Published July 23, 2021

Unizin and Top Hat Award First Research Grants Focused on Inclusive Learning

Unizin and Top Hat have awarded two research grants as part of our first, co-sponsored research program.  The research programs supported through these awards focus on how the Unizin Data Platform,  integrating data from Top Hat, as well as other LMS and LTI tools, can facilitate more inclusive, engaging and effective learning.  

Both studies focus on success objectives such as facilitating engagement, Peer Teaching Learning (PTL), feedback, or areas of inquiry where Top Hat plays a direct role in student success, such as the impact of custom-designed Top Hat textbooks.  

Research awards have been granted to Tracie Reding (University of Nebraska Omaha) and Ben Hellar (Penn State University). 

Reding’s research will use a mixed methods approach to integrate learning analytics from STEM courses at several different Unizin consortium institutions along with qualitative data from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL).  The study will compare student outcomes – defined as student retention, relative grades, enrollment in future courses, and sense of course belonging – based on different online delivery platforms through a Communities of Inquiry (COI) perspective. Learning analytics will be collected through the LMS-supported tools delivered via Top Hat and traditional Canvas-provided platforms.

Hellar’s research program is designed to expand Penn State’s Elevate tool to incorporate the increasing volume of learning activity that occurs in Top Hat.  Currently, Penn State’s Elevate tool is solely focused on Canvas course activity data. As a result, when Penn State faculty and instructors use TopHat to supplement Canvas or hold courses primarily in the Top Hat environment, those activities are a ‘blind-spot” for Elevate.  Using UDP data to identify faculty instructors at Penn State who are heavy users of the Top Hat tool in their courses, Heller can begin the process to expand Elevate beyond Canvas data. 

Funding from Unizin and Top Hat will enable both research programs to move forward, ultimately returning insights, data, and processes to benefit the Unizin consortium, Top Hat users, and higher education as a whole.