Top Hat will transition to enterprise solution

Instructors who use Top Hat, or those looking to try the learning app in Canvas, will have greater incentive beginning with summer session. The university has a new enterprise agreement with the app's creator, eliminating the need for student subscriptions.

"Students will no longer need to purchase a Top Hat subscription as part of their course materials," said Gretchen Anderson, Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) instructional technology specialist. "As we moved through the pandemic and saw the shift in learning technology -- synchronously and asynchronously -- Top Hat expanded its services to meet those needs."

About 21,000 students and more than 300 instructors are using Top Hat this semester. Faculty are encouraged to see how some of the new features can enhance their courses without having to consider the financial barrier to students, Anderson said. Currently, students must purchase a semester ($21) license for Top Hat, which can be used in all their courses.

"We're always looking for ways to reduce student expenses on technology solutions, and this was an opportunity to do that and lower the total spend," said chief technology officer Michael Lohrbach. "We often get questions from students about better standardizing tools for student engagement and interaction and we were able to accomplish it."

Lohrbach said information technology services tries to offer more technology options to campus. For example, Qualtrics -- a survey software -- also went from an individual to enterprise solution on campus several years ago.

Top Hat staff continue to be responsive to faculty needs since ISU began using it in 2016, Anderson said. In addition to increasing the classroom tools, instructors can partner with Top Hat to create textbooks for their courses available to students through immediate access, and incorporate existing question banks for a variety of assessments, including in STEM courses.

How does Top Hat work?

Top Hat is a collaboration tool between instructors and students and works both in the classroom and online. It offers live polling, discussion topics and quizzes, and instructors can assign group work to be submitted online. Collecting information in real time allows faculty to see how students understand lessons and students to provide feedback. It also helps instructors discuss sensitive material in a more comfortable way for students.

"Instructors can create and assign dynamic content ahead of class so the student comes prepared and ready to engage," Anderson said.

Need help?

As instructors consider Top Hat for their courses, CELT will offer several events for them to interact with Top Hat representatives and ISU faculty who use it, starting with a series of workshops and discussions on April 5-6. Webinars will follow throughout the summer.

CELT instructional technology specialist Misty Zimmerman said the workshops will have content for first-time users all the way to experienced faculty. The workshops will also focus on possible Top Hat uses in graduate courses and increasing engagement in courses with high D, F and withdrawal rates.

Faculty and graduate students interested in learning more can attend the ISU Online Learning Community event Friday, March 10. It will preview topics to be covered in April. Instructors can get help with instructional design and technical questions directly from Top Hat's support center. Faculty with questions about integrating Top Hat into their courses can email