Hat

Reach the Back Row with Top Hat

Energize Student Engagement with Top Hat

Some ways to use Top Hat questions

Check comprehension

Provide opportunities for students to assess their own learning, and also determine if you need to offer more explanation or time on areas they are struggling with, or if they are ready to move on. You can also use these checks to activate prior knowledge or provide accountability for class preparation expectations.  

Check well-being

What is your students’ current level of stress? How are they feeling at this point in the semester? Are they anxious or feeling unprepared for an upcoming test? Are they behind on a project? Are they excited about an upcoming event? A check-in with your students demonstrates that you care about your students as learners and as people. Once you are aware of where they are, it’s important to follow up appropriately. Can you give them more time on an assignment? Offer a review session? Share in their joy and excitement? Point them to campus resources?

Invite the student voice

Ask: What do you want to learn about this year? What are you curious about? What do you think about this topic? What is your opinion? This sort of question shows that you value your students’ experiences and opinions and recognize that they bring unique perspectives to your class. Consider using Word Answer questions here especially  – students’ responses can be viewed as a Word Cloud or graphs which helps students visualize their answers as a group.

Break the ice

Low-stakes questions can help students get comfortable using Top Hat and can build your classroom community.

Top Hat Recommended Practices

Preparing to use Top Hat

  • Create a new Top Hat session each semester and use detailed course names to help students distinguish courses.
  • Decide how you want to count Top Hat into your grade calculations. Offering chances for earning points for engaging in Top Hat questions encourages students’ participation.
  • Include Top Hat information in your Syllabus. Top Hat provides suggested language for your syllabus, including information on how to get started, where to get help, and the link to access your course.
  • Practice using Top Hat and do a dry run before the class.  This will help you feel more comfortable and familiar with the tool.  

Designing your Top Hat questions and activities

  • Begin with low-stakes Top Hat activities, and incrementally increase the use of Top Hat during the class to get students acclimated.
  • Use a variety of question formats.  More variety will keep students engaged and allow you to assess different types of knowledge and student opinions.
  • Consider using the assign option to make your questions or discussions available before the class. Doing so gives students who need it have extra time to come up with insightful responses and feel confident sharing their thoughts.
  • During lecture, plan to break up your content delivery with an activity, poll, or question every 10 minutes or so, to keep students engaged and check their comprehension. 
  • Be responsive to answers and provide meaningful feedback. This agile teaching enables students to reflect and be involved in their learning. In addition, it also boosts engagement and motivation.