Top Hat Tips: Use real-time student feedback in class with Top Hat

A man speaks to students, with laptops open, in a UB classroom.

Published August 19, 2019

Classroom response systems like Top Hat enable instructors to gather real-time student data and put it to use in class. Here are three ways you can collect student feedback to create more engaging, effective lectures.

Comprehension: before and during teaching

Most instructors use classroom response systems like Top Hat to assess student knowledge and understanding during class. 

Asking a question to gauge comprehension before the lecture starts can provide insight into how class time can be best spent. These questions, combined with “check-in” questions (see below), can help you establish a baseline for learning and track student progress.

Participation: building student engagement and buy-in

Participation questions are designed to put student voices and opinions to work in steering the conversation. These questions don’t need to be closely tied to learning objectives—they can take the form of an open discussion, general audience polling or anything else that gives students a chance to “buy in” to the lecture and engage with their own perspectives.

Student data gathered in this way can be powerful in illustrating a wide variety of points. UB instructor Scott Ptak suggests using aggregate student data any time you want to make a point with data. 

“One example: in statistics, you could ask everyone their height,” says Ptak, “And use the data to show how the heights of a group of people (likely) form a normal distribution.”

“In any situation where you might use data to illustrate a point, Top Hat can make that point more interesting and memorable, by sourcing the data from the students themselves.”

Check-in: charting learning readiness and progress

You’re probably already asking students about what they know—in addition, consider asking them how they feel.

Get their opinions about the lecture topic, and use those opinions in aggregate to lead the class discussion. You can learn about their personal response to a topic, or to the class in general, while also giving them a reason to engage.

These “check-in” questions can also help you gauge how confident students are about an in-class topic now, and how their confidence changes over time.

Consider asking a question like “How well do you understand the concept of ______?” The answers might vary from “Not at all” to “I’m an expert.” Ask it before your lecture, and again afterwards. That way you can easily see how far students have come in their confidence and understanding, which can in turn inform how you want to focus on the issue going forward.

Get help

For questions or help with Top Hat, contact Brad Lindsay, UB’s Top Hat Customer Success Manager, at He can help to improve your Top Hat experience by adjusting your settings if you or your students are having connectivity problems.

For help with teaching technology at UB, contact the UBIT Help Center. Visit, call 716-645-3542, or visit one of our walk-up locations on North or South Campus.