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Using Top Hat Discussion Questions in Classrooms

Facilitating Top Hat Discussion Questions in the classroom

Instructional Challenge

In many of the active learning activities identified, students need to provide feedback to questions posed by an instructor so that others can view those results in a collated manner — whether that manner be anonymized or student-attributed. This approach is also helpful to create an artifact of a discussion or activity that the instructor or student can review after class. This document walks you through setting up and using Top Hat to collect and display responses to your questions or the results of collaborative work.

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Setting Up Instructor's Top Hat Account

Top Hat is a Student Response System (SRS) that allows you to ask questions, take polls, give quizzes, and receive feedback from your students during class. Top Hat is a bring-your-own-device solution, meaning students can use any web-enabled device (laptop, tablet, smartphone) to participate. It also allows text messaging to submit answers so students can use older or flip cell phones. UW-Madison now has an enterprise license for Top Hat — allowing all UW-Madison instructors and students to use the tool without paying for a subscription. Follow the links below to set up your Top Hat account and connect your courses to the Top Hat system.

  1. Top Hat - Account Setup (Instructors) [UW-Madison]
  2. Top Hat - Syncing Grades and Rosters with Canvas (LTI 1.3) [UW-Madison]

Creating a Discussion Question

  1. In your Canvas course, select Top Hat from the navigation bar. You will be brought to your Top Hat course space.
  2. Select the Create button to create a new discussion question.
  3. Select Discussion from the Create Content section.
  4. Enter a title for the question — something short that describes the purpose. You will see this in your list of possible Top Hat questions.
  5. Enter a topic for the discussion. This will display on the screen when you present the question to students.
  6. Under Grading Options, you can assign submissions for correctness and/or participation. For a discussion topic, there may not be a correct answer. If there is, you can designate the number of points you want to assign in the Correctness box. This, however, will be a manual process. If you don't want any points assigned for correctness, enter 0 in the box. In discussion questions where all students are asked to submit a response, you can assign points by entering a value in the Participation box. If you use Top Hat to facilitate the submissions of ideas, opinions, or results of a group activity, this process will only assign grades to the students who submitted. In this case, enter 0 in the box.
  7. There are five discussion types possible. Select the option that fits your needs best.
    1. Open Discussion (student cannot see names of submissions: Students will be able to see other students' responses but will not be able to see who said what. The instructor, however, will be able to see which student submitted what.
      1. Under Response Options, Responses can be seen by..., select Everyone. This will allow all students to see others' responses.
      2. Under Response Options, Participants are anonymous to... select Participants only so that the results will be anonymous to students, but you can see student attribution.
    2. Open Discussion: Students will be able to see other students' responses and will see who said what. 
      1. Under Response Options, Responses can be seen by..., select Everyone. This will allow all students to see others' responses.
      2. Under Response Options, Participants are anonymous to... select No one so the results will be everyone will see who responded in what way.
    3. Anonymous Discussion: The instructor cannot see how individuals answered, and the discussion cannot be graded. Students can see other students' submissions but not who said what. 
      1. Under Response Options, Responses can be seen by..., select Everyone. This will allow all students to see others' responses.
      2. Under Response Options, Participants are anonymous to... select Everyone so that the results will be anonymous to students and the instructor.
    4. Answer submission: Students cannot see other students' responses.
      1. Under Response Options, Responses can be seen by..., select Professor only. This will allow only the instructor to see the responses of others.
      2. Under Response Options, Participants are anonymous to... select Participants only so that the results will be anonymous to students, but you can see student attribution.
    5. Anonymous submission: You will not see how individuals answered, and the discussion cannot be graded. Students cannot see other students' submissions.
      1. Under Response Options, Responses can be seen by..., select Professor only. This will allow only the instructor to see the responses of others.
      2. Under Response Options, Participants are anonymous to... select Everyone so that the results will be anonymous to students and instructors.
  8. Select Save.

Setting Up Students in Top Hat Accounts

UW-Madison has procured an enterprise license for Top Hat. The new campus agreement allows all UW-Madison instructors and students to use the tool without paying for a subscription. Students should use their UW-Madison credentials to log on to Top Hat. Before students use Top Hat, they should ensure their account is set up correctly. Send students to the following site for directions on setting up their accounts:

Presenting Top Hat Questions

  1. Direct students to use their laptops or mobile phones to interact with the discussion question. 
  2. Have students select Top Hat from the navigation bar in your Canvas course. You will be brought to your Top Hat course space.
  3. Select the discussion question(s) you want to present by selecting the square to the left of the questions.
  4. When ready to display the question to students, select the Present button at the top right corner of the screen.
  5. The Join Code screen will appear. Select Start Presentation to release question(s) to students.
  6. The question will appear on the screen. Students will see the question listed under Questions and Attendance
  7. Students can select the Reply button to write their responses. Select Post to send it. It will be displayed on their and your screens.
  8. Because the question was set up to hide student names, each response will be displayed with Hidden on the screen. Selecting it on your screen will reveal the student identity of the post. Students are not able to reveal this information.
  9. While responses are displayed, other students can like and comment on a post using their devices.
  10. Responses can be displayed in different orders: Newest response on top, the Oldest response on top, or the Most liked on top.
  11. You can suspend students' ability to submit answers by selecting the Pause button.
  12. To end the presentation, use the Esc key on your laptop.

Other Resources



Keywordstop hat, discussions, question types, classroom response system, top hatDoc ID104215
OwnerTimmo D.GroupInstructional Resources
Created2020-07-22 07:00:45Updated2024-02-23 08:55:24
SitesCenter for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring, Learn@UW-Madison
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