Engage 2017 Agenda

October 1 Sessions

11:30 AM - 1:00 PM


1:00 PM–1:45 PM

Keynote: The Future of Higher Education

Speaker: Mike Silagadze

Mike Silagadze is the CEO and co-founder of Top Hat. Under Silagadze’s leadership and vision, Top Hat has become the market leader in student engagement software, and is used by millions of students at three-quarters of the top 1,000 colleges and universities in North America. Silagadze is an active speaker and lecturer in the higher education, technology and startup communities, having lectured at the Rotman Commerce Entrepreneurship Organization, the ASU GSV Summit, MaRS, Tech Fest Toronto, SAAS North and T­E­Dx­Laurier­University, among many others. Silagadze holds a B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Waterloo.

1:45 PM–2:30 PM

Breakout session: Size Doesn’t Matter: Making Big Classes Feel Small and Small Classes Work Better

Speakers: Brett Beston (University of Toronto, Psychology), Stephen Buckles (Vanderbilt University, Micro and Macroeconomics), Luke Green (St. Cloud Community College, Communications), Hillary Wehe (Davis and Elkins College, Psychology)

Moderator: Philip Preville (higher education journalist, Top Hat)

While educators with large classes struggle to make personal and impactful connections with students, smaller classes pose their own challenges for group dynamics. These educators have discovered and successfully implemented innovative in-class solutions that led to improved conversations, comprehension and happier students.

What you’ll get out of this session

  • See how you can leverage technology to eliminate class-size obstacles and free up time to focus on teaching
  • Learn techniques to help surmount student shyness and create vibrant in-class discussions
  • Develop methods to improve engagement and deliver real-time feedback to students, no matter the class size

1:45 PM–2:30 PM

Breakout session: Hit Refresh: How Redesigning your Course Can Improve Learning and Lower DFW Rates

Speakers: Greg Domski (Augustana College, Chemistry), Kristin Patterson (University of Texas at Austin, Biology), Jose Vazquez (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Economics)

Moderator: Phil Hill (market analyst, co-publisher e-Literate)

It’s the rare post-secondary educator who has studied best teaching practices. Most often, we discover our preferred teaching methods through years of teaching—or by winging it. But what if there’s a better way to keep students interested and improve their chances of graduating? In this session, see how learning design and technology can be used to enhance class time, improve learning and lower rates of failure and withdrawal.

3:00 PM–3:45 PM

Breakout session: Creating Your Perfect Class with Custom Educational Content

Speakers: Sara Eskridge (Randolph-Macon College, History), Andrea Hendricks (Georgia State University, Mathematics), Matthew Numer (Dalhousie University, Human Sexuality), James Ross (East Los Angeles College, Chemistry)

Moderator: Philip Preville (higher education journalist, Top Hat)

Even the most tried-and-true course requires specialized content. However, the standard textbook options are never flexible enough for your needs—and too expensive for students to justify buying if you’re only assigning select chapters. Hear how these educators created their own course content, or used easily-adaptable educational content, and how their solutions created the perfect flow for their classes.

What you’ll get out of this session

  • See how creating course content is easier than you’d think—provided you have the right strategy and resources
  • Learn how to monetize what you create
  • Develop strategies to introduce interactive video, quizzes and other content that grabs the attention of students and improves learning

3:00 PM–3:45 PM

Breakout session: New Strategies for Distance Learning

Speakers: Laura Freberg (California Polytechnic State University, Psychology), Robert Pozos (San Diego State University, Biology)

Moderator: Nina Angelo (VP, product and customer marketing, Top Hat)

In this tactical session, educators who run distance (online) learning courses explain how to most effectively use technology to ensure students are fully engaged in lessons and building comprehension. We’ll explore innovative strategies for planning and conducting distance learning courses (both synchronous and asynchronous), how to maintain student engagement with the right mix of quizzes, polling and online group work, and how to make distance learning students feel personally invested in a program.

What you’ll get out of this session

  • See how technological solutions have adapted to make the virtual classroom feel intimate
  • Learn to create a content mix that keeps remote students focused on your course goals
  • Develop strategies that will help your students succeed from afar

4:00 PM–4:45 PM

Keynote: Contagious: Why Things Catch On

Speaker: Jonah Berger

Why do some ideas catch on while others falter? And how can we use these insights to get our own messages to catch on. As educators, we’d all like our presentations to resonate and have more impact. But good ideas don’t sell themselves. This talk reveals the secret science behind word-of-mouth and social transmission. Discover how six basic principles drive all sorts of things to become popular. If you’ve ever wondered why certain stories get shared, messages diffuse, or videos go viral, this talk will explain why, and show how to leverage these ideas to craft contagious content.

4:45 PM-5:00 PM

Day 1 Recap

5:00 PM–6:30 PM


6:30 PM–9:00 PM


October 2 Sessions

7:00 AM - 9:00 AM


7:30 AM - 9:00 AM

Introduction to Top Hat Certification

A crash course in Top Hat: Learn how to upload slides, create different types of questions, set up discussions, take attendance and use the Top Hat gradebook. Create your own assignment using Pages and assign for grading or feedback. Find, adopt and customize content from the Marketplace.

9:15 AM–10:00 AM

Keynote: The Power of Community

Speaker: Malgosia Green

Malgosia Green serves as the chief product officer at Top Hat and has been with the company since 2013. She leads the product management, user experience and design teams for our web and native mobile products. Before joining Top Hat, Green was the CEO and founder of  Savvica, an India-based online marketing service for educational institutions looking to attract new students. Green has been named as one of Canada’s 20 Young Women in Power by Canadian Business Magazine and was listed as one of the women in tech worth following by Betakit. She is an active speaker within the startup and tech community. Green holds a B.Sc. in Systems Design Engineering from the University of Waterloo.

10:00 AM–10:45 AM

Breakout session: Building Your Personal Brand with Tech Skills

Speakers: Kwame Brown (Hampton University, Psychology), Shaun Dakin (George Mason University, Marketing), Sara Eskridge (Randolph-Macon College, History)

Moderator: Nick Stein (chief marketing officer, Top Hat)

In today’s competitive academic job market, permanent gigs are few and far between. To build your profile, it pays to earn a reputation as an educator who embraces technological solutions to age-old teaching challenges. Get tips from educators who’ve harnessed student engagement systems, digital educational content and social media to reinvent the classroom—and stand out from the pack. This session will show you how to make the leap from adjunct to tenured.

What you’ll get out of this session

  • See how the adoption and authoring of interactive texts can help elevate your professional reputation and enhance your effectiveness in the classroom
  • Learn the most incisive ways to reach and engage students through social media channels
  • Develop a plan to build your personal profile through the adoption and mastery of digital tools

10:00 AM–10:45 AM

Breakout session: Finding Time for Professional Development

Speakers: Laura Freberg (California Polytechnic State University, Psychology), John Redden (University of Connecticut, Physiology and Neurobiology), Clarissa Thompson (Kent State University, Psychology)

Moderator: Philip Preville (higher education journalist, Top Hat)

Between heavy course loads and the pressure of completing downloaded administrative tasks, it can seem like there’s never enough time to think—nevermind research and publish. You can wait for your next sabbatical, but that might be years away. Instead, take control of your precious time by rethinking your career-life integration. In this straight-talk session you’ll hear from educators who’ve found the magic formula to balance contemplation and productivity.

What you’ll get out of this session

  • See how technological solutions can help free up time for extracurricular activities
  • Learn the best ways to manage professional and personal obligations
  • Implement strategies that will enrich your professional development and enliven your classroom

10:00 AM–10:45 AM

Top Hat Certification

Increase real-time feedback between professor and students

11:00 AM–11:45 AM

Breakout session: Facilitating Active Learning in STEM

Speakers: Melissa Fox (Wingate University, Biology), Michelle Newsome (Wright State University, Chemistry), Kristin Patterson (University of Texas at Austin, Biology)

Moderator: John Redden (University of Connecticut, Physiology and Neurobiology)

STEM courses present special challenges for implementing active learning techniques, yet they’re often the exact kind of course that’d benefit most from higher student engagement in detailed lessons. In this workshop, you’ll first hear how these STEM educators introduced active learning techniques, what improved and what didn’t, and why they’d do it again.

What you’ll get out of this session

  • See how physical changes to the classroom can help encourage discussion and improve the effectiveness of lessons
  • Learn how technological solutions can help students prepare for hands-on learning in an active classroom
  • Develop effective methods of teaching that increase critical thinking and communication skills

11:00 AM–11:45 AM

Breakout session: Personalized Learning in a Diverse Classroom

Speakers: Shaun Dakin (George Mason University, Marketing), Miguel Delgado Hellester (California State University, Channel Islands, Economics), Andrew Lokuta (University of Wisconsin-Madison, Physiology), James Ross (East Los Angeles College, Chemistry), Andrew Wegmann (Delta State University, History)

Moderator: Philip Preville (higher education journalist, Top Hat)

The days of the “one-size-fits-all” approach to post-secondary teaching are long gone. Faced with an increasingly diverse student body—with a multitude of cultural backgrounds, age differences and levels of educational preparedness—the challenge for educators to make meaningful connections is very real. In this session, we’ll discuss how to create a personalized learning environment that actually delivers an equitable and impactful learning experience for the modern student.

11:00 AM–11:45 AM

Top Hat Certification

Increase Real-Time Feedback through Assessment

12:00 PM–1:00 PM


1:00 PM–1:45 PM

Breakout session: Refreshing Your Course Design (Workshop)

Facilitators: Jaclyn Travis (customer marketing manager, Top Hat), John Redden (University of Connecticut, Physiology and Neurobiology)

In this workshop, participants will assess course plans and discuss approaches and strategies to inject new life into stale lessons. We’ll consider blended and hybrid teaching approaches, introducing interactive content, and other initiatives.

Come prepared to this session with ONE static lesson from a course you teach that you want to refresh.

Keep in mind:
What is the learning objective?
How do you assess learning outcomes?
Think of some questions you use to test learning.

1:00 PM–1:45 PM

Breakout session: The Pros and Cons of Open Educational Resources

Speakers: PJ Glandon (Kenyon College, Economics), David Harris (Editor-in-Chief, OpenStax, Rice University), Colleen Knight (Coastal College of Georgia, Chemistry)

Moderator: Nick Stein (chief marketing officer, Top Hat)

Many institutions are looking to Open Educational Resources (OER) as a cost-saving solution to increasingly expensive textbooks and educational content. So far, professors have been slow to embrace OER, questioning its quality and provenance. In this session, educators who’ve both authored and adopted OER discuss the pros and cons, and why they’ve ultimately embraced OER as the future of teaching and academic community-building.

1:00 PM–1:45 PM

Top Hat Certification (Optional)
A Peek Under the Hood: Meet Top Hat Product Management

Meet the people behind the product at a panel session where Top Hat Product Management will talk about new and upcoming product features (Secure Testing, Secure Attendance, Marketplace), as well as opportunities and challenges they have encountered in building a product for higher education. This is your chance to provide feedback on upcoming features and inform Top Hat’s product roadmap!

2:00 PM–2:45 PM

Keynote: Ignorance and the Community of Knowledge

Speaker: Steven Sloman

Asking people to explain how something works reveals an illusion of explanatory depth: Typically, people know less about how things work than they think they do. We overestimate our knowledge of common objects. We similarly overestimate our understanding of political policies. How well do you really understand the consequences of the Affordable Care Act? I will argue that the reason we live in this illusion of understanding is that we live in a community of knowledge, guided by shared intentionality. Our communities understand how things work and we fail to distinguish what we know from the knowledge that resides in other people’s heads.

2:45 PM–3:00 PM

Closing remarks

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