The Syllabus Re-imagined: From Paper to Website

Esther Loring Crispi, Jan Stivers


This study compared students’ comprehension and use of paper syllabi versus webpage delivered syllabi in a psychology course and an education course in a small private, northeastern college. Two sections of the psychology course (N=41) and two sections of the education course (N=30) were given a paper syllabus at the beginning of the semester followed a few days later by a quiz that tested their knowledge of the content on the syllabus. A third section of the psychology course (N=21) and two additional sections of the education course (N=27) were each given a website syllabus followed a few days later by the same quiz. Results indicated no significant differences between quiz scores on the paper syllabus and the website syllabus for either course. However, a short survey given to the students at the end of the semester yielded interesting results, with students in both groups of the psychology course reporting that they relied on the syllabus less than did the students in the education course. Student responses to open-ended survey items suggest that differences in how the instructors used the course management system as an ancillary support may account for this finding. Because students can get meaningful information from the syllabus regardless of format, faculty can confidently choose to offer a syllabus in a format that best suits the course content and student characteristics.


syllabus design; syllabus format; syllabus alternate forms; syllabus visual presentation; graphic syllabus;

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ISSN 2163-3177

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