Using Top Hat to Present Questions to Students in the Classroom

Using Top Hat to present questions to students.

Instructional Challenge

In many of the active learning activities identified, there is a need for instructors to ask questions and get feedback on the level of student understanding of content — either before, during, or after it is presented to students. This document walks instructors through the process of setting up and using Top Hat to collect and display responses to questions posed by the instructor or 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. For the Spring 2021 semester, the SRS features of Top Hat are 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 points.

  1. From a web browser, go to
  2. Select the Sign-up link in the upper right side of the screen.
  3. Select 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, select "I agree with the terms and conditions" and select 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 Top Hat 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 question. The following are the available question types (for a full description visit the Top Hat Support Site): multiple-choice, word answers, numeric answers, fill in the blank, matching, click on target, sorting, or long answer.
    1. Select Question and then select the appropriate question type from the Top Hat Questions section.
    2. Fill in the question details. For directions on the specific question type, go to the Top Hat Support Site.
    3. Select Save.

Setting Up Students in Top Hat

Before using Top Hat, it is recommended that students be guided through the registration and account setup before your first use in the classroom. Create a Canvasactivity that walks students 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 you are going to be using your mobile phones, 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.

Starting the Backchannel

  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. As students answer the question, you can show the live responses by selecting the Responses button.
  8. Select Close to end the answer submission process.
  9. Select Correct to show the correct answer (if one has been identified).
  10. To end the presentation, use the Esc key on your laptop.

Other Resources

See Also: