Iowa State Abruptly Transitions from Clickers to TopHat

By Coley Bergren

Beginning this school year, Iowa State made a quick transition from using clickers to TopHat in classrooms. While many felt it was a time for an upgrade, a surplus are still confused on how to use it and are having technology issues.

Ranging from large to small lectures, TopHat has been an application students have been required to switch to. Sophomore Emma Gaer says it was not an easy process.

“We were told we needed it after classes had already started, so the bookstores were crowded the entire first week of class,” said Gaer. “I waited over an hour in line and had to pay over $40 for something I barely use.”

Gaer, a journalism and mass communications major, rarely uses TopHat due to her small classrooms that typically consist of journalism, English, and digital design structured assignments.


An screenshot of what TopHat looks like on a mobile device, a drastic change from clickers.

Students in other majors, such as sophomore Abby Young, have a different take on the new application. Young is an elementary education major, so her classes range from science to math to English and more.

“I use TopHat in almost every class,” said Young. “At first I didn’t like it, but there’s a TopHat app so you can use it on your phone or laptop. I used to forgot to bring my clicker to class like every day, and I never forget my phone so I always have TopHat with me.”

Students have a mixed range of emotions on the new technology, but some believe teachers do not. Emma Kessler, sophomore, thinks all teachers have a fixated opinion on TopHat.

“I feel like teachers have to fake that they think TopHat is this amazing new technology when really there are so many problems with it,” said Kessler. “Half the time that I am in class and using TopHat, it doesn’t record that I was there answering the questions, and teachers are always saying it’s their fault when really I don’t think they understand TopHat or will accept that it is simply not working.”


Emma Kessler, sophomore, using the TopHat mobile app in class.

Food science and human nutrition professor, Dr. Wendy White, disagrees with Kessler’s statement in the sense that she’s not afraid to fake her frustration.

“I was fortunate to have multiple one-on-one calls with one of the senior software developers, which enabled me to develop a grading system suitable for my course,” said White. “However, I had to invest at least 15 hours of my time.”

This is just one teacher’s opinion, so there could be a variety of opinions across the board. For sophomore Katie Canfield, the evidence is in the teacher’s performance.

“I was one of the only classes who used TopHat last year and I thought it was so weird,” said Canfield. “But my teacher knew what he was doing and it really is a lot less complicated than clickers, so I can’t complain.”

So Iowa State, it is up to you. Is TopHat something worth waiting out and seeing what results from it or do we switch back to good ole’ clickers? You decide.


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