Using Creative Commons Licenses in BYU’s Syllabus Builder

As everyone knows by now, BYU has decided to end it’s relationship with Blackboard and is pursuing a course Jon Mott and I characterized as an open learning network – a group of smaller, specialized tools that can be used independently or jointly in a small-pieces-loosely-joined sort of way.

One of these tools is Syllabus Builder, which does exactly what you’d expect and then some. In addition to helping faculty get all the required bits into their syllabus (e.g., Honor Code), it also does nifty things like importing the official course learning outcomes from and adapting last year’s syllabus to this year’s dates, accounting for things like those crazy Tuesdays that are actually Fridays.

The one thing I wish Syllabus Builder did that it doesn’t do is make it easy to apply an open license to your syllabus. There is, of course, a workaround – which is what I want to explain in this blog.

In the first portion of the “Policies” section (Policies > Choose Information) click the button labeled “+Additional Field” near the bottom of the page. Then go to the Policies > Additional Fields section, and you’re presented with a text box where you can add your own policies.

I included the following language there; adapt as you like:

Open Syllabus Policy

There isn’t really a university Open Syllabus Policy, but hopefully there will be one day.

Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:15-16)

Copyright is the modern era’s bushel. It hides much of the good work that goes on inside universities from the public. Open licenses are the candlesticks of the digital age. Applying an open license to your syllabus and other academic and scholarly work allows your light to shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify you Heavenly Father.

Providing free and open public access to our scholarly and educational resources will “have a strong effect on the course of higher education and will greatly enlarge Brigham Young University’s influence in a world we wish to improve” (BYU Mission Statement). Hiding away our academic and scholarly work behind copyright severely limits our ability to influence a world we wish to improve.

Consequently, this syllabus is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License, meaning anyone in the world is free to read, download, adapt, change, translate, and share it with others. I hope you find it useful and that it blesses your life somehow.

I then inserted the code from the Creative Commons licensing wizard in the box, which includes both the logo and the code necessary to tell Google, Bing, and others that the syllabus is, in fact, openly licensed. Inserting the button code ONLY works after you press the “Source” button just to the top and left of the text box:

<a href="" rel="license"><img alt="Creative Commons License" src="" style="border-width:0"/></a>

The trick comes in the final section of the Syllabus Builder. Go to Layout > Choose a Theme. In the topmost section, titled Navigation, select None (the choice farthest to the right). This will put all of your syllabus content on a single web page with the open license applied.

You can see an example of how it looks here:

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