Want To Create An Accessible Syllabus In A Native PDF Environment, Using A Free Program (Adobe Reader) ?

My colleagues and I at Utah State University recently released the first version of a syllabus authoring tool at the Sloan Consortium Emerging Technologies for Online Learning conference.

The PDF Syllabus Builder was subsequently published by Sloan-C as a peer-reviewed Effective Practice: http://bit.ly/NEG7oZ. This open-source tool is licensed under a Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.

Our team at the Faculty Assistance Center for Teaching (FACT) developed the PDF Syllabus Builder as an XML-based dynamic PDF (using Adobe Live Cycle Designer) for three main reasons:

  • Adobe Reader is a free and ubiquitous software program
  • The tool operates on a local machine: no internet connection is needed; no browser version issues; runs on PCs and Macs
  • Text-based PDF files are accessible to all students (508 compliance)

Upon opening the tool in Adobe Reader, users are guided step-by-step through six areas of the syllabus: information, course objectives, course resources, course activities, policies and grades. An example syllabus is provided to model content and design best practices.

In the Objectives area, users can create course objectives with action verbs aligned with Bloom’s Revised taxonomy. Campus policies and federal laws relevant to education provided in the Policies area ensure that every learner is informed of her or his institutional and legal rights.The tool also computes a points-based grading scale from point values provided in the Grades area.

Here’s a three-minute introductory video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYFpu_zBMqU

Download the tool: http://fact.usu.edu/files/uploads/PDF_Syllabus_Builder_v1_beta.pdf