Syllabi Tips & Tools, part 3: More Open Resources & Examples

Syllabi Tips & Tools: Images of syllabus examples and tools by Buffalo Syllabus, Radical Hope Syllabus, Matthew S. Henry, & Crypto Syllabus

In preparing part one (tools) and part two (strategies) of this series, I found many other resources that just didn’t quite fit in a nice tidy bundle. So here, in part three, I’m going to share some of those additional resources and tools, as well as some examples which range from achievable to awe-inspiring.


“The learner-centered syllabus helps students navigate both the content and processes of a course by focusing on experiences the students will have, rather than what the instructor will do. Such a syllabus helps students understand the context and need for the course, how you personally approach it as a teacher, what the major expectations of the course will be, and how the course will unfold.”

Adapted by Northeastern U. from Grunert O’Brien, Millis, & Cohen (2008)

The concept of a student-centered or learner-centered syllabus is not a new idea. It’s sufficiently standard that many educational organizations and schools have created resources to support teachers in developing content in this conceptual approach. What I’ve been focusing on in this blog series is applying newer cognitive strategies and technologies to the challenge, specifically in the context of creating a syllabus.

If you haven’t already seen Open Pedagogy, a collaborative approach to rethinking how higher education is approached and its dependence on commercial resources, you might want to take a look. They originated with the Open Faculty Patchbook project, and have a resource introducing this concept: “Collaborative Syllabus Design: Students at the Center.” Quite a number of universities have developed resources encouraging their faculty to engage with these concepts, and I’m delighted that my alma mater is one with a particularly rich set of resources. Iowa State University offers “Creating an Inclusive & Learner-Centered Syllabus” and the shortform “Seven Steps to a Learner-Centered Syllabus” as part of their broader resources on “Creating an Inclusive Classroom.” CSUN in California has both a how-to guide, “Design a Learning-Centered Syllabus,” as well as the useful “Learning-Centered Syllabus Checklist & Samples.” UC San Diego, UNL, and Cornell offer focused introductions, with Cornell’s including a number of templates to help get started. I was particularly delighted with the article, “Constructing a Learner-Centered Syllabus: One Professor’s Journey” by Aaron S. Richmond, which walks through the process from beginning to end in a very thoughtful and practical approach.


Screenshot of the Open Syllabus Galaxy viewer. This is a visualization of over a million separate items included in various academic syllabi sorted by frequency and topic. It looks like clouds of colored dust. The example shown is the title "Why is Central Paris Rich and Downtown Detroit Poor?" assigned on 38 syllabi.

Any discussion of open access syllabi must include the Open Syllabus Project, even though it doesn’t (yet) supply full syllabi as independent pieces. Instead, it allows you to browse the full entries of content referenced in over (as of today) 7,292,573 syllabi, along with the value-added information of how many syllabi cite any particular item. This allows you to explore both the best hits as well as the long tail. I love that they’ve also made their code available in GitHub, for others who might want to design subsets or spinoff projects.

Open Syllabus Project

What the Open Syllabus Project doesn’t do, as far as I know, is separate out which of the items cited are open access and which require subscriptions or purchase. For that, I’ve included a list of open educational resource discovery tools.

For collections of actual syllabi to explore, try these sources. I myself am particularly fond of FORRT, but maybe you aren’t as interested in science as other topics. Each of these collections, except Campus Compact, tend to focus on a specific discipline or domain, which I’ve tried to make clear in the list.


Screenshot of the Crypto Syllabus
The Crypto Syllabus

In the other parts of this blog series, I mentioned a few stand-out examples of the type of syllabus under discussion, but I found a lot more, and just wanted you to have a chance to skim through these as well.

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