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Your Favorite Episode

Recently we’ve been exploring the place of ‘non-traditional’ materials in the curriculum: newspaper and magazine articles, TV and radio episodes, podcasts, blogs, and so on. Such materials are, of course, both very common on syllabi and largely invisible to traditional approaches to curricular design. They have been invisible in Open Syllabus, too, which relies on library catalogs to describe the range of titles that we can search for in the syllabus collection. Over the summer we decided to address this by extracting URLs in the collection, walking them back to their sources, and filtering for work used in instructional contexts. We now have a very interesting catalog of non-traditional classroom materials.

This is a big topic that will probably be the subject of several posts, but let’s look at some fun stuff first: TV/radio shows and podcasts that do serious long-form exploration of topics. Many of these are assigned with some frequency on syllabi — though we suspect more often as supplements to conventional assignments than as primary materials. It would be interesting to test this via a deeper dive into the documents. In any case, there is some standout programming that has a strong presence in the classroom. For example, Frontline:

Spying on the Home Front,” “On Our Watch” (which is about the genocide in Darfur), and “Ghosts of Rwanda” play central roles in the teaching of their respective topics. For comparison, the other major Rwanda titles — Prunier’s The Rwanda Crisis,

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How Much Traction do Open Access / Open Educational Resources have in the Classroom?

Open Access (OA) monographs and Open Educational Resource (OER) textbooks are works that are ‘openly licensed’ — that is, they can be used and distributed for free. In a world of $200 textbooks, OA/OER plays a fairly high-profile role in efforts to reduce the cost of education.

But free circulation makes it difficult to track classroom adoption, which in turn makes it difficulty to understand the shape of demand for OA/OER work–either overall or with respect to particular subjects. The link between supply and demand established in the commercial book market by a sale doesn’t exist in the OA/OER world. Our thought is that this delinking is one reason–and maybe a significant reason–for the relatively low rate of adoption of OA/OER in teaching, despite over a decade of efforts. It’s still too hard to characterize demand for these titles to faculty, curricular designers, publishers, and investors. It’s hard to tell what’s popular and what’s been effectively adopted in peer institutions.

So we’re eager to see what happens when we partially close this information loop by measuring demand via syllabi. Here’s a normalized US trendline for OA/OER adoption based on the OS collection (drawing on catalog information from the Open Textbook Library and the Directory of Open Access Books). It shows rapid OER textbook growth in recent years–but from a very low baseline. In 2017, roughly 1 in 300 classes used OER textbooks and around 1 in 400 assigned an OA monograph (the lighter blue is for textbooks; darker for

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Open Syllabus 2.0

Welcome to the Open Syllabus Project 2.0. Now you can explore college teaching, publishing, and intellectual traditions across 6 million classes, 4700 schools, and 79 countries.

You can dive into schools and fields, look at how the adoption of texts changes over time, and compare how teaching varies in different countries.

So explore, let us know what you think, and give some thought to sharing your syllabi.

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Syllabus of the Month (January)

We received this 1996 Wesleyan University syllabus as a remembrance of the instructor by a former student. It’s January’s syllabus of the month.

Fall 1996
Col/Hum 104

Teachers and Their Teachings: From Socrates to Foucault

Howard Bernstein
X 2323 Butterfield C313, Office hours, T, Th 4-5 and by Appt

General description: This course is about teachers and students, their relationships, and some powerful pedagogical ideas; it is also about maturation and longing, power and subordination, deception and self-deception, transference and counter-transference. We will be asking questions about what it means to “educate,” to take responsibility for the shaping of another soul, to transmit culture, to confront and to provoke, and perhaps, also, to insinuate, manipulate, and judge. What is it that students alternatively crave and fear in the educative process? Why do teachers presume to teach when the opportunities to do otherwise are often more glitteringly attractive? Our task is to examine different, and sometimes discordant, models of teaching and learning from classical antiquity virtually to the present. As little as possible will be presupposed or assumed to be self-evident, including the almost sacrosanct notion that “education” (liberal or illiberal) is a good thing for which there is some sort of intrinsic “need.”

Major readings in order of appearance (mostly):

David Mamet, Oleanna

Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind

Plato, the Republic, Apology

Selections from the Synoptic Gospels, and the Pauline Epistles.

Letters of Abelard and Heloise

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile

Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish


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Big in Japan

We always like to learn more about how the OSP is being used, and sometimes this yields an unexpected treat.  Here’s a short segment from a Japanese quiz show called ‘Wow! Surprising Japan,’ in which foreigners are quizzed about their knowledge of Japan.  The segment discusses novelist Souseki Natsume, who comes in 11th in some sort of power ranking of famous Japanese people.  Here, the OSP is used as an authority for what foreigners might know about Japan.  According to our data, Natsume’s Kokoro is assigned with some frequency.  Thanks, Daisuke!

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