Most students are openly questioning the ROI of a higher ed degree, with less than one in five (19 percent) students reporting that the learning experience during the COVID-19 pandemic has been worth the cost of tuition

The pandemic also highlighted the difficulty of providing equitable access to education, with one in three students experiencing challenges accessing the technology and resources required to support learning

To decrease barriers in higher education, VCU partnered with Top Hat to provide free access to Top Hat’s teaching platform and save students up to $1.2 million per year

Educators who use Top Hat’s platform to design and deliver their courses can easily engage and motivate students at scale in any teaching environment — whether in person, blended, or online — with live discussion and polling tools, interactive readings and homework assignments, and real-time insights for just-in-time intervention

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 — August 4, 2021 — Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and Top Hat, the leading teaching platform for higher education, today announced they have partnered to drive down the cost of higher education for students while supporting educators to easily deliver courses that are engaging and motivating in in-person and online environments. More than 29,000 students at VCU will now have free access to Top Hat’s teaching platform, comprising interactive and customizable content, engagement tools, assessment activities, and actionable insights designed to make the learning experience more impactful for students. Through this partnership, VCU students are expected to save up to $1.2 million per year. Educators will receive dedicated training and assistance from Top Hat’s support team to ensure they can leverage the platform’s features to engage and motivate students, create interactive educational content, and utilize real-time student performance insights to provide just-in-time support.

Top Hat has been an exclusive partner at VCU since 2018 when the institution sought a solution to improve student engagement while also streamlining the number of tools supported at the institution. After three years of success and faculty support, VCU engaged Top Hat in a partnership just in time for the Fall 2021 academic year to positively impact student affordability by removing the cost for students to access the platform. 

“One of the most urgent issues that have come to the forefront has been the financial challenges many students have experienced with accessing the resources and support they require to be successful,” said Colleen Bishop, Director of Academic Technologies, Virginia Commonwealth University. “This partnership is the result of a concerted focus to improve student affordability and decrease barriers in higher education while giving students access to active learning tools and interactive content.”

Looking back at over a year of pandemic learning, most students openly questioned the ROI of a higher ed degree, with less than one in five (19 percent) students reporting that the learning experience was worth the cost of tuition1. Additionally, Top Hat found that one in three students experienced challenges accessing the technology and resources required to support their learning2. These challenges will not simply disappear once in-person learning makes a celebrated return to higher ed campuses this Fall — and forward-thinking institutions like VCU are ensuring that all students have access to learning experiences that are engaging, relevant, and meaningful. 

“We now have an opportunity to reimagine a learner experience that is accessible, engaging, and delivers real educational value for students,” said Nina Bilimoria Angelo, VP of Strategy, Top Hat. “Over the past year, the embrace of proven pedagogies and classroom technology has accelerated — and higher education must build on this momentum to increase the value of learning to students. With this partnership, VCU is putting the right tools into the hands of instructors and students to make learning more equitable, to challenge students, and to make every course a place of relevance, vitality, and belonging.”


1 Top Hat Field Report: Survey of 3,052 Higher Ed Students Reveals Their Expectations for Instruction and Educational Value in the Fall 2021 Academic Term, April 2021. 

2 Ibid

About Top Hat

Top Hat is the only all-in-one courseware platform that enables active learning — a proven student-centred teaching pedagogy that promotes deep understanding, critical thinking, and subject mastery — with interactive content, tools, and activities. Millions of students at 750 leading North American colleges and universities use Top Hat to teach and engage with students before, during, and after class, in both in-person and online education. 


Top Hat
Dianna Lai Read