About the Open Syllabus Project and Syllabus Explorer

The Open Syllabus Project (OSP) is pleased to make the beta version of our Syllabus Explorer publicly available.   The Explorer leverages a collection of over 1 million syllabi collected from university and departmental websites.  It provides:

  • The first version of a new publication metric (Teaching Score) based on how often texts are taught.
  • A unique course-building tool that provides information about what’s taught with what.
  • A promising means of exploring the history of fields, curricular change, and differences in teaching across institutions, states, and countries.

The Syllabus Explorer publishes only metadata (citations, dates, locations, etc) extracted from its collection via machine learning techniques.  It does not publish underlying documents or personally identifying information.

The Explorer is very much a work in progress.  As you may discover, it gets a lot of things wrong.  Fixes and improvements will be incremental.  But it also gets a lot right, and makes curricula visible and navigable in ways that we think can become valuable to authors, teachers, researchers, administrators, publishers, and students.  We hope that this beta version of the tool convinces you of that potential.

The Open Syllabus Project is, at present, a mostly volunteer effort.  There are many ways to help make the project better: by donating syllabi, by helping to line up institutional partners, by volunteering development expertise, or by contributing money if you find the project especially useful or interesting (please do. This project operates on a shoestring.)

That’s the short version.  For a longer version of how the Syllabus Explorer works and where we want to go with it, see the FAQ.


The OSP Team

January 9th, 2016 by

The OSP at Two Months

The Open Syllabus Explorer is two months old and just crossed 250,000 visits.  One of the exciting aspects of the launch for us has been the process of discovering the audience for the project.  We anticipated strong interest from US academics in the teaching rankings within fields and the ‘teaching scores’ for their own work.  The traffic data appear to bear out that assumption.  We anticipated interest from the library, publishing, open data, and educational technology worlds, and from students.

We didn’t expect the extent to which the OSP would be treated as an authoritative ranking of Great Books, with a broad audience interested in non or extra-academic learning.  The most powerful hook for media stories (and resulting bumps in traffic) wasn’t the things that interested us most—the significance of introducing a new publishing metric and the potential for exploring the history of fields—but the use of the top-ranked books as a proxy for being educated or ‘well-read’, and the enduring connection of these ideas to forms of status anxiety.  The Washington Post boiled this down to its simplest form: What Ivy League students are reading that you aren’t. Continue reading “The OSP at Two Months”

March 25th, 2016 by

OSP is hiring a Full-stack Engineer / Data Scientist

April 2016 Job Listing:  The Open Syllabus Project is an academic data-mining project at Columbia and Stanford that’s extracting structured information from a corpus of 1M+ college course syllabi. What’s actually being taught in college classrooms? How has this changed over time? What can we learn about the organization of the modern university from large-scale trends in the texts that are being assigned? How can insights from these data be applied to curriculum development, education policy, and lifelong learning? Continue reading “OSP is hiring a Full-stack Engineer / Data Scientist”

March 20th, 2016 by

Open Syllabus Talk at IODC 2015

Here’s an overview of OSP progress in the last year, with previews of some of the candy we’ll be making public in the next months (from the International Open Data Conference 2015).


August 7th, 2015 by