L-R: Erica Woekel, Oregon State University; Mike Silagadze, Top Hat CEO and co-founder; Mohsen Shahini, Top Hat CAO and co-founder; Kyle Anderson, University of Saskatchewan; Andrea Hendricks, Georgia State University Perimeter College. Photograph: Carla Antonio/Top Hat
Every year at the Engage conference, we honor some of the most exciting work done by the professors who use the Top Hat platform. From saving students time and money, via creating content and organizing workflows for remedial students, to supporting and promoting their colleagues’ work in technology adoption, each of our award winners have gone above and beyond to meet the needs of their classes.
Here are the winners of our three awards: Top Educator, Top Author and Top Newbie.
The Top Hat Top Educator award is bestowed on a Top Hat user who has made the enhancement of students’ experience through the use of technology a cornerstone of their work.
University of Saskatchewan
Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology
Technology has never made its way into Professor Anderson’s classroom without being fully thought through. The design of his courses not only takes into account ways to improve engagement, but also strategies that provide students with the greatest degree of flexibility and access. His work is the embodiment of agile teaching. Outside of making robust use of Top Hat Classroom, he uses tech to record and upload for students absolutely everything that is said, projected or used during class time daily. His interest in understanding and measuring the impact of his pedagogical choices on learners means that he’s also among the first round of recipients of Top Hat’s new efficacy grants, an initiative which was just rolled out earlier this fall.
Professor Anderson also offers sessions to colleagues on the effective use of Top Hat, lecture capture and technology in general at the University of Saskatchewan’s Teaching and Learning Center, mentoring faculty to adopt a growth mindset in relation to educational technologies.
As he explains: “Students have jobs, family commitments, health concerns, may be learning in their non-primary language, and many more reasons that can benefit from the ability to attend or review class on their own time. By digitizing everything I can, I am ensuring they have the best chance at success. Using Top Hat, I can immediately poll large classes to get a better feel for what they do or don’t understand, and they can gain confidence in working through questions similar to what they will see on an exam.
“And even though I create a classroom experience that allows them to attend class asynchronously, I still regularly have 70-80 percent attendance because I also stress to them that the focussed attention and regular exposure to the course material is better for learning than trying to keep up on their own time.”
The Top Hat Top Author award goes to a Top Hat user who has improved education by way of developing more engaging educational materials.
Georgia State University Perimeter College
When Professor Hendricks’s institution decided to introduce a co-requisite approach for new students who needed remediation in math, and she didn’t like how the available options aligned with the mainstream College Algebra course, she took it upon herself to create an entirely new solution.
She turned to Top Hat and authored a resource that would not only cover every unit students needed to learn for College Algebra, but also provide corresponding support lessons and exercises for those that required remediation along the way. She also designed the textbook in a way that would help students acquire study skills and strategies for science learning. Top Hat’s platform was instrumental in organizing students’ workflow and bringing the material to life by enabling the inclusion of videos, images and embedded questions, but her work truly stands out for its remarkable pedagogy—and for the sheer amount of work that went into the project.
In her own words: “When authoring in Top Hat, the focus turned from creating an online platform where students simply go to complete their homework to creating a tool that students can use to direct their learning.”
The Top Hat Top Newbie award is given to a Top Hat user who has demonstrated dedication to making their technology implementation impactful from the outset.
Oregon State University
Professor Woekel saw that textbooks and other required classroom tools were imposing a severe burden on students—and decided to take action. First, she authored a customized textbook. Then, as the director of the Lifetime Fitness for Health Program at her university, she took on the challenge of collaborating with five other instructors and 20 teaching assistants to get her textbook implemented properly and consistently, alongside Top Hat Classroom, in the required course.
As a result, within a semester, thousands of students in multiple sections were acclimated to new courseware and had access to better, more affordable course materials. The impact of Professor Woekel’s innovation was in fact so widely felt at Oregon State University that it spurred the administration to take notice, eventually leading to a revamp of the university’s approach to student engagement software.
All winners were either nominated by a colleague or student, or submitted their own application, and were selected by a committee of Top Hat staffers.
Look out for your opportunity to nominate somebody—or apply for the award yourself—in 2019.