Top Hat is an interactive, cloud-based teaching and learning platform that offers a number of benefits for Iowa State University instructors and students. For instructors, Top Hat opens up new technology-based pedagogical methods for classroom use. For students, it eliminates the need for clickers – the remote control-style response devices – and offers the flexibility of participation through computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
Classroom response technology allows instructors to pose interactive questions to their classes and tally responses, and has been in use at ISU since 2006.
Top Hat was adopted at the beginning of Fall 2016 after a comprehensive test phase. It is supported by ISU IT and CELT (Iowa State’s Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching) as well as the vendor.
Sections of this web site:
Top Hat works as a cloud-based audience response platform that turns students’ web-enabled devices (such as smart phones, tablets, laptops, etc.) into virtual clickers in order to send instant responses to interactive questions. It allows for synchronous and asynchronous modes of participation, as well as image-based questions.
Top Hat features six question types, including:
- Multiple choice
- Word answer
- Numeric answer
- Sorting problems
- Matching problems
- Click on target
Top Hat also offers a comprehensive way for tracking student engagement and participation and other pedagogical opportunities to enrich learning, such as creating discussion threads, sharing, presenting and annotating instructional materials.
How are instructors at ISU using Top Hat? Visit this CELT page to learn more.
Instructors: All ISU instructors can use Top Hat for free. As an instructor, if you decide to use Top Hat in your course, you will need to inform the ISU Book Store so the Top Hat license can be added to your required course materials list.
Students: Top Hat licenses will be available for purchase online and at the ISU Book Store. By ordering through the ISU Book Store, students can use their Student Financial Aid account (U-Bill) to purchase the license.
Students have three options when purchasing a Top Hat license:
- Five-year license: $50.00
- One-year license: $25.00
- One-semester license $17.00
Aside from this initial license purchase, there is no cost to use Top Hat. The license covers all courses that use Top Hat for the duration of the license period.
A Top Hat license purchased through the ISU Book Store needs to be converted into a Top Hat subscription code before the code can be applied on the Top Hat website. To redeem your ISU Book Store code for a Top Hat subscription code go to www.isubookstore.com/redeem. For help in completing this process, please visit this Top Hat support article.
Working with the University BookStore
You must inform the University Book Store of using Top Hat in your course, whether you ask your students to pay for a subscription or enroll them in a free Top Hat environment. Section 22.214.171.124 of the Faculty Handbook states that the bookstores ought to be provided with a list of any and all required and/or recommended course materials per the federal Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008. This will allow you to be transparent as to what your students should expect prior to enrolling in your course.
If your instructor chooses to use Top Hat in his or her class, the ISU Book Store will add a Top Hat license to your required course materials list. Before you can enroll in the Top Hat section of a course and access course material, you will need to purchase a Top Hat license. For information on purchasing a license please refer to the Top Hat Cost & License section.
Creating your account
You can create your account at any time, but you will not be able to enroll in the Top Hat section of courses or access course materials in the Top Hat system until you have purchased a Top Hat license. Note: You must sign up with your ISU email in order to receive ISU’s discounted pricing.
To create an account:
- Go to the Top Hat website
- Select Sign-up
- Select Student and follow the on-screen instructions
For help creating an account visit Student: Account Creation on the Top Hat Student Orientation page.
Accessing your account
You can access your Top Hat account (answer questions, view grades, etc.) using most computer web browsers and through the Top Hat app for your Android or iOS device. For other devices, such as Windows Phone, use the built-in browser. There is no limit on the number of devices you can use to access Top Hat. Once you have purchased a license and set up a Top Hat account, you can sign into your account from as many devices as you wish. If you have purchased a license, you do have the option to answer questions via text message, but some phone plans may charge for sending text messages, and some question types do not accept answers via text message.
If you do not have a computer or smart-device to use, please visit the equipment checkout services on campus to see about borrowing a laptop or device.
Much of the information contained in this section is also available in this Getting Started guide (PDF).
Creating your account and courses
Top Hat is free for instructors and you can create your account at any time. After you create an account you can setup courses and invite students to join.
To create an account:
- Go to the Top Hat website
- Select Sign-up
- Select the Professor option and follow the on-screen instructions
Note: If you previously had an instructor Top Hat account, please upgrade it to the new Top Hat by clicking the New Top Hat button in the upper right hand corner in your Top Hat course.
For help creating an account and setting up courses visit Professor: Creating Your Account and Courses on the Top Hat Professor Orientation page.
Synchronizing Top Hat with Blackboard
You can share your student information from your Blackboard course with your Top Hat course by synchronizing the courses in the two systems. Once students are enrolled in your Blackboard course shell, you are ready to synchronize your Blackboard course with your course in Top Hat.
To synchronize a course:
- Open a web browser and sign in to your Blackboard account
- In a different tab or window in the same browser, go to www.tophat.com, sign in to your Top Hat account, and go to your Course Space
- Go to your Gradebook at the top of the page
- Select the LMS Sync button in the upper right-hand corner and wait (this may take a few seconds)
- Enter your ISU Net-ID and password when asked to fill in your Blackboard credentials
- When presented with a list of Blackboard courses that you are enrolled as an instructor, select the appropriate course and synchronize.
Note: Steps 1 and 2 are only needed for the first course you sync. To sync additional courses, start with step 3.
To synchronize Top Hat grades with your Blackboard course:
After you have synced your Top Hat course space with your Blackboard course you can easily transfer student grade data from Top Hat to Blackboard. Syncing is not done automatically, to regularly transfer Top Hat scores into your Blackboard course, go to the Top Hat Gradebook for your course and select the LMS Sync button in the upper right hand corner. If you use custom formulas to compute Top Hat scores you will need to make some changes before you are able to import scores into Blackboard.
To import Top Hat scores computed using custom formulas:
- Export Top Hat scores using the Advanced Export option under Gradebook =>Select Items to Export.
- In the downloaded spreadsheet, get rid of everything but the Email Address and Grade columns.
- Next to the Email Address column create a new column titled Username. For the purpose of this exercise, let’s imagine that the Email Address column begins with the cell C2.
- Enter the formula for the Username column "=LEFT(C2,FIND("@",C2)-1)". This will populate the Username column with student ISU Net-IDs, essential for uploading the spreadsheet to your Blackboard course. You can now get rid of the Email Address column and leave the Username column in the spreadsheet. OR you can do the following: change the Email Address column title to Username, select the column and use the Find and Replace function to replace @iastate.edu with an empty space. This will populate the Username column with student ISU Net-IDs.
- Change the title of the Grade column to whatever it needs to be in Bb, save the file as .txt and import to the Grade Center in your Blackboard course.
For help syncing your Top Hat course with your Blackboard course and transfering student grade data visit Professor: Advanced Blackboard Integration on the Top Hat Professor page.
Inviting students to join your course
After you have synchronized your Top Hat course with Blackboard you can invite students. To invite students to your Top Hat course, select the Students tab in your Top Hat course and invite your students to join your space. After a student is invited they will receive an e-mail with an invitation to join your Top Hat space. Students can also join your course manually by entering the 6-digit join code for your course. For help inviting students to join your course visit Professor: Adding and Managing Students on the Top Hat Professor Orientation page.
Using Top Hat features
The instructions for some of Top Hat’s common features are listed below. For information on additional features available in Top Hat please visit the Top Hat Professor Orientation page. Note: Please be sure to ONLY use the support materials which refer to New Top Hat.
Quiz questions or content pages you create in Top Hat are by default free for your students to access. However, if you opt to author content in Top Hat including slides, question packs, articles, course packs and more AND expect to be compensated by Top Hat as part of the Top Hat Content Marketplace effort, please consult Section 126.96.36.199 of the Faculty Handbook to understand how the royalties should be allocated. When in doubt, please contact the University Bookstore representatives Heather Dean and John Wierson.
Accessing your account
To create content and administer questions, you must use a laptop or computer equipped with a web browser. However, you can also administer questions using the Top Hat app on a mobile device. For further information, visit Top Hat’s support pages for iOS and Android.
Informing your students about Top Hat
The Top Hat technology is considered a required course material and you must submit this as an adoption request to the ISU Book Store, just as you would with any other course materials or textbooks. After you notify the ISU Book Store, Top Hat will appear under the required course materials for the students registered in the course.
Here is suggested information about Top Hat to be placed in your syllabus:
“We will be using the Top Hat (www.tophat.com) classroom response system in class. You will be able to submit answers to in-class questions using smartphones, tablets, laptops, or through text messaging. You can visit the Top Hat Overview (support.tophat.com/hc/en-us/articles/200019034-Top-Hat-Overview-Getting-Started) within the Top Hat Success Center which outlines how you can register for a Top Hat account, as well as provides a brief overview to get you up and running with the system. An email invitation to join your Top Hat space will be sent to you by your instructor, but if you don’t receive it, you can still create your student account at tophat.com. You will be required to purchase a Top Hat license from the ISU Book Store or online in order to access any quizzes or questions your instructor creates in the Top Hat system. Should you require assistance with Top Hat at any time please contact the IT Solution Center at 515-294-4000 or firstname.lastname@example.org."
Tips for implementing Top Hat in the classroom
- We recommend that you reserve some time at the beginning of your course to introduce students to Top Hat: where to sign in, how to ensure they have purchased licenses, and locating your specific course in their course list (after you have sent them your course invitation from Top Hat).
- Make sure to prominently display your course’s 6-digit join code.
- It is also a good idea to set up a few non-graded questions and check that all students can submit responses, so that students have time to seek support for any problems before you move on to graded questions.
- We suggest making your attendance taking policies clear to students from the beginning, then making sure your students have been introduced to Top Hat and had time to solve any potential technology or license issues before you start using Top Hat to take attendance.
- Ask students to connect to the local ISU Wi-Fi network instead of relying on their cell phone data plans.
- Ask students to sign in to their Top Hat accounts before the class session begins.
- For those faculty who are hesitant to allow students to use mobile devices in the classroom we suggest you approach the use of Top Hat like you might that of the previous system. When you put up questions for students to respond to, simply instruct students to take out their devices to answer the questions and then to put them away when they are done.
Troubleshooting Students’ Top Hat connection problems
If your students are having trouble accessing Top Hat, please review the following steps with them or have them contact the IT Solution Center.
- If your students are unable to log in to their Top Hat account or if they receive a message stating their Top Hat license is “expired”, have them contact the IT Solution Center or the ISU Book Store.
- If your students are having issues connecting to the wireless network in the classroom have them try the following steps:
- Ensure you are on the ISU wireless network and NOT using your cellular data plan (LTE / 4G). Put your phone into airplane mode and then switch the airplane mode off a moment later – this will restart your wireless.
- Make sure you have registered your mobile device to access the ISU wireless network. Open a web browser on your device and go to www.google.com. If you have not connected to ISU's wireless network from your device before, you must click the red NetReg link that appears instead of the Google page and register your device.
- Change wireless access points. For instance, if you are connected to IASTATE try switching to ISU-CARDINAL.
- Try restarting your device.
- Lastly, you may text in your response (beware of potential text charges from your cell phone provider) or engage the off-line function on the bottom of your Top Hat app - it will save your response and re-send it with a time stamp the next time your device finds a connection. If you text in your response, make sure to first go to Settings à My Account and associate your phone number with your Top Hat account so the Top Hat system knows to credit you with the responses coming in from your phone number.
Some instructional materials created in Top Hat may not be accessible. For information on accessibility, please visit Top Hat's website. Tips on improving the accessibility of Top Hat's instructional materials are available on the Utilizing Top Hat with Accessibility page. For questions or concerns, please contact Iowa State’s Digital Access unit at email@example.com.
Please contact the IT Solution Center for any questions you have regarding Top Hat. To contact the Solution Center:
- Complete this online form for Top Hat questions (login required)
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Call (515) 294-4000
- Visit 192 Parks Library
You can also contact the IT Solution Center to initiate Top Hat’s service for transitioning legacy clicker content to Top Hat.
Iowa State’s Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) has instructional design specialists that can answer pedagogical and logistical questions, demonstrate the basics, and provide relevant resources. Initiate your question through the IT Solution Center at the contact information referenced above.
Updated May 25, 2017
Our intention is to keep this section updated with new questions and answers as we get them.
Will there be any ongoing assessment of Top Hat?
Yes. CELT and ISU IT continue to monitor the performance of the Top Hat product on campus as well as the support performance of the vendor. We regularly discuss faculty and student needs with the vendor to advocate for the improvement of functionality and development of new features to strengthen teaching and learning at ISU.
Must students use a separate account or does it work with their ISU Net-ID and password?
Students need to create a separate account and password for Top Hat, though they should use their ISU email addresses to receive ISU’s discounted pricing. Faculty should also create a separate account and password. Faculty accounts are free. We expect the sign in procedure will change at some point in the future - perhaps allowing for use of ISU Net-IDs and passwords – and will communicate any changes directly to users at that time.
What if I need to be both a student AND a teacher in Top Hat? Can I use the same account?
If you are in this situation, like some teaching assistants are, you should maintain separate accounts for each purpose, linked to different email accounts. Use your ISU email account for your student account, to get the student pricing, and an external account for your teaching duties. If you need an additional ISU email account for this purpose, a so-called ‘exception account’, please contact the IT Solution Center.