Liquid Syllabus

Jessica Kruger, Sarah Vincent, Jacob Chambers, Adam Graczyk, and David Gray authored the article entitled, “Liquid Syllabus: Worth the Effort, or Should We Pour It Down the Drain?”


A syllabus plays an important role within a course, from outlining policies to course expectations. One strategy is to provide a liquid syllabus. A ‘liquid syllabus’ is housed outside of the learning management system. Our study explores the impact of the liquid syllabus on students’ knowledge of course policies and perceptions of providing novel forms of a liquid syllabus. Five faculty from three different disciplines (community health and health behavior, microbiology and immunology, and philosophy), as well as our students (n=617) across eight courses, participated in this study. Generally, we found that students performed better on the policy-knowledge questions when they were provided with the standard PDF syllabus. We posit that this may be due to familiarity bias regarding the traditional syllabus modality. However, in some courses that used an engaging video (in contrast to a magazine or website) as the liquid syllabus, the liquid video provided both higher satisfaction scores and higher accuracy scores on policy-related questions than did even the PDF version. We think the first of these results can be explained by the humanizing features of a video liquid syllabus. Regarding the second of these results, we posit that the digestibility of the video modality may account for its success in helping students retain syllabus information. Based on our results, we also suggest that, regardless of modality, it is beneficial to provide syllabi approximately one week before the start of courses.

This manuscript is currently under review.

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