Thursday, November 07, 2013

Open Ed 13: Hacking the Syllabus in Saskatchewan

Official seal of Saskatoon
Official seal of Saskatoon
I met Jordan Epp this morning. I was looking for a place to sit down in the big hall early this morning and he was the only one still smiling while drinking the conference coffee - I had to meet him! How could you pass up such an undaunted spirit? Anyway, it was a great conversation, he is an instructional designer from the University of Saskatchewan and lives in Saskatoon, and he said something that has stuck with me all day. We were talking about open textbooks and how many students don't buy textbooks. He said that in their study of students they found students that did well in the course who did not buy the text book. They contacted the students and asked how they managed to do so well in the class without buying the textbook. One of them said that he took the outcomes from the assignment listed in the syllabus and copied them into Google. He chose the link that had the most matched words and just read articles on the internet.This hits me on two levels; first, the instructor is brilliant for having such well articulated outcomes for the assignments. That instructor knows what they are teaching. The second, is that the student is brilliant for understanding the purpose of the outcomes. This course would be low-hanging fruit for conversion to an OER-based course.

The process for converting a class to an open textbook class is to look at the course outcomes, see how the current textbook aligns with the outcomes and then either finding an open textbook that meets those outcomes or customising an open textbook with other open education resources to meet them. Sometimes this process starts with "what is a course outcome?"

Wouldn't it be great if this student does not have to play Sherlock Holmes and basically build his own textbook? A third thought would be - someone should keep an eye on that student, he will make a great teacher or instructional designer one day!

Jordan, here is that picture of the moose in Saskatoon.
Enhanced by Zemanta


  1. Hi Geoff,

    Thanks for sharing this student's idea--brilliant.

    I would like to share an open-source syllabus authoring tool with you and your readers:

    Salsa assists instructors in writing learning outcomes with built-in action verbs categorized by Bloom's Revised Taxonomy.


  2. Thanks for the shout out, Geoff. It was a pleasure talking to you. I think its important to note that if this system of student driven content curation/creation were to take place that it would require a real shift in the instructional methods used. Instructors would need to relinquish their "keeper of the knowledge" crowns to become shepherds of the curation process. A paradigm shift that not many faculty are willing to endure just yet.

    Nice Moose BTW. Yeah we're a little bit country up here in Saskatchewan, but thats the way we like it. ;)