TopHat alternatives?
March 30, 2018 11:12 AM   Subscribe

I occasionally teach large lecture courses of 100+ students, for which I've been using the course management software TopHat. I like it, but it costs each student $26. Is there a cheaper or free alternative?

What I like about TopHat is that it allows the large lecture to have more participation with the students. Specifically, it allows me to take attendance automatically (a code is displayed on the projector which each student must enter on their electronic device), as well as do various large-scale ways of participating with the students (multiple choice quizzes, word entry with word clouds, click on maps, etc.). It also projects slides that I can control from my iPad. It has its problems but it's not a bad piece of software. Students tend to like the opportunity it gives to participate.

I do dislike, however, the cost that is imposed on each student. For a class of 300, the company is earning something like $8k, which is a lot of money for what I'm getting. Is there any kind of free or cheaper alternative?

What is most important to me is some kind of automated way of taking attendance: ideally each student must enter a code that they only receive at lecture. This should be as easy and straightforward as possible, so it doesn't take up too much time. I've thought about using Canvas quizzes as a possible alternative, but that seems like it has the possibility of being rather clunky.
posted by crazy with stars to Education (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
posted by parmanparman at 11:32 AM on March 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

Disclaimer: I work for the publishing company that makes iClicker, which is one of the other options out there, though I don't work with that branch of the company at all.

I think it really depends on what functionality you want. If you want the in-class participation points to work with mobile and sync automatically with your gradebook, there are a lot of options. Pearson has LearningCatalytics, Macmillan has iClicker, and there are other publisher provided ones as well. These will all seamlessly integrate with big campus LMS systems and the online homework, etc. In my experience these should be $20ish or less. Ours is $15 for 6 months.

There are also some free versions that are quite popular. The one I hear about the most is Kahoot. I don't know if it has the same sync functionality, but it's pretty good in the classroom and uses mobile devices.
posted by chatongriffes at 12:11 PM on March 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

This attendance thing is one of TopHat's killer apps. There's a shocking dearth of similar solutions out there.

There are other audience response systems out there that offer various freemium pricing models. With your size of class, Mentimeter is the one that comes to mind. At the free level, you are limited in the number of questions you can have in a single poll, but there's no limit on the number of respondents to the poll and there's also nothing stopping you from running more than one poll during a single lecture.

Are there a lot of instructors at your institution using TopHat? We've gotten so many in the past couple of years that we are in the process of establishing an enterprise relationship with them, which will mean the institution pays (a much lower per-student rate than if students individually purchase it themselves) and the students get the service for free. Might be something to inquire about with your central IT if you're not the only one there using it.
posted by soren_lorensen at 12:26 PM on March 30, 2018

Why isn't your university setting up a contract with one of these providers? My U uses PollEverywhere for this.
posted by k8t at 12:33 PM on March 30, 2018 [4 favorites]

Google has a free “Classroom” product. You could use the “Question” feature to take attendance.
posted by bleep at 1:25 PM on March 30, 2018

« Older “Replace 60 months” on First Alert smoke detector...   |   In search of my ideal sports bra Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.