Does Posting PowerPoint Presentations on WebCT Affect Class Performance or Attendance?

By Bowman, Laura L. | Journal of Instructional Psychology, June 2009 | Go to article overview

Does Posting PowerPoint Presentations on WebCT Affect Class Performance or Attendance?


Bowman, Laura L., Journal of Instructional Psychology


Grade earned and class attendance records were examined to determine if posting PowerPoint notes on a web-based course management system was related to enhanced performance or increased absences. There were no differences in either grades or absences between classes that had notes posted and those that did not. However, results indicated grades were positively related to attendance. This outcome should allay the concerns and relieve the pressure that some faculty might feel about whether or not they should post their PowerPoint presentations.

Key Words: College students, grades, attendance, PowerPoint

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Some faculty have been reluctant to make notes or PowerPoint presentations available on web-based course management systems such as WebCT, for fear that students will not pay attention or attend class regularly. Hammonds (2003) found a general decline in attendance over a three-year period for courses in which an internet-based teaching module was made available. Other faculty have embraced the use of and are encouraged to use these systems (Brent, 1999; Grabe & Christopherson, 2005). Huelsman (2006) describes ways to use PowerPoint effectively and recommends making the slides available to students via the internet before class. His anecdotal findings suggest that students do pay attention, are better prepared, and do not skip class.

There has been much discussion about what type of information, the degree of detail, and what "extras" to include (or exclude) in both traditional lecture notes and PowerPoint presentations. Annis (2001) found that when students received a partial outline of traditional lecture notes they performed higher on multiple choice and essay exams than when they received full notes. Furthermore, students preferred partial notes to full notes. Kiewra (1985) and Huelsman (2006) also recommended providing partial (or skeletal) notes prior to class to maximize achievement (regardless of mode of presentation). However, Stark-Wroblewski, Kreiner, Clause, Edelbaum, & Ziser (2006) found no differences in exam scores when students used fill-in-the-blank or intact PowerPoint handouts. Bartsch and Cobern (2003) found that extraneous material (e.g., unrelated graphics) included in PowerPoint presentations could be detrimental to enjoyment and performance. Other sources make specific recommendations about the size of the font, layout, color scheme, etc. of PowerPoint slides (Delwiche & Ananthanarayanan, 2004; Saylor, 2005). Therefore, type of information and characteristics of the material posted might mediate both attendance and class performance. For example, if students have access to full notes posted before class, both attendance and performance might decline.

Though several studies have shown that college-aged students (Bartsch & Cobern, 2003; Cassady, 1998; Perry & Perry, 1998) and older adults (Austin-Wells, Zimmerman, & McDougall, 2003) prefer computer-aided presentations (such as PowerPoint) over other modes of presentations (overhead transparencies and flipcharts) and students believed they learned more from PowerPoint presentations (Bartsch & Cobern, 2003), the relationship between use of materials posted online and academic performance is not clear. Heffner and Cohen (2005) found that frequency of student access to WebCT materials was positively related to performance on exams and class assignments. However, Goolkasian, Van Wallendael, and Gaultney (2003) found mostly nonsignificant low positive correlations between multiple measures of exam performance and time spent with Web materials and Henly (2003) did not find differences in assessment scores among those who frequently accessed Web-based course materials and those who did not.

Though students appear to enjoy and feel they benefit from on-line materials, it is not clear whether this activity enhances grades or negatively impacts attendance. Weatherly, Grabe, and Arthur (2002-2003) found that when introductory psychology students had access to lecture outlines online, they performed more poorly on exams than students who did not have access to online materials. …

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