First Impressions: The Impact of Graphic Syllabi on Student Attitudes: An Abstract
Marketers are in the business of communicating and delivering value to customers, and organizations invest substantial amounts of money into the copy, design, and presentation of collateral to promote their products and services. Much study and testing has been conducted to determine the most effective formats to communicate with customers. Yet, when developing syllabi to create the same level of communication with students, most marketing educators create dull, difficult-to-read textual documents.
H1: Students will perceive a graphic syllabus to be higher in (a) novelty and (b) perceived usefulness than a textual syllabus.
H2: Involvement in the reading task will be higher with a graphic syllabus than a textual syllabus.
H3: Students’ attitude toward the (a) course and (b) instructor will be higher for a course with a graphic syllabus compared to a textual syllabus.
Two exploratory studies were conducted in two different academic semesters at a private liberal arts university in the Northeastern United States. In both studies, students completed an online survey at the beginning of the semester, evaluating the course based only on the syllabus. In the first study, syllabi from five different instructors were compared. H1 and H2 were supported with significant results, and the results for H3a and H3b were marginally significant. In the second study, a quasi-experiment was conducted among undergraduate students in three course sections taught by the same instructor. Once again, H1 and H2 were supported, as was H3a. However, H3b was not supported.
The studies provide strong evidence that a graphic syllabus is superior to the traditional text-based syllabus in several regards. First, students were more involved in reading the syllabus. Given the importance of the syllabus in communicating expectations, policies and the structure of the class, the increased involvement is a clear advantage. Second, students perceive graphic syllabi as being more useful in conveying course information—evidence that the graphic syllabus is more effective. Third, graphic syllabi appear to significantly improve students’ attitudes toward the course.
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