Jun 17 2015

Mobile Tech at OSU Lays a New Path for Classroom Feedback

The Top Hat student response system is evolving interactions between professors and students.

The Ohio State University, one of the largest higher education institutions in the country, recently improved its classrooms with the addition of Top Hat, a new tech solution to the aging classroom lecture format.

Top Hat, a Web-based student response system, gives educators a set of digital tools that can power a personalized education experience with new forms of interaction between teachers and students. Using the service, educators can track attendance, quiz and poll students through their smartphones and get real-time feedback. The service can also be used to help flip classrooms.

The tool seems to work best at schools that have implemented BYOD, which is a benefit for OSU, says Mike Hofherr, the university’s vice president and chief information officer.

“Because of the diversity of question types and the lack of dependence on PowerPoint, we think that instructors will begin exploring new, more creative classroom applications and we are excited to be a part of enhancing classroom engagement through Top Hat,” Hofherr told EdTech.

EdTech also spoke with Mike Silagadze, founder and chief executive officer of Top Hat, about the technology's future in higher ed.

EDTECH: For those unfamiliar with Top Hat, what kinds of new experiences can this technology afford classroom learning in higher education?

SILAGADZE:  It’s becoming more and more evident that online learning alone cannot replace face-to-face lectures. Student outcomes continue to be superior when there is a component of live interaction, as opposed to purely Web-based learning. Similarly, the traditional lecture, with its passive information transfer, does not result in significant student learning. Both represent a one-way learning experience with minimal engagement or interaction.

Platforms like Top Hat that seamlessly integrate technology within a conventional lecture will become increasingly valuable as the higher education industry seeks to reconcile the online lecture with the traditional classroom experience.

EDTECH: Do you think all higher education institutions will need such a system in the near future?

SILAGADZE: Yes. Mobile devices, such as laptop, tablets and smartphones, are already prevalent within the student population, as students own 2.5 [such] devices on average. The lecture hall needs to evolve to engage the students of today, and the university-wide adoption of Top Hat at Ohio State University is an example of that. The pressure to adapt to the needs of the modern student and leverage the technological advances of the 21st century within higher education will only increase as future generations become more tech-savvy.

This need will be reflected in everything from student retention and enrollment rates to the allocation of funding and research grants. Higher education institutions will have no choice but to adapt to the times, especially as more and more studies continue to be released proving the positive effects of using technology in the classroom on students’ levels of engagement, participation and attendance rates, and overall grades.

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