Top Hat: Syllabus, Grading and Academic Integrity

close up of the Top Hat text on a paper syllabus


Consider including the following information in your syllabus:

Grading Policies

  • Communicate your grading policies early in the semester. Accommodate those who need assistance navigating your documentation, for instance, present your grading policies in the text format, in the table format or as an infographic to highlight the major points.
  • Be mindful of how much weight is assigned to Top Hat activities for assessment purposes. For instance, if you weight Top Hat multiple-choice quizzes very heavily, you will disadvantage those students who might not be great test-takers.
  • Ensure all students are afforded fair grading: students with unavoidable documented absences should not be punished.
  • You can assign participation points to Top Hat activities. The best strategy is to use participation points for motivating your students, although the value you attach to participation should reward deserving students, but should not skew final grades for those who have a documented need for unavoidable absences. When calculating final grades, assess participation before scoring all other assignments – this way final grades should not be significantly impacted by the participation policies.
  • Allow learners with documented unavoidable absences to drop a greater number of the lowest Top Hat scores compared to others. For equitable access, a better approach is to allow such learners to complete an alternative activity in place of a Top Hat activity.
  • Reduce the total number of Top Hat activities in which your learners are required to participate.
  • Allow students with a reasonable accommodation notification letter from Student Accessibility Services to complete Top Hat activities at an alternate scheduled time. Questions? Contact the staff from  Office of Student Accessibility Services (SAS) by phone at 515-294-7220, email at, or visit the SAS website.

Promoting Academic Integrity when using Top Hat

Be aware that smart devices enable students to respond to interactive questions from any location. If your intent is to only allow participation for students in your physical classroom, have a conversation as to why participation from other locations is not acceptable. Things to implement into a pro-academic integrity course:

  • Explain that the purpose of audience response technology is to effectively engage students in class by sparkling small or large group discussions to break up lecturing.
  • Establish a clear anti-cheating policy both verbally and in writing, in the class syllabus, explaining how smart devices are expected to be used in the classroom.
  • Throughout the semester, reiterate your policies. Inform your students that academic dishonesty will result in an appropriate academic penalty, including the possibility of academic probation.
  • Have your teaching assistants help you with monitoring student behaviors in the classroom.
  • Inform students that cheating (such as participating at a distance when interactive questions are intended for use in the classroom only) is treated in accordance with the University’s Academic Misconduct Policy and Student Disciplinary Regulations (Code of Conduct) on the Office of Student Conduct website and the ISU Policy Library website. To help your students share videos from the ISU Know the Code YouTube webpage. Questions? Contact the ISU Office of Student Conduct via phone at 515-294-1020.
  • Explore useful tips from the Maintaining Academic Integrity in Top Hat web guide.