The Influence of Syllabus Tone on Student Engagement in a Wellness Course

  • Amy Howton Kennesaw State University
  • Mandy McGrew Kennesaw State University
  • Liyuan Liu Kennesaw State University
  • Lauren L. Staples Kennesaw State University
  • Herman E. Ray Kennesaw State University
Keywords: syllabus, tone, learner-centered, online course, student success


This study examines the impact of changing the tone of a traditional syllabus to make it more learner-centered. The researchers examined a required wellness course that serves over 8,000 students per year at a large, four-year public university in the southern United States. Concerns about student progression through programs and graduation rates had prompted a number of faculty to look into ways to increase these numbers. The investigators changed the tone of the syllabus to determine if a more learner-centered document would increase the chances of students interacting with the syllabus and, in turn, increase the success rates in the course. The results indicated that few students spent sufficient time reading the syllabus to take in all the information regardless of the tone used within the document, so the tone, by itself, did not impact student success.