Monthly Archives

October 2020

Fall 2020 Resilience Newsletter 3: TopHat and Other Top News

Smeal Academy: Fall 2020 Readiness

The goal of the Smeal Academy is to equip everyone with best practices and strategies for teaching, learning, and technology to ensure the Smeal community is prepared to respond to the unique challenges in teaching during this time. Throughout the semester, we will be sending emails with practical tips and information, providing live sessions, and holding virtual consultations.

TopHat – Polls, Attendance, Whiteboards, and More

What is Top Hat? TopHat is a cloud-based teaching tool that leverages student’s devices to increase in-class engagement and real-time feedback. Instructors can engage students in and outside of the classroom with interactive slides, graded questions, customized content, videos, discussions, and polls.

TopHat integrates and syncs with your Canvas gradebook. The eLDIG team is exploring TopHat functionality so we can assist the Smeal community in integrating its tools into our courses. Some core features we think you will like are:

  • the ability to take attendance more easily, especially in remote instruction contexts
  • the ability to poll students and capture their results, if desired
  • the ability to engage in live discussion with students during class

We encourage you to attend our session on October 28th at 2 pm (see below) or consult with an eLDIG designer if you’d like to learn more or discuss how you can get started.

Current News

  • Helping Students in Need
    If you would like to help support students facing stress due to the pandemic, such as food insecurity or financial hardship, you can consider:

  • Spring Semester Dates
    Our Spring 2021 semester will run from January 18th (one week later than originally scheduled) until April 30th with no spring break and will include scheduled “wellness days” throughout the semester. This article outlines the Spring schedule.

Upcoming Live Sessions

  • Smeal Academy – Top Hat Tricks and Treats
    In September, Penn State adopted Top Hat, a tool that tracks attendance while creating engaged learning environments for students. The eLDIG team will review some Top Hat tricks and treats, including Canvas integration grade syncing and Top Hat engagement tools like polling and whiteboards. Come join the fun…no costume required!! Join us Wednesday, October 28 from 2 to 3 p.m. via Zoom.
  • Smeal Academy Lunch Discussion
    Smeal Students Talk About Academic Integrity. Join us Thursday, November 5 from 12 to 1 p.m. As a part of National Ethics and Compliance Week, the Smeal Integrity Advocates, along with the Smeal Academy, invite you to a Zoom session to hear from a panel of Smeal students about their experiences with academic integrity in a virtual learning environment.
  • Exam Strategies for Remote Delivery (University Session with Smeal faculty and staff)
    Friday, November 13 from 10 to 11 a.m. Presented by: Keep Teaching Faculty Development Group. Details: This faculty panel discussion will explore strategies and best practices for synchronous and asynchronous exam delivery. We will discuss:

    • Academic integrity
    • Canvas exam setup tips
    • Proctoring International students and students in varying time zones

    Faculty: Jen Eury, Josh Wede, Constantino Lagoa, Schalyn Sohn, Felisa Preciado-Higgins

    Instructional Designers/Hosts: Brett Bixler, Kitt Camplese, Renee Ford

NOTE: Recordings and resources from previous sessions can be found on our eLDIG  Website.

Tips of the Week

  • Tip #1: Use “message all students who…” in Canvas to reach out to students who may be at risk. In the midst of this pandemic, students may need a little extra support. Here’s how to message students who haven’t completed assignments or scored below a certain grade threshold.
  • Tip #2: Regularly remind your students about the importance of Academic Integrity. Add an integrity question to the beginning of your quizzes or assignments. Consider adding an Academic Integrity lesson to your course content, providing Smeal resources, and inviting students to sign the Smeal Honor Code, online. Reinforcing Academic Integrity and the Honor Code helps promote a culture of honor and integrity and reduces the likelihood of academic integrity violations.


Helpful Websites


Check out the eLDIG Website for more resources and support.

Contact Us

Email us at: or fill out our Remote Teaching Support form.