Top Hat is approved for academic use and is integrated with LMS.

Our University's license covers access to Top Hat Basic. (not Top Hat Pro)

What is Top Hat?

Top Hat is a web-based polling tool. It allows instructors to ask questions quickly and for students to respond to the questions using their computer or mobile device. Instructors can ask a variety of question types, including multiple choice, word answer, numeric answer, sorting, and click-on-target. Top Hat could be described as clickers, a student response system, a classroom response system, and/or an audience response system.

What is the purpose of Top Hat?

Top Hat’s primary purpose is to gather assessment information easily on how the full class is doing. This includes:
  • Pre-assessments before teaching a topic.
  • Quick comprehension checks during or after teaching a topic.
  • Gathering feedback on the process of learning (e.g., what’s one question you still have?).
Better learning occurs when:
  • Students have the opportunity to discuss and justify their choices with peers.
  • Questions require application of the content being learned in class.
  • Questions occur throughout class time rather than only at the beginning or end.

Why use Top Hat?

Use Top Hat to get a better sense of how the entire class is doing in the moment; rather than getting feedback only from the students that are willing to speak in class or waiting for an exam to realize where students are struggling. Information gathered from using Top Hat should inform your next steps in teaching (e.g., Do you need to do another example or to approach the topic in a different way?).

Using Top Hat also helps students self-assess how they are doing and identify topics where they need to focus their attention.

Learning Technology Ecosystem (LTE) Principles

Top Hat most directly address these LTE goals: 

Active and social Learning is a process of meaning-making, constructed through learning with others, and as a part of an intentional, deliberate system within a course and across experiences. 


Best Practices



Once your course is created contact and request that the course be set as a “Top Hat Basic course”.

 Ask only fact-based / recall questions. You may use these sparingly, but it shouldn’t be your only use.

 Invite students to your Top Hat course by providing them with the unique course URL and/or a Join Code.

The following four items would require students to have a Top Hat pro subscription:

 Use during synchronous classes.

 Use for a participation grade.

 Ask questions that clearly identify gaps or conceptual difficulties. See Top Hat question types and how to create.

 Use only for tracking attendance.

 Use polling to help students self-assess where they need to focus their studying.

 Use for high-stakes assessment.

 Use polling to inform your teaching. e.g., what’s working and what needs revision. Try word answer questions.

 Use for “homework” questions.

 Allow students to discuss and justify their answers. (e.g. Peer Instruction).


Support for Top Hat

Technical Support

(Why isn't this working?)

Vendor Supported


Training Support

 (How do I learn to use this tool?)

Vendor Supported


Teaching Support

 (How do I teach with this tool?)

Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching and Learning Supported

Tool Evaluation

Technologies are evaluated based on their alignment with the Learning Technologies Ecosystem Principles.  Click to see explanations of each principle and a justification of the rating. You can also view a complete blank rubric to see more details or read about the assessment process.

Learning must be found easily at any time, and all learners and teachers have equitable access, regardless of culture, language, ability etc. 
More Information

Rating: Moderate concerns

  •  Cost of use for USask students: 
    • USask agreement includes the features of Top Hat Basic. Basic does not include any tracking or storage of individual student responses or attendance. You only get aggregate results for the class (not individuals). Top Hat Pro includes more features, but costs students approximately $30/term.
  • Platform/device: 
    • Students and faculty need access to a computer or device (e.g. laptop, mobile phone, tablet, etc.) and internet connection. 
  • Offline Access:
    • Top Hat is web-based and cannot be used offline.

Learning is a process of meaning-making, constructed through learning with others, and as a part of an intentional, deliberate system within a course and across experiences.
More Information

Rating: Moderate concerns

  • Collaboration: 
    • Top Hat allows for active engagement during synchronous classes, but requires students have the opportunity to reflect and respond. Students can see how the rest of the class responded.
    • When students are given the opportunity to discuss their ideas, collaboration and sharing of ideas will occur.
  • Sharing:
    • Questions and responses cannot be removed from Top Hat. Sharing is limited beyond the poll results being displayed on the instructor’s screen.

Learning is refined and extended through prompted and supported opportunities to focus on understanding and next steps.
More Information

Rating: Moderate concerns

  • Reflection and revision: Top Hat is not designed for students to retain their responses and make any revisions. That being said, by participating in polls and viewing others’ responses and/or the correct answer, students are prompted to reflect on their learning and where they should focus their efforts.

Learning is most effective when systems are designed to help learners find, create, and/or repurpose significant content for the value of themselves and others.
More Information

Rating: Serious concerns

  • Creating: 
    • Students cannot create within Top Hat. They can respond only to instructor created questions.
  • File format: 
    • Top Hat content cannot be exported.

Learners create and control spaces for learning, understanding and retaining ownership, and purposefully choosing how and when they share.
More Information

Rating: Moderate concerns

  • Archiving, saving, and exporting data:
    • With Top Hat Basic, student IDs are not connected to any responses; therefore, saving and exporting is not useful.
  • Data privacy and ownership: 
    • Instructors maintain ownership over the questions and content they create.
  • Sign Up/Sign In:
    • Users must log in with their NSID credentials to access.
  • Customization: 
    • Top Hat cannot be customized.

Learners need to work in a system that is fluid and requires a minimum number of steps in systems that are intuitive and integrated.
More Information

Rating: Works well 

  • Interface: 
    • Top Hat’s interface is easy to use for instructors and even easier for students. There are no personalization options. 
  • Additional Downloads: 
    • Neither instructors nor students need to download an app or install a browser extension. Top Hat is fully functional within a standard web browser. Students may download the Top Hat app on their smartphone, if they prefer. 
  • Functionality: 
    • Instructors should use the desktop version of Top Hat, as the app is intended for student use
    • The key student functions of Top Hat work across both mobile and desktop versions.

Learners exist in accessible networks, and connect to the experiences, concepts, people, and ideas that they need.
More Information

Rating: Moderate concerns

  • Scale:
    •  Top Hat can be used with any size class. There are no features for creating subgroups.
  • Flexibility of Media:
    • Students must respond to questions using whatever format the instructor has set for the question (e.g., multiple choice selection, word answer).
  • Engagement:
    • The use of Top Hat polling can fuel student-to-student conversations and instructor-to-student conversations. 

Learning and feedback are iterative, and assessment comes from multiple sources, including self, peers, teachers, and outside experts.
More Information

Rating: Moderate concerns

  • Feedback:  
    • Feedback comes through seeing how others have responded and the instructor revealing the correct answer, if applicable. If the questions are well-designed the feedback provided can be very useful in enhancing student learning.
  • Engagement: 
    • Top Hat will generally increase engagement in class as it requires students to actively respond to questions, although these questions are often used within transmission-style lectures.