Open Syllabus Project



The Open Syllabus Project (OSP) is building the first large-scale online database of university course syllabi as a platform for new research, teaching, and administrative tools.

We hope the OSP will improve our understanding of teaching, publishing, and intellectual history on a wide range of fronts, such as:

What are the most taught texts? How have fields changed? How do schools or departments within a field differ from one another? What is the demand for Open Access materials?

Because policies and norms around syllabus ownership vary, the OSP won’t publish syllabi without permission. The public side of the OSP will be a collection of tools for analyzing metadata extracted from the documents. We will also, in the course of this work, advocate for stronger open-access policies for syllabi.

We’re still building the community of interest in the project and would welcome help in four broad areas: access to collections of syllabi, tools development, relationships with libraries and archives, and exploration of the research potential of the database.

Welcome, Overview, to the OSP!

The Open Syllabus Project is happy to to have Overview, an open-source document analysis and visualization system originally developed at the Associated Press for investigative journalists, as our newest project partner. The Overview team recently welcomed its own new addition, David McClure, who will be helping the OSP put 2 million scraped syllabi online, do natural language processing to extract citations from each syllabus, and build visualizations to do citation analysis on our massive corpus.

To extend our welcome to David and the rest of our new partners, we wanted to briefly introduce the Overview project and how its goals wonderfully correspond with the OSP’s. As an open-source tool originally designed to help journalists find stories in large numbers of documents, Overview automatically sorts documents according to topic and provides a fast visualization and reading interface. Since right now the OSP has accumulated more than 2 million syllabi, we’re glad to have Overview’s expertise on search and UI to help make all our data user-friendly and accessible.

Syllabi are increasingly messy documents, lacking standardization in both structure and, of course, content. That’s why Overview will be especially helpful for our task: Overview is designed specifically for text documents where “the interesting content is all in narrative form.” It’s been used to analyze emails, declassified document dumps, material from Wikileaks releases, social media posts, online comments, and now syllabi.

As its goal is to make advanced document mining capability available to anyone who needs it, Overview will critically support OSP’s

LINKS: Guides to Copyright & Course Materials

Here are a couple of useful institutional guides on copyright and intellectual property rights over faculty’s course materials.

From the University of Maryland:

From Pennsylvania State University:

If your institution has similar guidelines or you know of others, please share them with us via Twitter or e-mail.

GUEST POST: The Open Curriculum Project

Here at the OSP, we’re always interested in seeing how others are tackling the complex problem of open curriculum sharing. So we were excited to hear about this “small open syllabus” project spearheaded by Sherif Mansour after attending Wikimania 2014. Here’s his guest blog post introducing his project to open Egypt’s educational system:

The Open Curriculum Project

I attended Wikimania 2014 in London, Wikipedia’s annual conference. I was inspired by some of the genuinely amazing people doing some ground breaking work, and decided to see how that could help Egypt’s educational system.

What did I do?

1) Uploaded a scanned copy of the school text books in wiki-commons, which is a part of Wikiepdia for media files and documents.

2) Created a wiki-source “digital library” page which allows the user to edit each page and see the scanned copy side by side., allowing the quality of the material improve over time.

3) Created a page that details the course and foster a discussion around it.

4) The page can be downloaded as a PDF/EPUB file format meaning it could be read on almost all devices and e-readers while maintaining an up-to-date version of textbook.

This video might help explain.

You may not know this but Egypt’s Ministry of Education (MOE), has all the school books up on a public Microsoft “Drop Box” found here.

I then uploaded the first year secondary school text books to wiki-commons and tagged them as such (notice the “الصف_الاول_الاعدادي” tag). I tagged the books