This spring I used Tophat to shake up the delivery of my large research sessions. This is one example of how I have used Tophat to enhance my library research instruction.
For this class, I have typically demonstrated resources right off my Best Research Strategies for Global Consulting page on my Business Blog. I would continue to use this page for my new session, but wanted the class to do the bulk of the work themselves. I drafted some basic learning outcomes for the resources, and created nine questions that the students would answer, as teams, to push them to learn. I put the questions in TopHat, which I would use to present to the class and allow them to record their answers for all students to see. Because the students are not enrolled in my TopHat course, I previously contacted TopHat to change my course to allow anonymous answers without the need to sign in (or enroll) to the course. The professor also communicated with all students that they should bring their personal laptops to class.
For the first five minutes of class, the Internet connection was painfully slow, and I struggled to log in to TopHat and bring up my class guide. I thought my session, which I had spent about several hours preparing, was dead in the water. However, the Internet finally behaved, and we were able to carry on as planned.
I had each team work together to come up with a team name, since there were multiple teams going to each country. I presented each question using the TopHat present mode, and allowed ample time for most groups to respond with their answers. I selected the best answer with each question, and awarded the winning team for each question a goody bag. The bag contained a sampling of library laptop stickers, pens, stress balls, and other assorted vendor junk that I had solicited from my colleagues (basically asked them to unload their junk and clean out their desks for me to give it to students). The students got a kick out of the silliness of the prizes, and I thought the prizes stoked their competitive spirits. After each question, I spent a short time explaining the answer correctly, and doing a short demo of the resource if necessary.
What I learned
Overall, I think the class went pretty smoothly. I definitely think the students learned more, and were more engaged, than if I had simply stood in front of them and lectured for 45 minutes. No one fell asleep. I did have a few students who did not bring laptops, and if their neighbor also failed to bring a laptop, then those students pretty much checked out for the hour. I appreciated that I could walk around the lecture hall and answer questions as they worked, allowing me to personally engage with some students in a way that would have been impossible in a traditional lecture format.
The professor provided great feedback and showed a great deal of enthusiasm for the class. He even said, “From my own experience I know you had 5 minutes of work for every one minute of this class time, and it shows. This was fantastic.” He was pretty much spot on, as I had about 3-4 hours in prep work for the class. I think that the time spent was worth it, just in seeing the students do actual work and use the resources right away. Given that the same class is offered every year and they usually go to the same countries, it was time well spent, as I can recycle the content and reuse the TopHat questions for future sessions. This class also helped me set the groundwork for another class that I taught this semester, which I will be writing about soon.