Top Hat author Dr. Ricardo Nogueira, a senior lecturer in Geosciences, has been honored by Georgia State University (GSU) with a prestigious instructional innovation award. He was chosen over 11 other candidates at the university for embracing new technologies in the classroom, including video and an interactive textbook, which he authored and developed with Top Hat.

Dr. Nogueira teaches the introductory Weather and Climate course, which has the largest enrollment for any lab-science class for non-science majors at GSU. “My classes are huge, 200 to 350 students, and they generated so much paperwork,” says Nogueira. “Between attendance, papers and exams, I was overloaded. It could take up to 10 days to deliver exam results to my students, and that was unacceptable to them.” He first started using Top Hat to take attendance, and then to pose in-class questions to his students during the lecture to gauge whether the material was resonating.

“The issue of engagement is really complicated,” says Nogueira. “There are so many distractions students bring into the classroom, right there on the devices they’re also using for learning. So I soon learned to never just talk, talk, talk. I always break up the lecture with questions and videos. The students love videos.” When Nogueira is lecturing about atmosphere, for example, he’ll play Felix Baumgartner’s 2012 Red Bull–sponsored space jump to demonstrate the basic principles he’s just discussed.

But it’s the new digital textbook that Nogueira recently authored on the Top Hat platform where he sees exciting potential for new levels of engagement. After attending Top Hat’s Engage conference in Chicago, where higher education innovators gather to share teaching strategies, he was inspired to create new course material that would leverage the interactive features he knew his students responded to. “It was going to be a challenge, especially because English is not my first language, but I thought, why not take a chance? And the Top Hat staff was helpful and supportive.”

He is currently piloting an exclusively online course using his Top Hat textbook and video lectures. “Learning how to use the software and the cameras is difficult,” says Nogueira, “but it’s worth the struggle to develop an exciting new way of teaching.” He is also teaching a similar sized, in-person class covering the same material, and is eager to compare grades at the end of the summer semester. Nogueira, a grandfather of five, and a former weather anchor and TV producer in his native Brazil, knows that the key to reaching his students is to be nimble, and adapt his methods to meet them where they’ll thrive.