Takeaways from the DC Google Group: Repository Solutions for Publishing Syllabi

People are starting to recognize that making course materials more available is an important part of publishing scholarly output and sharing knowledge. The New York Times recently ran an article on publishing syllabi that stated “it is important for schools to move toward a more open approach to curriculums,” underlining this point. We have distilled the highlights of a Digital Commons Google Group discussion on this topic so you can see what your peers are doing.

Syllabi and Intellectual Property Rights

Initial interest about housing syllabi in Digital Commons on the GG list came from Megan Waters Bernal of DePaul University. There was discussion of intellectual property rights issues and syllabi as “work for hire,” some reporting that it is the property of the faculty member, others that it belongs to the university. Chris Burns of Kwantlen Polytechnic University suggests that this varies by institution.

Restricted Access and Open Access

Paul Blobaum, Governers State University, suggests posting syllabi can be “a can of worms” due to limited access requirements from their school; restricting access through Digital Commons is one solution. Allegra Swift from The Claremont Colleges Library stated that “IP restricted and embargo are definitely good options. I’d suggest a Creative Commons CC-BY-NC for your syllabi.” But she emphasizes “the importance and impact of having this content available outside the institution,” citing requests to access these items. Many, like Carrie Levinson, Touro College, want their curricular material to be open access.

Wendy Walker says:

“We have an OA syllabi collection here at the University of Montana with over 3,700 syllabi from various years. I have had [only] a handful of faculty come to me with concerns about distributing their ‘intellectual property’ to the world….I will say that our syllabi collection is one of our most highly downloaded collections. And our reference staff field requests for syllabi on a regular basis from past, current, and potential students….We have had explicit support from the Provost to use DC for this purpose and to make the syllabi OA.”

Great Download Numbers

Ashley Lowry at Georgia Southern reports that their syllabi collection gets great downloads, something we hear from many of our community members.

Innovation in Syllabus Archives

Colgate University Libraries have a syllabi repository with a detailed FAQ, a great idea. Jeanne Pavy of the University of New Orleans created a syllabus archive in their repository, “in response to our Provost, who wanted a public place to store syllabi.”


The Teaching Commons (OERs) collects syllabi and other open educational resources (OER) from Digital Commons repositories. There is a related bepress webinar available on Expanding the Classroom with Open Educational Resources that addresses engaging faculty as well as publishing OERs in the repository.

Thanks to all who chimed in on the GG to discuss publishing curricular material in the IR!