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, there is a need for students to provide feedback to questions posed by an instructor in a manner in which others can view those results in a collated manner — whether than manner be anonymized or student-attributed. This document walks you through the process of setting up and using Top Hat to collect and display responses to questions posed by you or the results of collaborative work.


Setting Up Top Hat Course Spaces

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, which means that students can use any web-enabled device (laptop, tablets, smartphones) to participate. Top Hat also allows for text messaging to submit answers, so students can use older or flip cell phones as well.  Top Hat Basic is available to campus students at no cost. Be aware, however, that this access does not extend or include integrations of results into the Canvas grade book. Results of the Top Hat discussions are for the use of classroom facilitation of discussions alone and not for the formal allocation of participation points.

  1. From a web browser, go to
  2. Select the Sign-up link in the upper right side of the screen.
  3. Click Professor.
  4. Select the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
  5. Select the Next button.
  6. Authenticate with UW-Madison NetID login credentials
    1. If you have not created a Top Hat account before, you will be prompted to do so. Note: the password you enter only used on the Top Hat mobile app. You will continue to use your NetID credentials to log into Top Hat on your computer. When all fields are entered, click "I agree with the terms and conditions" and click Next.
  7. If you have not created a Top Hat space, select Create Course.
    1. Enter the course name, course start date, subject, and course code. 
    2. Select Create.

Creating a Discussion Question

  1. Under the Courses menu, you will see your Top Hat courses. Select the Enter link to the right of the course name.
  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 the 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 on the screen when you present the question to students.
  6. As grading is not supported in the free version of Top Hat, information added to the Grading Options is not relevant.
  7. Under Response Options, Responses can be seen by..., select Everyone. This will allow all students to see the responses of others.
  8. Under Response Options, Participants are anonymous to... select Participants only so the results will be anonymous to students, but you will be able to see student attribution.
  9. Select Save.

Setting Up Students in Top Hat Accounts

Before using Top Hat, it is recommended that students be guided through the registration and setup of Top Hat accounts before your first use in the classroom. Create a Canvas activity that walks them through the following steps before coming to class.

  1. Go to
  2. Select the Sign-Up link in the upper right side of the screen.
  3. Select Student.
  4. Enter the six-digit Top Hat course code. (Instructor Note: You can find their course code in Top Hat below their course name (ex. Join Code: 123456).
  5. Log in with your UW-Madison login credentials.
  6. If students are going to be using their mobile phones, they should download the Top Hat application and follow the login process. When searching for institutions, type in Madison and University of Wisconsin - Madison will be listed.

Presenting Top Hat Questions

  1. Direct students to either use their laptops or mobile phones to interact with the discussion question.
    1. If using their laptops, direct them to  They will authenticate and enter your Top Hat course.
    2. If using their mobile phone, have them enter the course code and log into the system with their UW-Madison login credentials.
  2. Log in to your Top Hat account on your laptop and enter your 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 being displayed, other students can like a post and comment on it 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

See Also: