How Professor Fryer Used Phones to Increase Class Participation

How Professor Fryer Used Phones to Increase Class Participation


Dr. Cheryl Fryer, Professor at the Howard University College of Dentistry, and four of her colleagues decided to try out Top Hat in their courses. Faculty used Top Hat to improve comprehension of material presented, increase class discussion and engagement, and monitor attendance.

The schedule of dental faculty is rigorous. Lectures occur in the two hours preceding three-hour clinic patient treatment sessions with students each day. There is little down time during the workday, so it was important that the faculty used a system that would be easy to implement for both students and faculty, and that would integrate seamlessly with their existing LMS systems.

In general, most lectures to undergraduate dental students are of a traditional nature in the College of Dentistry, but Cheryl wanted to get students excited and transform her lectures into flipped and blended environments.

Faculty used Top Hat mainly as a student response system in order to take attendance, review material presented in previous lectures, clarify points covered in lecture, and to ask open ended questions to identify “muddy” areas. Top Hat was enjoyed most to take attendance, review previous material, check students’ understanding, and promote participation.

Use of Top Hat in-class enhanced student participation compared to previous years of face to face instruction. Cheryl shared that there was more visible classroom activity than in previous semesters. “Muddy points” or areas of confusion were better able to be determined. Areas that needed further explanation, and those that had sufficiently been covered through student electronic responses could be seen.

Students appeared to be more alert and more frequently responsive.

Instead of only one or two hands raised in response to an open-ended inquiry, student responses using Top Hat were nonstop until the close of the question, which lasted about one minute.

Students’ ability to take concepts from readings and create new knowledge during discussion ultimately improved the quality of discussions in class.

Students were able to offer their opinions and at the same time hear the opinions and inquiries of others as they constructed their own learning.

“In God we trust. All others, bring data.”

Faculty reported that most noticeably, “students really perked up.” 80% of faculty found Top Hat easy to use and 80% reported that using Top Hat both increased classroom participation and improved attendance. The faculty also did something unique, which was hold internal periodic collaboration sessions on how best to use Top Hat, and 80% of the faculty reported that they found these sessions helpful.

One of the faculty users reported that,

the use of the Top Hat teaching tool enhanced the dynamics of the face to face classroom experience by creating interactivity and interest that appeals to the kinesthetic learner and millennial student. I was impressed with the students’ efficient navigation of the technology.

Faculty also enjoyed the benefits of polling, which helped them get feedback from students who may not normally have given an oral response. Faculty “believe [Top Hat] adds interest to a lecture and creates a non-judgmental environment for students in which to learn …. plus it’s fun!”

To no surprise, faculty reported that “all of the students were familiar with the technology and engaged the format effortlessly.”

The students loved it too.

88% of the students said that using Top Hat made them want to participate in class more, and 75% said that Top Hat actually enhanced their learning! 75% of students said that Top Hat cause them to pay more attention during class, and 88% said Top Hat made them more likely to participate in class compared to raising their hand, which is often accompanied by social anxiety.

“[The dental school] would benefit tremendously in driving their lectures in a tech-savvy manner. Most students are already tech-savvy. So incorporating it into lectures will undoubtedly engage the classroom. At the very least, it will promote 100% attendance, which in the end, can only benefit the class as a whole.”

Cheryl closed by iterating that “I think that Top Hat is an excellent product to be used in this manner. We, as faculty, need to prepare ourselves to use this wonderful technological advancement in our didactic activities.”

Top Hat is designed to connect professors and students in the classroom and to create a more engaged and active learning environment. If you’re interested in a demonstration of how Top Hat can be used in your classroom, click the button below.

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