Professors should not require TopHat subscription

Photo+credit%3A+Jaden+Edison
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Professors should not require TopHat subscription

Photo credit: Jaden Edison

Photo credit: Jaden Edison

Photo credit: Jaden Edison

Photo credit: Jaden Edison

Thomas Dunlap

TopHat is a subscription-based student engagement app popular among college professors. The paid service provides a platform for students and professors to easily interact in real-time via mobile phones or laptops, enabling simple student participation in larger lecture halls.

While TopHat is free to use for professors, but for students there are multiple payment options like a monthly $7.50 fee or a $30 dollar one time fee.

TopHat is commonly used by professors as a way to administer daily quizzes and take attendance. Professors may post a question on the screen and have students answer through the TopHat app on their phones or computers. The question is usually not displayed on the app, therefore requiring students to be physically present to answer correctly. Due to this feature, TopHat has become a convenient tool for taking attendance.

Professors utilizing TopHat require students to use the service as well, providing no other alternatives. If a student were to complete all of their assignments—minus those submitted through TopHat—there would be grade penalty, and, the possibility of being dropped from the class.

Professors may post multiple quizzes on TopHat each class day, resulting in students taking dozens of assessments through the service by semester’s end. If a student were to have connectivity issues or lack access to a smartphone or laptop, they would take a detrimental hit as long as the problems persisted.

It would be unfair for a present and attentive student to suffer a penalty for being unable to access an unnecessary third-party platform.

Additionally, the use of TopHat for taking attendance is arbitrary. A student could attend every class throughout the semester but be marked absent due to issues with the service. To demand students pay to be marked in attendance is borderline extortion; the ultimatum is either paying for TopHat or risk being dropped from the class.

Disregarding tuition, attending a class is costly. The materials for one class can be expensive, let alone four or five. For a full-time student, such additional expenditures can become quite exorbitant.

Texas State administration should aim to prevent any unnecessary fees. As convenient as it may be, TopHat is exactly that—an unnecessary fee. The service—while not outrageously expensive—accomplishes no more than a scantron does, which is provided free to students. TopHat is just another attempt at “modernizing” the learning experience that turns out to be more of a gimmick than useful classroom tool.

Professors should not require TopHat, as it is just an additional and unnecessary cost forced on students. The platform’s usefulness—or lack thereof—does not outweigh the cost of the service. With TopHat being free for professors, there is a clear conflict of interest in requiring its use. The practice of finding ways to gouge students of every penny needs to end.

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