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New technologies for online meetings and class polling now available

The University of Pittsburgh recently announced the immediate availability of Blackboard Collaborate and Top Hat. Both technologies are now free to use for both faculty and students, and both offer opportunities to increase communication, collaboration, and feedback inside the classroom and online.

Blackboard Collaborate offers web conferencing designed specifically for education. It can be quickly accessed from within your Blackboard course, and is a great solution for communicating with your students between class sessions as well as empowering your students to communicate and collaborate with each other in new ways.

Over the past several semesters Top Hat has become a popular polling solution for many faculty here at Pitt. Top Hat allows instructors to quickly take attendance and engage students throughout lectures by asking them to respond to questions and discussion prompts using their own device.

Deciding whether or not to adopt a new technology can be a challenge. While there are certainly technical considerations, non-technical considerations are often equally, if not more important when deciding whether a new technology is right for you and your class. If you are interested in exploring either of these new technologies, the Teaching Center is here to help. Email us at or call us at (412) 624-3335 to get started.

Blackboard Collaborate

In addition to standard web conferencing features like voice, video, and desktop sharing, Collaborate allows faculty to create virtual classrooms, office hours, and meeting spaces. Key features include:

  • Sharing files, applications, whiteboards, and videos quickly with easy-to-use tools.
  • The hand-raising feature to track the order in which students ask questions.
  • Polling for real-time feedback from students.
  • Breakout rooms for small group collaboration.

You and your students can access Collaborate directly through your Blackboard course, which makes setting up meetings and managing invitations quick and easy. To learn more, explore our set of online Collaborate help resources, sign up for an upcoming workshop, or reach out directly to our Educational Software Consulting team for more information or technical assistance.

Top Hat

Top Hat is a web-based student engagement solution that helps faculty easily take attendance, administer polls, and deliver quizzes in the classroom. Unlike traditional clicker solutions, students use their own device to engage with Top Hat. Students have the option to respond via text message from any mobile phone, as well as from a smartphone, tablet, or laptop via a dedicated app or web browser.

Student roster, attendance, and grade information can be easily synced with your Blackboard course. In addition to the audience response options, Top Hat also offers faculty and students a variety of other supplemental features such as:

  • Create homework or review assignments for students to complete outside of the classroom with Top Hat Assignment
  • Access to digital textbooks, including free Open Educational Resources, via the Top Hat Marketplace
  • Textbook authoring tools that allow instructors to build, distribute, and even sell their own interactive e-textbooks from within the Top Hat platform

Top Hat provides customer support directly to faculty and students. They are available Monday-Friday 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. EST, via email, phone, and live chat. Top Hat also maintains an extensive collection of online self-help resources, including a Quick Start Guide for faculty that are new to the platform. Faculty can also reach out to the Educational Software Consulting team with questions or to set up a one-on one consultation.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. I would like to use Top Hat for my class this semester. I have been using the clickers. Can someone please contact me?

    Dr. Linda Frank
    Professor, School of Public Health

Comments are closed.

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