The Effects of Syllabus Design on Information Retention by At-Risk First Semester College Students

Evelyn Anne Mocek


The functional design of a syllabus is an area with limited research. Much of the research is focused upon various discrete aspects of the syllabus e.g. learning objectives. However, the actual functional design of the syllabus has not been actively investigated. This quantitative investigation sought to understand if an infographic syllabus design had an impact on the retention of course information presented in the syllabus. The study focused on the design of the syllabus and its impact on information retention by “at-risk” students. Specifically, the impact of an infographic syllabus design on the retention of syllabus-related information. Three versions of the syllabus were utilized to present the course information. The traditional text-based syllabus was provided to all participants to protect from any perceived risk. A syllabus infographic served as the treatment, one in color and the other in black and white. This infographic provided specific information from the syllabus in a multimodal manner combining both graphics and text and was provided as an addendum to the text-based syllabus. The cognitive theory of multimedia learning indicates people learn and retain information better when words and pictures are presented together. In addition, learning is measured by the retention of information and transfer of learning to new tasks (Mayer 2014). The student participants completed two posttests embedded within their class. The first posttest was given at three weeks, and the final posttest was given at ten weeks.  Both the use of graphics and the use of an infographic syllabus design was found to be statistically significant to the retention of syllabus related information.

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