A self-assembling syllabus list

Eszter Hargittai writes on the ongoing issue of courseware. It seems to me that many people make their syllabi (and other course materials) available but don’t think to list them somewhere. She mentions the list on RCCS, where I have at least one or two syllabi listed, but many of my relevant classes aren’t there, simply because I forget to put them up. We need a syllabi aggregation system.

One option would just be to get people to blog when their syllabi are done, and ping a Topic Exchange channel. Unfortunately, this presumes that people have a blog and are keyed into the tech (a very bad assumption).

Another possibility is to do meta-data and a crawler; that is, a kind of distributed self-archiving system. I guess this could follow the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting, but I was thinking of something much simpler. How about:

1. A crawler that searches for documents with “syllabus” in the title. Naturally, not all of these are syllabi!

2. It then looks at a set of meta tags that identify some common stuff — the name of the course, the semester(s) taught, etc. — all of it optional.

3. If vital info is missing, maybe we take a shot at scraping.

4. Cateogrize and offer as RSS feeds and as a searchable database.

This would be a great project for one of our Masters in Informatics students. I wonder if others would play? Getting folks to use metadata is always an uphill battle. The steepest part of that hill would be getting Blackboard, WebCT, and MIT to sign on :).

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