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Evaluation of an Interactive Top Hat Text for Engaged Learning

Wismer, Samantha and Dosse, Lee and Barry, Matthew (2021) Evaluation of an Interactive Top Hat Text for Engaged Learning. In: Frontiers in Education 2021, Envisioning Convergence in Engineering Education, October 13-16, Lincoln, Nebraska USA.

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This Innovative Practice Full Paper notes that recent research has indicated that large numbers of college and university students make limited use of their class textbooks. This is particularly true in terms of assigned readings – whether they are required for the course or not. Students are knowingly depriving themselves of an important means of learning. While the falling use of textbooks among students is concerning, it should be especially so because of the ongoing pandemic. The pandemic has forced much of the secondary educational experience online, limiting forms of in-person lectures and group activities, and severely restricting or rendering impossible hands-on assignments such as labs and projects. It is clear that the current environment students find themselves in is not optimized for learning.

In an attempt to increase student understanding of course material, an online, interactive textbook was created using the software platform Top Hat. The book is in its first edition, and is for use with the university’s engineering course Statics and Mechanics of Materials. It was written and developed by a professor with years of teaching experience and course development, and by a student who had previously taken the course and has worked as a certified tutor for the university. The textbook employs pedagogies designed to increase student understanding of material, such as active learning, and is used in conjunction with a flipped classroom format. To facilitate this approach, the book has readings that are to be completed before lecture in preparation for various class activities, including group assignments and discussions and think-pair-share. Questions are embedded within the assigned readings for the students to check their understanding of the material. These questions provide instant feedback to the students, either informing them their answer was correct, or alerting them it was incorrect and giving hints to help solve the problem.

As the textbook makes use of educational strategies known to improve student learning, it is desired to know if the book had a positive impact on their understanding of the course material. One method of evaluating the online text is to compare students’ text use with their level of achievement in the course. Two factors related directly to text use were investigated: the number of questions in the textbook students answered correctly (Correctness) and the number of questions in the textbook answered in general (Participation). The students were categorized into three levels (low, medium, and high) based on their respective score for each variable and two, one-way between-subjects analysis of variance (ANOVA) were performed to determine if there existed a significant difference between student textbook usage (participation and correctness) and overall course grades. Post hoc testing was then performed to determine differences between the three groups. Both F-tests were significant, with significant differences found between the different groups for both correctness and participation. The largest difference occurred between the top and bottom thirds of the class with respect to question correctness, with the difference in mean final course grades being a full letter grade.


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Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Status: Published
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Wismer, Samanthasew105@pitt.edusew105
Dosse, Leelad132@pitt.edulad132
Barry, Matthewmmb49@pitt.edummb49
Date: 2021
Date Type: Publication
Series Name: Frontiers in Education 2021
Number of Pages: 5
Event Title: Frontiers in Education 2021, Envisioning Convergence in Engineering Education
Event Dates: October 13-16
Event Type: Conference
Schools and Programs: Swanson School of Engineering > Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science
Refereed: Yes
Official URL:
Date Deposited: 08 Dec 2021 17:38
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2021 16:48


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