Borrowing Syllabi: Collaborate, Re-mix, Acknowledge

Posted on by Brooke

A number of years back, Chris Heard posted the flowchart [link updated] by which he assessed a certain paper-writing assignment. I have mentioned before that I picked it up and modified it for my own use. At that time, I incorporated much of it into a checklist for the students to consult before submitting the paper. More recently, convinced of the value of rubrics for assessment, I have developed that into a three-column rubric. I realized recently that, some point, in the heat of revision, I had dropped my standard acknowledgment of Chris's original work.

Katharine Harris wrote recently on the value of including acknowledgments in syllabi: if we are smart, we are re-mixing assignments and assessment tools designed by others, and as an ongoing research project in curriculum, a syllabus should reflect that.

"Re-mixing" syllabi created by others (or their elements) is not different from how designers of open-source software "fork" already-existing applications: taking a tool that exists, then copying and modifying it into a new creation, is to create a new "fork" for that tool. Brian Croxell talks about "forking a syllabus," and Lincoln Muller offers tips on using GitHub—an online resource for sharing and forking software code—to collaborate on and share syllabi, assignments, and assessment tools.

I have begun developing an online lesson for faculty on the value of using plain text [in] the writing process and in collaborative writing, and a section of that lesson will include the use of GitHub for sharing modules from syllabi: policy statements, projects, assessment tools, and so on. I will plan to work out parts of that lesson here on the blog.

How have you built on tools drawn from others' syllabi? What are your habits regarding acknowledgment?

[Borrowing Syllabi: Collaborate, Re-mix, Acknowledge was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 20121/04/18. Except as noted, it is © 2012 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]