Top Hat turns devices into learning tools

By Nadine Arendse
Johannesburg, 25 Jul 2012

Top Hat turns devices into learning tools

Over the past few years, the use of handheld “clickers”, which enable students to respond to professors and live polls during class, has seen adoption on college campuses nationwide, GigaOM reports.

But Toronto-based Top Hat Monocle is angling to replace the remote control-like devices with software that can turn any student device - smartphone, feature phone and laptop - into a more robust tool for classroom learning.

Since launching its service in 2010, the company has spread to more than 150 colleges and universities worldwide (although it's mostly in the US and Canada). But with a new $8 million investment, the company plans to ramp up sales and marketing to more aggressively push into the higher education market. The Series A financing was led by Emergence Capital Partners and iNovia Capital, and also included SoftTech VC, Version One Ventures and Golden Venture Partners.

ZDNet writes that instead of following the traditional model of selling clickers directly to universities, Top Hat Monocle approaches the professors themselves. The educators use the software platform provided by the company for free, and students can opt-in with a $20 per semester subscription to use the technology on any of their personal mobile devices.

According to Silagadze, opt-in rates are approximately 90% when professors choose to use the software. While $20 a semester may be a lot to ask of cash-strapped students, the reasoning behind it is if more teachers choose to use the technology, the benefit to students will increase -as the software can be used for any class.