Educator Story

This Professor Created a Textbook That Keeps Up with the Speed of Social Change


Of the class ranked Top Hat as the best digital course resource they have used


Of students felt their course understanding was improved due to Top Hat’s interactivity


Of students agreed that using Top Hat encouraged them to participate more

The Challenge

Traditional textbooks did a poor job engaging students in critical material in Jamie Pomeranz’s ethics class

To make his course effective and encourage students to participate in awkward discussions, Pomeranz had to overcome two primary obstacles.

First, he needed to create a complementary learning experience out of class with course materials that could evolve at the speed of the news cycle. “All the topics that we discuss are pretty dynamic. Depending on the leadership in our country at any given time, laws change, perspectives change…it’s a constantly changing environment. So to have a traditionally written text in that area is almost impossible.”

Secondly, he needed to find a way to get students to participate in difficult debates and class discussions that would help increase their critical understanding of complex, evolving issues in the public health sphere.

“We utilize Top Hat for everything. It’s the location of our homework, attendance and class activities.”

University of Florida Student Taken from on-campus interviews by Top Hat

The Solution

Pomeranz created a customized course pack using Top Hat Textbook to keep his materials up-to-date

“I’d been sending students to all these different modalities to try to help them learn the materials, but there wasn’t any type of consistent location.” With Top Hat Textbook, everything his class needed was in one place and could be updated in realtime.

To center his course around informed debate, Pomeranz applied a blended learning approach using Top Hat. Students would research one side of an issue outside of class and have to come prepared to present a side of it to their peers.

To facilitate a robust discussion in class, Pomeranz started using Top Hat Classroom as a forum for students to anonymously ask questions and contribute opinions about thorny issues. He also started using the polling feature to evaluate his student’s learning progress.

“I would do polling in the beginning, and I would do polling at the end of class. And I would see a drastic change from their personal views on all these issues.”

Jamie Pomeranz
Jamie Pomeranz Associate Professor, Ethics and Legal Issues in Public Health,
University of Florida
Jamie Pomeranz teaching students at University of Florida
Jamie Pomeranz teaching students at the University of Florida

The Results

83% of Pomeranz’s students agreed that using Top Hat encouraged them to participate more

The ability to ask and answer questions anonymously resonated with students. The way the course material was delivered—via Top Hat Textbook—provided students with a single location in which they could find all of the course materials they needed to succeed. That prompted 63 per cent of the class to state that Top Hat was better than any other digital course resources they’d used.

The medium also afforded Pomeranz with the ability to update his course materials in real-time: If legislation changed midsemester, he could simply update it. If students found an interesting new viewpoint to share, he could add it in. The interactive aspect of the textbook helped both Pomeranz and his students learn.

“It allows me to know if they’re actually reading through and understanding the materials,” says Pomeranz. Asked whether they felt that the interactive questions, videos and/or other media in their Top Hat text helped them better understand course concepts, 67 percent of Pomeranz’s agreed that they did.

“Top Hat helps me get closer to the students,” says Pomeranz. “I truly believe that if they’re using Top Hat, they’re learning how to engage and interact. And it’s building their confidence. And I think they’ll be able to do that more effectively in the real world.”

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