Top Hat app tracks student participation, attendance

Ellie Cowen, Staff Writer

The app allows teachers to track students’ participation and attendance in classes through location tracking and polling questions. (Logo: Top Hat, Wikimedia Commons under public use)

Skipping economics class may be harder now that professors have a new tool: the attendance application Top Hat. The app tracks students’ location while in class and allows professors to get real-time feedback with polling questions. 

Top Hat also boasts interactive features such as labs, interactive textbooks, secure exams and learning insights, but most professors just use the polling questions, according to senior economics professor Toni Weiss. 

“It can motivate discussion if you put a question up,” Weiss said. “You can do polling where you know who answered, you can do anonymous polling. It provides a lot of opportunity to get student engagement, which I think is really valuable.”

Macroeconomics student Kenny Munroe said it encourages him to attend class regularly, now that 20% of the class grade is based on clicker questions through the app. 

“It’s an incentive for us to go to class because even if we get 100% on everything else, we only get an 80,” Munroe said. “Plus, the clicker questions drive the lessons.” 

According to Weiss, Tulane University purchased an institutional license for Top Hat this year, making it free for all students and professors. Weiss said she is happy that Tulane is taking on the cost of the application instead of leaving it to students. 

“Now I require it,” Weiss said. “Before, you could choose to engage with these polling questions and make it part of your grade, but I didn’t require it because it cost money.”

Top Hat markets itself as a program to increase student engagement during class and apply their knowledge to interactive assignments outside of class. According to the application’s website, 86% of users say Top Hat makes class more engaging.

“It makes it easier to understand concepts,” Munroe said. “It makes it easier for the professor to pick apart small details with a class and get real time feedback.”

The app can also help professors determine how much information their class is absorbing when it would be too difficult to have each student participate. 

“It is particularly good in the large classes that I teach where it’s not as easy to sit around the room and have a small discussion,” Weiss said. 

Top Hat users may have received a notification that the app was still tracking their location, even after class. For the app to record a student present in class, students must click ‘Always Allow’ location tracking, but Top Hat says it does not track their location outside of class. 

“Although Top Hat will only access your location during secure attendance events, we recognize that Apple’s approach to privacy and the title of this permission is misleading and confusing,” Top Hat’s website says. 

The app also requires students to have their phones out during class, which could deter some professors from incorporating the app into their classes. 

“On the one hand, in order to use it, you have to have a device out,” Weiss said. “The flip side of that is, you’re going to have your devices out anyway … let me give you a reason to use it.”

Leave a Comment