I think professors and instructors at all higher education institutions should be posting their syllabi, course outlines, and other materials (not restricted by copyright educational fair use guidelines) to the web.

One reason for this is our educational marketplace. When someone says, “I teach this class online” or “I am taking this class online,” that means very little. There is so much variety in the expectations of online instructors, the types of activities in which learners are expected to engage, and the authenticity as well as value of the learning opportunities available in online classes that I am astounded by it. Students shopping in the higher education marketplace deserve to have more information up-front so they can make an informed decision about a course they might take.

One basic way to address this is for higher education faculty to share their syllabi and other materials online with students (and the entire world) so before enrolling in the class, students have a good idea what they are signing up for. This also provides a valuable virtual mechanism for faculty members at the same institution or other institutions to share ideas, strategies, and resource links.

The problem is, many faculty balk at this idea! They are fearful, in large part because I think they fear academic transparency. The idea of having all syllabi posted online is disruptive. It fundamentally changes the dynamics of the classroom. In most instances, course outlines are shared with paying students only– period. No one else gets to “see” (i.e. read) what is contained in the course. Within a given institution, copies of syllabi are kept by administrators and may be shared with other instructors teaching the same course, but my perception is that this practice (of sharing) is NOT widespread.

It should be.

An individual example of a faculty member sharing her course syllabi and other materials online is Dr. Rhonda Christensen at UNT. An institutional example is the MIT OpenCourseware resource. I am trying to offer the same level of transparency in my own academic teaching via my website and course moodle sites.

Hopefully more university faculty will follow this model. I suspect younger faculty will be more willing to do this, while older faculty will be more resistant. These lines may follow the digital immigrant / digital foreigner distinctions I discussed in my presentation on “Digital Definers of the New Teacher Education” last week (available as a podcast.) The trend does not have to, however. The choice of whether you are a digital immigrant or a digital foreigner IS a choice. We need more of the former, and less of the latter.

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, subscribe to Wes' free newsletter. Check out Wes' video tutorial library, "Playing with Media." Information about more ways to learn with Dr. Wesley Fryer are available on wesfryer.com/after.

On this day..

Share →

One Response to Transparency in Higher Education

  1. Tama Leaver says:

    I completely agree. I also tend to think that universities are still responsible for encouraging (and wherever possible, facilitating) teaching and learning beyond the walls of the unversity. Syllabi online allow others to see how ideas are being (re)formulated and explored in a tertiary enviroment and to at least have the chance to explore some similar thoughts (which dosn’t devalue the university experience since these explorations are still most fruitful in a face to face [or similar] enviroment with a teacher who is a specialist in the area).

    At the end of my recent course “iGeneration: Digital Communication & Participatory Culture” which was facilitated by a blog, I left a note encouraging others to use the course materials and outline for whatever use they wish, so long as the respect the Creative Commons License (which requires attribution, thus keeping the university happy [good press] and avoiding plaigiarism [legally, must cite source]).

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Made with Love in Oklahoma City