My story

I’m a professor of US history who teaches at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, a large public university in the Midwestern United States. I teach large survey courses of US history to incoming freshmen.

What was my challenge?

My biggest challenge has been getting the students to purchase the book.

My second biggest challenge has been to get them to use the book.

Students often do not buy books because they don’t know if they will be used by the instructor, and graded.

How did I solve it?

After 25 years of teaching, for the first time I know which students have the book—and the students know that they are being graded through the homework in their Top Hat chapters. It really is a nice solution to this problem that I’ve wrestled with for more than two decades.

Since I started using the Top Hat textbook I’ve had nearly 100% textbook adoption. Nearly every student purchases the text. I can give them feedback so they know that they are working on the text and I’m interacting with them and grading them. The Top Hat platform enables me to then go beyond the US history text offered by Top Hat and create my own primary source reader for US history surveys, which is entitled Opposing Viewpoints in US History.

I spent a year getting to know the US history Top Hat text. It worked so well with my face-to-face class that I adopted it for my online class. It’s really quite well-suited for online courses, because students are buying into a online interactive experience, and Top Hat, of course, reflects that kind of approach to learning.

What was the impact on students?

I was concerned there might be resistance because there’s no print version of the text. I only encountered one student who found that to be a problem, and they decided not to take the course. But that’s out of hundreds of students who have signed up for these courses. So, the classroom resistance that I anticipated being there from those who prefer print volumes, print text, really did not materialize, so that hasn’t been a problem.

I’ve informally asked them what they thought about the text. The affordability was a big plus for the students. US history textbooks can easily cost $100 or more, and the Top Hat textbook is half that price. And it works well with my online courses because I can import the grades from Top Hat into my learning management software system very easily. Students, of course, are very grade-conscious, and they’re aware of what their grades are online. The quicker I can get the grades entered or imported from Top Hat to my LMS, the quicker the students have their feedback.

I adapted the US History II textbook from Top Hat by removing some questions, adding some of my own, but for the most part I use the textbook as is. As for my own text, the next edition will include new topics, like a unit on the controversy over the Vietnam War. I’m also talking with another author about an early US history version of Opposing Viewpoints in American History.

Top Hat helped me to first meet my challenges in the classroom, and to go ahead and author my own textbook, particularly with online courses in mind.