How this professor got his students interested in his lecture

How this professor got his students interested in his lecture


As technology becomes increasingly ubiquitous in a higher education setting, we’re seeing more and more professors who are adopting classroom and student engagement software into their classrooms.

Dr. Steve Wilson is a Modern Educator. He’s open to trying new technologies and methodologies in his classroom, and he never underestimates how important it is to make the lecture an interactive experience, rather than a one-way transmission of knowledge. He really wants his students to “get it”, and he is willing to go the distance to ensure that happens.

This is exactly why Dr. Wilson used Top Hat to engage his students in his Structure and Function course. This course, which is presented to freshman medical students at the Howard University College of Medicine (HUCM), is very intellectually demanding. Dr. Wilson hoped that Top Hat could help improve his students’ understanding and participation, and it did just that.

Dr. Wilson used Top Hat in a variety of ways:

  1. To make lectures more interactive
  2. To ask students questions during didactic lectures and gain insight into their opinions on different teaching initiatives
  3. To conduct pre-test, question-based reviews
  4. As a complement to experimenting with a flipped-classroom model

Dr. Wilson also set out to test a few different objectives.

The first area of assessment was to determine the ease with which students can sign-up and use Top Hat on various devices. According to Dr. Wilson, “we were very impressed with the ease with which students could sign-up and use Top Hat on a variety of platforms, including their computers, phones, and tablets.”

He claims that “A major strength of Top Hat was the ease with which students could register.”

Second, he wanted to test the ease with which all faculty (including those who are not computer savvy) can incorporate Top Hat questions into their PowerPoints and Small-Group Learning exercises.

Dr. Wilson expressed that “the training I received from Top Hat to use its software was impressive. I remember receiving two one-on-one lessons and one group training sessions on how to use Top Hat. In addition, Top Hat personnel were excellent in answering my e-mails and phone calls, and addressing any questions or problems I had in using the software.”

Finally, Dr. Wilson sought to test the ease with which data from a Top Hat session can be captured and downloaded for statistical analysis of attendance and teaching effectiveness.

In Dr. Wilson’s words, “A major strength of Top Hat is its ‘Gradebook’ and the willingness of  support services to customize the organization of the data to meet client needs. The Gradebook function is an outstanding feature of Top Hat. ” The gradebook also seamlessly integrates with all of the major LMS systems and provides many option to display student data.

In fact, Dr. Wilson found his use of Top Hat so profoundly helpful, that he even shared his experience with the HUCM’s Curriculum Committee and recommended using Top Hat in all four years of the medical curriculum!

What about using Top Hat for Anatomy classes specifically?

One of the benefits of Top Hat is the diverse question types. Dr. Wilson says that he “found the ‘click-on target’ question format (see figure below) to be most valuable for the radiographic, flipped classroom-reviews.”

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 11.57.46 AM

Student attitudes were extremely positive about the use of Top Hat.

Dr. Wilson explains that “students were very positive about the use of Top Hat; [their] attitudes were captured when 66% of the class found the use of Top Hat in the flipped classroom to be ‘very effective’ or ‘somewhat effective’ in keeping their interest in the presentation. We conclude from this data that [Top Hat] is an effective tool in maintaining student interest in lectures and reviews.“

Dr. Wilson used Top Hat to flip his classroom.

In the flipped classroom, students interacted with a radiologist who presented a clinical case with radiographs in a lecture hall setting.

“We found that students who participated in the flipped classroom reviews consistently performed better on exams than students who did not participate.”

In fact, students who used Top Hat received grades that were as much as 4% higher compared to those who didn’t.

Dr. Wilson concludes that his experience with using Top Hat in his classroom was absolutely positive and that he found the technical support provided by Top Hat to be “outstanding”. He expressed that he found the Gradebook exceptional and that the use of Top Hat’s software to poll his class and gain student opinion was incredibly helpful in his flipped classroom.

Most importantly, Dr. Wilson reported that not only did students find “the use of Top Hat helped maintain their interest in lectures”, but students who “used Top Hat … consistently performed better on exams than students who did not.”

What professor wouldn’t want to see that?

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