Using Top Hat

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About this article

This article includes instructions for faculty on the use of Top Hat in their classes. It is intended for instructors.

Selecting the right device for using Top Hat

Top Hat supports several various hardware devices. Here is a list of the devices supported and which are recommended for each use.

  • Laptops support all functions of Top Hat through the web site at Faculty will find that course authoring is quick and easy on laptops. Students can also use their laptops for responding to Top Hat, but may find the tablet/smartphone applications easier to use.
  • Tablets and smartphones are great for student response. Faculty will find them the tablet a valuable tool for presentation. See #Presenting your Top Hat questions.
  • Not-so-smartphones can also be used to reply to many question types. Any phone that supports SMS text messaging can text responses in to Top Hat that are recorded as part of the class. The phone number to text to and a sample response are include on all questions.

Top Hat modules

Click to view Modules activation.
  • Attendance collects attendance data from the students and stores it in the Top Hat gradebook.
  • Demo shows interactive animations in the classroom, either custom or pre-built.
  • Discussions supports threaded conversations between students.
  • Feedback allows for a constant back channel in the course.
  • Files stores any files you might want your students to have access to, including Powerpoint files for presentations. Putting Powerpoints in the Files module also allows the professor to present slides directly through the Top Hat course.
  • Gradebook contains information on how questions were answered, the number of points each student has earned and the daily attendance.
  • Pages supports the authoring of digital materials and eBooks, which can include multimedia and Top Hat questions.
  • Question includes several types of audience polling and records responses.
  • Tournament pits students in head-to-head competition to answer questions about the class.

Activating Top Hat modules

Top Hat modules can be activated through the Settings dialog.

  1. Click on Settings under Course in the navigation on the left side of the window.
  2. Click the Modules tab. (See the example at right.)
  3. Check the checkboxes for all features you with to have active, clear the checkboxes for all features you do not wish to use.
  4. Click Save.

Creating questions and discussions in Top Hat

Creating questions


Questions can be created within the course or imported through Course Packs. (See #Sharing questions and Top Hat content between courses for more information on Course Packs.)

To create a question within Top Hat, click the Create button under Questions in the navigation. (See right.) You are presented with a list of question types. Select the question type you want to ask and, in turn, complete the content of the question by replying to the additional pop-up menus for your question type.

Question types

  • Multiple Choice
  • Word Answer
  • Numeric Answer
  • Sorting Problem
  • Matching Problem
  • Click on Target (Think Where's Waldo. The student clicks on the area in an image that represents the correct answer.)

Real-time polling vs. homework

Polling can control under manual conditions where the professor manually opens and closes the questions. Polling can also be done as homework where the questions are scheduled to open and close automatically based on the current date and time. For more information on scheduling homework questions, see #Presenting questions and discussions to the class below.

Organizing questions

To help organize the content of a Top Hat course, questions can be arranged in folders. A folder might hold all of the questions for Week 3 of the course or the chapter on artisan cheesemaking.

You can add a folder by clicking the icon that looks like a folder with a plus in it. (See the example above on the right.) Once the folder is created, drag and drop the desired questions into the folder.

Deleting questions

To delete a question from the course, click the checkbox in front of the question (or questions) and click the garbage can icon next to the Create button.

Creating discussion threads

Creating a discussion thread in Top Hat is essentially the same a s creating questions discussed above (See #Creating questions.) with these exceptions:

  • Instead of setting the discussion thread to Ask to collect student responses, set the thread to Discuss.
  • There is only one discussion type where there are five question types.
  • Students can vote for their favorite responses from their devices.

Presenting your Top Hat questions

Presenting slides in a Top Hat course can be done in two ways, either through the Top Hat interface itself or by using the Top Hat Presentation Tool and the application used to create the slides (Powerpoint, Keynote, Prezi, etc.).

Presenting through the Top Hat interface

Top Hat supports presentation of Powerpoint slides directly through the Top Hat interface. The advantages of using the Top Hat interface include:

  • As the professor advances slides, all students using the Top Hat application have their slides automatically advanced as well.
  • The professor can annotate the slides and the annotations appear on all student devices that are running the Top Hat application.
  • Students can annotate the slides as well, but student annotations are private to the student and are not shared with others.
  • If the professor's laptop is tethered to the projector, the professor has her tablet, and both are logged into the Top Hat course (the laptop through a browser and the tablet through the Top Hat application), the tablet can function as a wireless remote.

To upload your presentation into Top Hat:

  1. Activate the Files module if it is not already active. (You can learn more about the Top Hat modules and how to activate them at Using Top Hat).
  2. Under Files in the Course navigation on the right side of the window, click the Create button.
  3. Browse to your presentation slides and upload them into Top Hat.

At this point, you can activate the slides by clicking the Closed icon after the file name and set it to Display. You will see the first slide with a small toolbar at the top.

Presenting using the Top Hat Presentation Tool

If the professor chooses, presentations can be conducted through the slide-authoring tool as always and the Top Hat Presentation Tool can be employed to present questions, discussions, and other polling features. The Presentation Tool is a small window that runs in the corner of the screen that contains the Top Hat navigation bar. The slides are presented the way they have been traditionally presented and, when it is time to ask a question, the professor expands the Presentation Tool window and activates the question.

Presenting slides from Powerpoint, Keynote, Prezi or another clidd-authoring tool presents the following advantages:

  • The slides retain any videos, animations, and other multimedia. These are lost if the slides are brought into Top Hat.
  • All slide transitions and animations added as part of the slide-authoring process are retained. This is especially important if you are using Prezi.
  • The professor still has access to slide editing during the presentation.

Installation of the Presentation Tool is simple, click the Download Presentation Tool button in the Course section of the right-side navigation bar.

Gathering student responses

Presenting questions and discussions to the class

Click to view Question activation.

You will likely not want all of the questions for a course open all the time. Top Hat supports several different modes for each question, allowing you to control when students can see or respond to any question. Questions can be selectively opened and closed by clicking the icon to the right of the question title in the navigation and selecting the desired mode from the fly-out menu. Here are the Top Hat question modes:

  • Setting the question to Ask will cause the question to be displayed on all student devices that are currently logged into the Top Hat course. Students can answer the question by selecting the answer they think best on their tablet, laptop or phone.
  • Show Is exactly like Ask except that students are not given the opportunity to answer the question.
  • Homework questions are scheduled to automatically open in the future. When the question opens, the students are presented the question and can answer it. (For more information on how to schedule homework questions, see Schedule Items below.)
  • Review displays the questions and the correct answers for students to use as a study tool.
  • Setting the question to Closed tells Top Hat to not allow student access until the mode is changed to another state.

There is also a line of icons across the bottom of the fly-out menu. These icons (from left to right) represent:

  • Assign to Individuals lets the professor selectively assign a question to a student or group of students rather than the entire class.
  • Use Schedule Items to set the open and close times for questions that are being assigned as homework.
  • Show Answers opens a small window that displays the summation of the student answers to a previously open question. There is another way to display the answers described in #Viewing student responses below.
  • Preview Items shows the question as the student will see it. You cannot answer the question while it is in preview mode.
  • If the question needs changes, use Edit Item to make any updates.
  • Duplicate Item creates a copy of the current question.

Viewing student responses

Note: Switching from the question presentation to reviewing student responses during an active poll will stop the question timer and close the poll, stopping additional responses.

There are several ways student responses can be displayed by the professor:

  • When the question is being asked of the students, it is also displayed on the professor's device in a tab called Details. Behind the Details tab is another tab called Reports. Clicking the Reports tab will cause the student answers to be displayed.
  • Responses to closed questions can be easily viewed by clicking the Show Answers icon as described in #Presenting questions and discussions to the class above.
  • Checking response correctness in the Grades area.

Taking attendance

Begin taking attendance by activating the Attendance module in Settings. Once Attendance is activated, the module will appear in the left navigation column.

To take attendance in class:

  1. Click the Take Attendance button under the Attendance module. A dialog will appear with a four-digit code the students will use to be counted as present. This dialog is only shown to the instructor in the course, so it will need to be projected on the wall or the code read to the student body.
  2. The student devices will be asked to enter the code. Once the code is entered, they are marked as present in the gradebook.
  3. After whatever the instructor feels is appropriate time for attendance to be taken, click the Finish Attendance button and the window will close. At this point, no more students can enter the code and be counted as present.

A new attendance entry is made in the gradebook each time the attendance tool is used. so, for example, if you class meets 45 times in the semester and you take attendance every day with Top Hat, the gradebook should contain 45 sessions under attendance.

The Top Hat gradebook

Top Hat stores its own gradebook within the course. The gradebook is organized into three logical areas:

  • Course Content shows the results of all polling and interaction on a question basis. This is a good indicator of class understanding.
  • Students shows the results of all polling and interaction on a student basis. It is the percentage of these scores that is transferred to the D2L gradebook.
  • Attendance records the attendance for the duration of the course, one set of entries for each time the Attendance tool is opened.

If you click on Gradebook in Top Hat, you will be presented with a screen that asks you to verify that you want to enter the gradebook area. This is to ensure that the grades, which are private data, are not accidentally displayed on the projector in the classroom.

Sharing questions and Top Hat content between courses


Course Packs, located under the Course section of the last-side navigation, are a mechanism for sharing questions between course sections. As an example, a professor can create a course pack containing the questions from the fall section of a class and import them into a new section for the spring term. Top Hat also lists public course packs that can be imported by anyone. Public course packs cover many topics.

To import questions from a course pack:

  1. Select Course Packs from the navigation.
  2. Click the Load a course pack button.
  3. Locate the course pack you wish to use. You can scroll through the list, limit the list to a specific category before searching or just have Top Hat display the course packs you created.
  4. Select the content you wish to import.
  5. Click Import.

To export questions into a course pack:

  1. Select Course Packs from the navigation.
  2. Click the Create a new course pack button.
  3. Working your way through the Questions, Demos, Files, Discussion and Pages tabs, ensure that all of the content you wish to include in the course pack is selected. Click Next.
  4. Give your course pack a title, select the category in which you wish to store your course pack, give it a password (optional), and click Save.

The change the content of an existing course pack:

  1. Select Course Packs from the navigation.
  2. Click the Edit an existing course pack button.
  3. Locate the course pack you wish to use. You can scroll through the list, limit the list to a specific category before searching or just have Top Hat display the course packs you created.
  4. Unselect any items you wish to remove from the course pack.
  5. Use the Add Items button to add new content to the course pack. Select any content you wish to add and click Add. (It is assumed that any necessary changes have already been made to the questions being added to the course pack. Content cannot be edited from the course pack interface.)
  6. Make any changes to the title of the course pack, its category, or its password and click Save.

Videos from Top Hat Support

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