Course syllabi are a potentially valuable source of information for teaching and scholarship. Their contents could shed light on the evolution of fields (How has Foucault’s popularity changed over time?) or help professors develop new courses (What are best practices for teaching digital humanities?). But gathering and sharing syllabi can be a messy business. Privacy concerns, legal uncertainty, fragmented and inconsistent sharing practices—all present challenges.
A group of scholars is taking a fresh crack at the problem. Called the Open Syllabus Project, their effort aims to build a large-scale online database of syllabi “as a platform for the development of new research, teaching, and administrative tools.” The scholars also want to start a broader conversation about sharing syllabi before universities wake up to find policies imposed on them from above.