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Using Top Hat For Student Engagement [Video]

A growing number of faculty in our college have adopted a product called Top Hat for use in the classroom.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Top Hat, the product allows students to use their cell phones as classroom clickers to answer questions and mark themselves as present for attendance purposes. Students pay for Top Hat, either by term or they can purchase annual or 4-year access if several of their courses require the technology. Expenses range from $26-$75.

Watch the video on this page to see Dr. Connie Heimann, ASU Professor of Biology, use Top Hat in her BIOL 1407 Principles of Biology I course. She also answers a few questions afterward for faculty interested in learning more.

You can also read this Q&A with Dr. Heimann as she discusses her personal experiences using Top Hat.

How long have you been using Top Hat?

CH: This is the third year we have used Top Hat for the introductory biology course. I believe anatomy and physiology used it for one year prior to that. However, I have been using student response systems (clickers) since 2004.

What prompted you to start using it?

CH: I started using clickers as a means of getting real-time responses from ALL the students in the course — even the ones who wouldn’t normally speak up. I also use it to prompt follow-up discussion on WHY they answered the way they did. It helps me better identify misconceptions. We started using Top Hat specifically because we were unhappy with the previous program that we were using. 

What are some pros and cons of Top Hat?

CH: Pros:

  • Top Hat allows students to use any wireless device (cell phone, tablet, laptop) to answer questions.
  • You can run your entire presentation from within TopHat and embed your questions into your slides or run your presentation and the TopHat questions separately. 
  • It is a convenient way to take attendance. 
  • The interface for faculty is relatively user friendly and Top Hat has a variety of question types available: multiple choice, word answers, numeric answers, matching, click on target (hot spot on an image) and sorting, which allows you to do sequencing as well. 
  • You can assign questions outside of class as homework and students can answer the questions by a deadline that you set. 

Cons: Right now the major con is that we don’t have a TopHat module for Blackboard. I am not sure one is available. So you have to manually move your Top Hat points from the Top Hat grade book to Blackboard.

How much extra time is required with course prep?

CH: The first time you set up your questions will take a good bit of time. I have probably put in at least a week’s worth of time formatting the slides for presentations (I choose to run mine separately) and matching them to Top Hat. Once you have them set up, you can easily copy your questions from one semester to the next. Making new questions on the fly is also easy.

Are you able to reuse those questions in other places in your course?

CH: Yes. I can make the questions I use in class available to students for review before a test or, as stated above, assign questions as homework.

Jayna Phinney
Jayna Phinney

Jayna Phinney is the Instructional Technology Specialist for the ASU College of Science and Engineering. Contact her at or 325-486-6264.


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