How Top Hat Textbooks Helped Give HR Students Faster Access to Jobs
years teaching with custom Top Hat textbooks
increase in class sections since introducing Top Hat
Generic content hampered efforts to promote career-readiness
As an institution founded to offer career-focused programs, the University of Canada West (UCW) takes seriously the business of hands-on education. The MBA Human Resources program, providing two-year professional degrees, attracts learners looking to jumpstart their careers in HR. But Nisa Chand, Assistant Professor in UCW’s MBA program and Michele Vincenti, UCW’s Chair of the Leadership and People Management Department and a Professor in the MBA program, found they were encountering two issues.
First, the textbooks and course content on offer didn’t effectively provide concrete examples of how processes like contract negotiations happen in reality. More troublesome though was the fact that, prior to entering the workforce, students in the HR focus area would need to sit for both the Chartered Professionals in Human Resources (CPHR) test of British Columbia and the Yukon’s National Knowledge Exam (NKE) after graduating in order to find related employment. All in, that meant an additional year of qualifications through a third party after leaving UCW.
Chand and Vincenti, along with their colleagues, knew there had to be a better way. If they could incorporate the content on the NKE into the HR focus area itself, they could help their students gain their CPHR accreditation while completing their degrees—saving them the hassle (and cost) of writing the exam separately. The main issue? Their existing textbooks were too generic to cover the third-party course material. “The classic textbook should be part of a museum at this point,” Vincenti says. “With the textbooks we had, students weren’t reading anything.”
Keeping students invested in their learning with real-world examples
Vincenti, Chand, and their team investigated several different content providers before partnering with Top Hat to create custom textbooks in 2020. Top Hat’s ease of editing and customization allowed the UCW team to handpick chapters from nine titles and condense them into three textbooks for three separate courses that would form the core of the program. “Only the Top Hat textbooks provided us with the level of detail we needed to get accreditation from the CPHR,” says Chand. Ultimately, this meant students could start receiving their accreditation through the program without having to take the NKE after graduation.
The Top Hat textbooks also provided a case-study based approach, reflecting the critical, real-world context students needed to be successful. “Every chapter has cases from the Canadian context that students can relate to,” says Chand. Instead of the generic content that they used previously, students were now learning about topics like Labor Relations through the perspective of someone who worked in the field, which gave them greater insight on how these concepts are applied in the workplace.
The Top Hat textbooks also offered embedded questions to check students’ knowledge as they read, which accounted for a portion of the final grade. The relevant case studies combined with the interactive videos and questions meant that students were learning practical information and testing their knowledge as they go. “With the questions in each case, I can see what students have learned. Their knowledge has improved a lot,” Chand says.
Laying the foundation for high-quality jobs and student satisfaction
Today, HR students at UCW are able to earn their CPHR accreditation and two-year MBA in next to no time. The result? “We’ve seen a big impact—student satisfaction has gone up so much since we added the accreditation into the program,” Chand says. The engaging, focused nature of the content also means that students are more motivated to learn. “Students know that whatever is in Top Hat has been specifically chosen for the accreditation, and they really see the benefit of that in their careers,” Vincenti says.
This increase in satisfaction is clearly shown through the number of students applying to the program. “We’ve seen a huge jump in enrollment,” Chand says. “When we first got the accreditation, we had three sections, and now we’re up to nine.” Soaring enrollment numbers aren’t the only positive outcome. By providing the accreditation alongside interactive, practical content and a more engaging in-class experience, they’re setting students up for success. “It’s been great for getting students right into the industry,” Chand says. “Instead of struggling to make themselves marketable after their degrees, they’re going directly into good jobs and are able to pursue their passions.”
“Students know that whatever is in Top Hat has been specifically chosen for the accreditation, and they really see the benefit of that in their careers.”