The fall semester is approaching and the pressure is increasing to be ready to teach effectively through flexible course design that is adaptable to a variety of delivery modes. Just as important is ensuring students are actively engaged in learning, so that they will see the value of investing their time and effort in their courses.

Addressing these challenges—and re-imagining just how much better online learning can be—is at the heart of the Top Hat Pro offering. In a webinar on August 6, we heard from three educators on their experiences staying connected and how they offered flexible learning opportunities in live and self-paced online and hybrid courses, and how they plan to use Top Hat Pro this fall.

Making math meaningful

Donna Smith, Instructor of Mathematics at Sierra College, used Top Hat to create a connected, engaging learning experience for students learning asynchronously. Leveraging Top Hat’s streamlined platform with features to customize course content, Smith uses more than 14 different question types to assess student learning as the course progresses. This fall, she plans to embed interactive questions between lecture videos, so students have the opportunity to practice course concepts right after learning them. “I love that we have that flexibility with the anonymous question,” Smith says. “In my class, 30 percent of my students are first-generation college students. And so for them to be able to ask a question without feeling judged or embarrassed is great.”

Maintaining connections with students

When COVID-19 hit and campuses closed their doors, Irene Foster, Associate Professor of Economics at George Washington University, was concerned about how she would maintain connections with her large classes when teaching online. Foster used Top Hat’s question and polling feature to divide her lecture time into chunks to provide her with insights into student progress, long before midterms and finals arrive. This fall, she will also use Slate’s live chat function to monitor student questions and comments during her synchronous lectures. Slate is Top Hat’s community tool, purpose-built for higher education. Slate gives students and faculty a single destination to chat with one another, engage in video discussions, create groups for projects and collaboration, and share important resources. “That means polling, team-based projects, and interacting with each other,” Foster said. “Students enjoy talking to each other and creating a community in the classroom.”

Designing innovative labs

John Redden, Associate Professor of Physiology and Neurobiology at the University of Connecticut, is a long-time Top Hat user and has leveraged the platform to offer a consistent and equitable hybrid learning experience. “To me, that means giving students as much control over their own schedules as I possibly can,” Redden said. “It means trying to diversify the way that I teach and the ways that I assess student learning.” Redden noted that it’s important for students to work together in online learning environments. This fall, he plans to create breakout groups using group channels for students in Slate, so they can complete activities that can be done fully online. “We’re fortunate that many anatomy labs can be taught online because there are such great multimedia resources embedded right in our Top Hat textbook.”

Top Hat Pro empowers educators, with new capabilities for interactive virtual class meetings, independent student learning and secure remote testing—all in one platform. These features are purpose-built for active learning, by enabling educators to create and deliver courses that drive real human connection and engagement. Click here to watch the webinar and learn more about Top Hat Pro, and how educators are using it to their advantage.

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