The CITE, a blog published by the National Association of College Stores, takes a look at the intersection of education and technology, highlighting issues that range from course materials to learning delivery to the student experience. Comments, discussion, feedback, and ideas are welcome.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Syllabus Databases Assist Course Creators

When faculty start developing new courses, they often want to know how other professors have structured similar courses and what textbooks they’re using. Likewise, textbook authors are keen to find out who has adopted their works for classes.

The Open Syllabus Project (OSP), a new database with three million course syllabuses, is designed to help both groups, and possibly also aid textbook publishers to better understand the ways in which faculty use course materials for teaching. OSP, set to open in January 2017, isn’t the first of its kind, according to an article in Nature, but it will be the largest to date.

Another database, Open Syllabus Explorer, launched in early 2016 with plans to expand its inventory next year to three million syllabuses cross-referenced with 150 million texts. Both databases can be searched in a number of ways: by academic field, textbook author, institution, and other criteria.

For now, there are limitations to these databases. They hold just a fraction of the estimated 80 million to 120 million syllabuses in the U.S. because at present they can only access syllabuses posted on public websites. Those stored in a school’s learning management system, for instance, aren’t accessible. Although a search can show which textbooks are most widely used in a particular field, the results can’t be filtered by subfields.

The team working on the OSP database also hope it will give faculty who write textbooks and other course materials a chance to promote themselves more by revealing the extent to which their published work is used in other classrooms.

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