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Syllabi Should Be Open
June 2, 2010 - 9:56pm

Every syllabus should be published, indexed, and freely available online.

Where possible, the online syllabus should have these 5 traits:

1. Published in Web format, in addition to a PDF or Word document (which is better for printing but not for quickly scanning).

2. Contain links to full-text openly available curricular documents and media.

3. Provide learning outcomes at the course and modular level.

4. Include links to the instructor's C.V. and any other online resources or places that can connect the learner with the instructor.

5. Be licensed under the Creative Commons.

While I'm suggesting a set of common standards for online publishing of syllabi, I don't believe that these standards should be a top-down mandate. Rather, I think this change will come organically if we figure out a system to support and model this behavior for instructors.

Some questions that we could ask ourselves about the publishing of syllabi include:

--Are the tools in place to allow instructors to easily publish their syllabi to the Web?

--Are examples of syllabi that are effective for both classroom/student use and as an open learning resource easily available and accessible?

--Have opportunities for discussion and dialogue between instructors who have taken this step of publishing their syllabi and those who have not been made available?

--Does the institution reward and support the online sharing of syllabi?

--Are there sufficient educational technology resources available to partner with and assist instructors in creating and publishing syllabi for the open Web?

We also have the problem of the platform. As far as I know, we don't have a common platform for syllabi like the ones emerging for open course media on YouTube/EDU and iTunesU. (Am I wrong?).

This seems like a great opportunity for Google to extend its work on its Google Book Library Project to the syllabus. How about the Google Syllabus Project? A collection of the syllabi in every discipline from every part of the world. Google could develop a set of robust tools to easily allow instructors to author, convert and publish their course syllabi. A specific search term for syllabi could defined (filetype:syllabus), making searching across this content type extremely easy.

Are you creeped out by the suggestion that Google should offer this syllabus platform? Do you think that professors will not participate in such an exchange given concerns about a Google monopoly on data? Perhaps I'm naive, but I'd welcome such a platform and I'd welcome Google throwing their weight behind open learning resources at the level of the syllabus. Nor do I see this sort of thing being done really effectively by non-profits or individual schools, we just don't have the scale and Web expertise that Google could bring to a project like this.

Tell me all the places where I'm wrong…….


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