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Smartphones are typically banned in classrooms as they are considered detrimental to education. However, one firm has come up with a way to use smartphones to improve learning and student participation.

Dubbed as Top Hat, the Canadian start-up has created an application that allows teachers to question all of their students instantly, and pupils can respond at lightning speeds. Professors will also know who answered a given query and whether it is correct.

“It’s a platform for engaging large audiences of people on their technology. And that can be on their laptops, tablets, smartphones, even simple SMS cell phones,” said Top Hat Chief Operating Officer Andrew D’Souza.

“And the idea is rather than the lecture being a one-way content delivery mechanism, we really want to enhance engagement and provide that real-time feedback.”

Thanks to Top Hat, grades rose three to five per cent, while class attendance climbed by an average of 20 per cent, he noted.

350,000 students and 450 universities have been utilising Top Hat since its inception in 2009. The list includes famous institutions such as Stanford, Harvard, Duke and Johns Hopkins.

Top Hat operates on a subscription model. If a teacher wants to use it, his pupils pay a US$20 fee for one semester. Some universities even fork out a licensing fee so that their entire student body can use the platform.

As a result, the company expects revenue of between US$5 million and US$10 million for its present financial year, added D’Souza.


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