Higher ed professors will be able to live-stream lectures, present and edit slides, record lectures for later viewing, host live chats, poll and quiz students and take attendance, all from within Top Hat’s active learning platform

New online teaching capabilities purpose-built to address deep student dissatisfaction with poor, disjointed and disconnected remote learning experiences during COVID-19 pandemic

Using Top Hat, professors can easily teach the same course online and in-person, synchronously or asynchronously, enabling higher ed institutions to confidently plan for uncertainty of upcoming school year 

More than 3 million students are enrolled in courses using Top Hat at 750 of the top 1,000 higher ed institutions in North America 

TORONTO — April 29, 2020 — Top Hat, the leading active learning platform for higher education, today announced it is launching a free version of its platform with powerful new virtual classroom capabilities. A limited number of professors will be able to try the free platform in beta for the  Summer. It will be generally available for the Fall 2020 school semester. The new functionality will enable professors to stream their lectures live, present and edit slides, host live chats, administer polls and quizzes, take attendance, and record lectures to ensure all students have access to the material—all from within Top Hat’s active learning platform. 

Sixty-eight (68) percent of higher ed students feel the emergency online instruction they are now receiving is worse than the in-person instruction they received at their school. Top Hat’s new tools have been purpose-built to address deep dissatisfaction among students and professors arising from the disjointed and disconnected abrupt switch to remote teaching they’ve had to endure as a result of campus closures stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. Equipped with Top Hat, educators will now be able to teach the same course online and in-person, synchronously or asynchronously, allowing them to confidently plan for the uncertainty of the upcoming school year. 

Top Hat’s new virtual classroom capabilities are imbued with all the elements of Top Hat that educators depend on to deliver an engaging and effective learning experience to millions of higher ed students: adherence to active learning principles, deep engagement with students, and a holistic view of student progress and comprehension before, during and after class. Professors are further supported by Top Hat’s instructional design and support teams, dedicated to helping them build their perfect course. 

“The shift to remote teaching in the past couple months was abrupt and unplanned. As a result, students and educators had no choice but to accept the disconnected experience delivered by a mismatched set of poorly integrated tools,” said Mike Silagadze, founder and CEO, Top Hat. “Come Fall, they’ll be expecting professors and institutions to get it right, especially if classes will be taught online. Students in a remote setting want to feel truly connected to their professors. They want to feel engaged and supported. With today’s announcement, Top Hat will empower educators to motivate their students, deliver valuable and engaging learning, and drive student success, regardless of whether the upcoming school year is taught online, in person, or some combination of the two.” 

Survey Data Shows Students Deeply Unsatisfied with Current Remote Teaching Experience

Due to the abrupt transition to remote teaching, the majority of presidents at higher ed institutions found it difficult to ensure course continuity and a high level of academic quality. In fact, 81 percent felt it was challenging to maintain student engagement and 52 percent said it was hard to ensure technology tools and resources were ready and available. 

And students noticed: one out of four (25 percent) college students say their opinion of their current school has gotten worse as a result of COVID-19.

With more than a quarter of students questioning a return to their current college or university in the Fall due to uncertainty around how their school plans to reopen, institutions must move quickly to ensure they are ready to provide valuable and engaging learning experiences that drive student success in any teaching scenario. The stakes are high—85 percent of college and university presidents are concerned about COVID-19’s potential, immediate impact on accelerating rates of student attrition, and 89 percent are worried about the potential long-term impact on overall financial stability. 

Top Hat Now Offers Two Plans with Powerful Virtual Classroom Capabilities

To complete the Winter school semester, professors were forced to quickly piece together multiple solutions to deliver their classes online. The result was a highly disjointed experience that required professors to navigate and force-fit various technologies that were not designed to work together to deliver their courses online.  

 Top Hat is making available two plans that provide powerful virtual classroom capabilities custom built to ensure seamless, engaging and effective online learning experiences, while overcoming the challenges and limitations faced by typical learning management systems. 

Top Hat Basic is a new free version of Top Hat’s all-in-one active learning platform. It offers powerful tools for professors to host synchronous online classes where students feel connected to their learning. Educators have access to everything they need to avoid the pitfalls of a traditional sage-on-the-stage model of lecturing, and instead, bring their virtual classrooms to life in an actively engaged setting. Using Top Hat Basic, educators are able to leverage:

  • Real-time in-class engagement tools for taking attendance, live chatting, hosting discussions, and polling and quizzing students with interactive questions
  • Remote lecturing functionality for live-streaming lectures and presenting slides

Just as importantly, Top Hat Basic offers asynchronous functionality to ensure maximum flexibility and accommodation to support students whose circumstances may not allow them to participate in class in real time:

  • Presentation recordings come alive with functionality that provides a live-replay experience after class, enabling students to participate in in-class discussions and answer quiz questions on their own, as well as experience the live chats as they happened during the presentation 

Tying it all together is Top Hat’s analytics engine, which offers:

  • Top Hat’s Weekly Course Report, providing insights at a glance by recapping students’ performance and identifying those in need of intervention

Top Hat Pro comprises all the tools in Top Hat Basic and integrates them with the Top Hat platform that educators already know and love. It is a complete solution that offers tools for in-person as well as synchronous and asynchronous online learning. Top Hat Pro is the complete toolkit that ensures educators are ready for any scenario, can seamlessly transition between in-person and online teaching, and are able to create active engagement and connections with students inside and outside virtual class meetings.

In addition to all of the synchronous and asynchronous online teaching capabilities included in Top Hat Basic, Top Hat Pro offers: 

  • Active engagement with content, through readings and assignments that are embedded with interactive elements such as animations, 3D models, study guides, and quizzes 
  • Assignment creation and grading, enabling professors to assign content, auto-grade homework, send qualitative feedback, collect and grade student documents, and manage and export grades to learning management systems
  • Content customizability, through easy-to-use editing tools that let professors adjust content to fit their curriculum
  • Detailed actionable insights, gathered through features across the platform that enable professors to identify top performers, struggling students, and difficult topics, with easy-to-implement directions to reach out and intervene early
  • Secure testing in-person classes using Top Hat’s secure browser compatible with any student device, leveraging assessments with  auto-grading capabilities and offering seamless syncing  with the Top Hat gradebook, which is exportable to LMS

Top Hat Pro users can further customize their courses on Top Hat with additional content and functionality to maximize student engagement and subject mastery.

  • Interactive digital Top Hat textbooks are flexible, affordable and high quality. They support active learning through embedded features like videos, rollover definitions, comprehensive chapter summaries and expansive study guides. Easy-to-use editing tools let professors adjust content to fit their curriculum. And the average Top Hat interactive digital textbook costs $35, compared to typical print textbooks which often cost students hundreds of dollars.
  • Secure online tests and exams are possible by adding Top Hat’s remote proctoring functionality, which ensures the security, integrity and rigor of test and final exams students can take on their own devices, at a pre-set time, and from any location.

Top Hat’s Support Team is Providing Dedicated Assistance to Help Educators Get Ready for the Fall

Top Hat offers resources and a team of instructional designers to help customers transition to online teaching. A limited number of professors will be able to try the free solution in beta for the Summer, and the full suite will be generally available in time for the Fall.

What Top Hat Professors Say

“This announcement couldn’t have come at a better time as educators are trying to leverage technology to continue to offer their best possible courses under challenging circumstances. The ability to integrate synchronous video sessions, chat functionality, and presentation recording/delivery with the already robust attendance and assessment platform is a huge leap toward what’s desperately needed: an all-in-one digital resource that’s effective and flexible enough to handle the diversity of potential applications.”

  • Demian Hommel, Ph.D., Senior Instructor of Geography, Oregon State University

“I am going all in with Top Hat. It is clear to me that the ability to pivot quickly is essential for the next school term and the foreseeable future. On top of that, we already know that Gen Z and beyond want us to keep things active in the classroom. Top Hat makes it easy and allows faculty like me to respond quickly to personal life issues and societal-level impacts. I will be adopting Top Hat for all my classes from this point forward. It is a difference maker.”

  • Eric Davis, Associate Professor of Sociology, Bellevue College

“There are a lot of professors out there who are used to the ‘sage on the stage’ model of teaching and are hesitant to try new approaches. The challenge with that is modern students don’t want that kind of passive learning experience—they want to feel engaged in their education and they thrive with active learning. I have been using Top Hat for years to supplement my in-person teaching in a way that better serves and drives improved outcomes for modern students. If something good comes out of this situation, my hope is that more academics embrace technology to provide their students with engaging and effective learning experiences.”

  • Daniel Alati, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Sociology, MacEwan University 

“Top Hat enables me to streamline my students’ online experience by storing all recorded lectures, discussions and homework assignments on the platform. With all class materials in one place, I’m able to connect the dots between homework completion and content comprehension, using data-driven insights to identify the content areas with which students are struggling. I can then tailor my online class time to follow up on these areas and answer student questions. I now feel like I’m able to meet my students where they are and shape the direction of the class in response to their specific needs. It’s the closest I come to feeling like I’m actually with them.”

  • Nicole McNichols, Ph.D., Lecturer in Psychology, University of Washington


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