Top Hat, one of the teaching tools available at NC State, continues to enjoy enhancements as the company responds to faculty feedback and achieves product development goals. This article summarizes my favorite features and improvements made in the past few years. For more background on Top Hat, check out this article about the campus license and this more recent piece that explores faculty experiences using Top Hat to engage students during class and better assess learning.
10 New and Improved Features
#10. More Question Types. Top Hat now offers eight question types, including a long-answer format added in October 2019. There are four additional question types in Beta, including a video assignment question perfect for those start-of-semester intros.
#9: Improved Handling of Slide Content. In the past, formatting and embedded media did not always translate well when slides were uploaded to Top Hat. Significant improvements have been made and URLs now work along with embedded video files and animated GIFs. Slides also upload faster and image resolution has been drastically improved. (Tip: Using standard fonts on your PowerPoint slides will help maintain the formatting.
#8: Ability to Edit Slides. Rejoice! You can now open and edit slides without having to leave Top Hat. This is made possible by a new integration with Microsoft Office Online. You may need to request for this to be enabled in your courses, and once it is, the days of having to re-upload slides after making small edits are over.
#7: Tournaments. This feature allows students to compete head-to-head on multiple-choice questions with points earned for correctness and speed. While not a graded activity, Tournaments provide a fun way to review content and can help students prepare for tests/exams. Instructors also get a detailed report to see how students performed on questions, allowing them to target any problem areas with a review or additional work.
#6: Responses-Only View for Pages. Top Hat added a new tab for Top Hat pages (called “RESPONSES”) which shows only student answers to questions (and discussions) within the page. This is especially helpful to instructors using content-rich interactive textbooks. By using the RESPONSES tab, you can see, at-a-glance, how the class performed on each item. Any feature that means less clicking and page scrolling gets a thumbs up from me!
#5: Progress Indicators. Throughout Top Hat, there are now more progress indicators for both faculty and students. For example, faculty see a progress bar when uploading slides and can also view a detailed status report when proctoring a test. Students see progress indicators when completing homework and while taking tests. I appreciate how Top Hat is working to expose more information to users to help them better understand what’s happening as they interact with the tool.
#4: Weekly Course Report. Course reports showcase the performance of your questions (and students) for the past week. The report helps you pinpoint problem areas to review concepts. You can also choose to proactively reach out to individual students who are struggling. While the report is delivered to your NC State email account, you can opt-out. But I suggest you at least scan your reports, as they can contain useful diagnostic data.
#3: A Better Marketplace. The Top Hat Marketplace has seen many improvements over the past several years, from an improved UI to additional ways to provide authors with editorial feedback. More content has been added to the Marketplace, including Spring 2020 editions of all major title textbooks. The Marketplace is a huge warehouse of excellent (and mostly free) content and if you want to learn more, I’d be happy to give you a personalized tour.
#2: New Gradebook. In April 2019, Top Hat released a new gradebook to the delight of many instructors! The new gradebook has a grid/spreadsheet layout and it’s visually cleaner and easier to navigate, especially for large enrollment courses. There are many other perks of the new gradebook, so be sure to check it out.
#1: Top Hat Test. In the past, instructors who wanted to use the Top Hat Test feature had to pay an extra fee. No more! Our campus license now includes Top Hat Test and faculty are taking advantage of the secure-testing capabilities. Annette Moore, Teaching Associate Professor in CNR, explained to me that the “lock out feature gave me peace of mind that students were not accessing external information to assist them in answering their questions.” Take DELTA’s workshop on advanced Top Hat features to learn more.