Friday, June 1, 2012

Opening Access: Course Proposals Archive at Penn State

I have started writing about open access recently (Between Scholar and University--Sharing Knowledge, Protecting Revenue and Control--Is the UCSF Approach Worth Considering, May 28, 2012).  Now comes news of an important step forward, in the form of access to the archive of course proposals at Penn State.

(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2012)

The project was a number of years in the making and would not have been possible without the collaboration of the libraries, the Faculty Senate and critically the financial support and encouragement of the Provost. 

Online service enables retrieval of Penn State course proposals 
Penn State Live
Friday, March 23, 2012

All Penn State course proposals created since 1970 can now be retrieved online thanks to a new service provided by the Penn State University Archives in collaboration with the University Faculty Senate and Information Technology Services. University Curriculum Archives (UCA) can be accessed at Penn State users can search by course abbreviation, course number, course title and college.

The service searches digital versions of course proposals (1970-present) and provides a PDF version of a Penn State course proposal.

The UCA was initially funded by a grant from the Office of the Provost and has been in development for a number of years and involved the collaborative efforts of several University offices, including Digital Library Technologies, Teaching and Learning with Technologies, Administrative Information Services and the University Libraries.

In addition, the digitization services of State College vendor Macrosmith Inc., founded by Penn State alum C. Grier Yartz, were critical to creating the PDF versions available for download. Additional information about this administrative service can be obtained by contacting the University Faculty Senate office at 814-863-0221. Course proposals created prior to January 1970 can be retrieved by contacting the University Archives at 814-865-1793.

Bravo.  This is a great step forward.  It provides faculty and others with  information about the way courses have changed from the time of their approval and helps refine ideas about course objectives and content.  But access for other stakeholders might also be useful.  For other stakeholders, it may provide information for gauging the content and relevance of courses and of judging their utility for their own purposes.  Ultimately, it may serve to enhance communication across disciplines and among stakeholders as we all work toward managing the educational project at the highest levels of internal quality and general utility.

It would be even better if the achievement this represents might be a first step toward greater access to instructional materials.  Perhaps thew next step might be to develop and open an archive on course syllabi for all courses offered at Penn State.  Some units have moved more aggressively and wisely in this direction, for example, the School of Nursing. And, of course, many faculty post their syllabi either for students, or for public access.  I have made it a point to post my syllabi (e.g.,"Elements of Law" Course 2.0: A Framework Course for the U.S. Law Curriculum), but syllabi may otherwise be less available at my own home unit.

the opening of access to the critically important product of faculty work at Penn State--the production of knowledge, which also serves as the basis for the quality and content of courses--could be the crowning achievement of movement toward access at Penn State.

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