[uf-new] course syllabus markup or microformat?

Manas Tungare manas at tungare.name
Thu Dec 13 14:28:08 PST 2007

Hi Jeff and Jeremy,

 > Wondering if there is any work on microformat or markup of a course
 > syllabus? Any and all suggestions solicited.

I'm a Ph.D. student at Virginia Tech interested in this effort. We  
have been working towards this for some time now (not specifically  
microformats, but standard representations for syllabi and courses.)  
Our project web site is at http://syllabus.cs.vt.edu/ -- you're  
welcome to check it out.

Right now we're at a phase where we have an extensive collection of  
syllabi along with a syllabus editor in development. We hope to be  
able to share the fruits of our labor with others by making available  
our collection in ways that others can use meaningfully. Microformats  
are one of the obvious choices.

Here's a little bit of background about our work: we have crawled and  
analyzed close to 8000 syllabi from the Web, and played with the  
collection in many ways: we classified them based on the ACM Computing  
Curricula 2001 classification system; we tagged the information from a  
few syllabi manually to create a training set for an automatic  
extractor, and later put the extractor to use. Some of this work has  
been published at SIGCSE 2007, JCDL 2007, ECDL 2007 and AH 2006.

 From our experience with these syllabi, we recently settled on an  
ontology that heavily reuses existing standards to represent a  
composite syllabus. It includes the most common attributes of syllabi  
(but not necessarily all). We're aiming for the concept of a course,  
which would be a superset of a syllabus. We believe that syllabi can  
be represented with three simple standard entities and relationships  
between them: people, resources and activities. Teachers, students,  
teaching assistants, textbook authors, etc. are the people involved  
and can be marked up as vCard/hCards. Textbooks, assignments, lecture  
slides, etc. are resources that can be marked up as Dublin Core.  
Lectures, tests, deadlines etc. are obviously events that have an  
associated time, and thus represented via hCalendar. (Actually, an  
activity = event + resources + people.)

You can find a lot of examples of syllabi at our site, and I would  
gladly add the original URLs to a wiki page if this proposal goes  
forward. I would love to hear what this list feels about syllabi: are  
they general enough to warrant a microformat of their own? Can they be  
represented in another, more general microformat? Our team agrees with  
Jeff and Jeremy that the number of unstructured syllabi online,  
coupled with the potential for rich applications to be built if a  
standard existed, are both strong motivators to move this proposal  

I have been following the public development of microformats for some  
time now, and have marked up my web site with hCard, hCalendar and  
hResume wherever appropriate. (http://manas.tungare.name/) I wish we  
are soon able to do the same for syllabi.

Regards, Manas.
  Manas Tungare, http://manas.tungare.name/

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