Project Syllabi - Internet Independent Scholars

Xochi Zen x at asylum.sf.ca.us
Wed Mar 1 18:00:58 EST 1995


        Project Syllabi - Internet Independent Scholars
        ===============================================

        Phase I: Project Syllabi.


        I haven't yet set-up a home page for the following project. 

        You may obtain the latest version of this documents via FTP:

                ftp ftp.elf.com   /pub/u/x/syllabi.txt

        Ether University, Cyberspace University, Encephalon University, 
        Encephalon College, Cyberversity, World Wide University, 
        Cambridge Free University, Internet Free University,  
        Encephalon Free University

        (C) 1995 - Dana M. Nibby. You may freely distribute this
                   document so long as you do not alter its contents
                   or charge money for it (why you'd want to do the
                   later, I haven't the faintest idea).

        The Internet has been like a second education to me.
        I am continually amazed at the breadth of knowledge
        available to me for the asking.
        
        With the advent of Internet services for the masses, the volume of
        information and Internet users is increasing at a dizzying rate,
        with a correspondingly higher signal-to-noise ratio. FAQs have
        mitigated this to some degree, but scholars have been, and will
        most likely continue to be, retreating to private mailing lists
        open only to those with the proper credentials. 

        Forseeing this, I am establishing an electronic resource center
        in cyberspace for those of us who want to further our educations
        on our own. Some of us have incandescent desires to learn, but
        have been impeded in our scholastic pursuits for a variety of 
        reasons. The types of people I hope to help via this project are:

          1. The precocious high school student who is bored to death
             with her present studies.

          2. The X major who wanted to double major in X & Y but didn't
             have the funds or time to do so.

          3. The person who majored in X and developed a late interest
             in subject Y. For example, the scientist who missed out
             on the humanitites. Or the liberal arts major who missed 
             out on the sciences.

          4. The person who wants to continue their education in their
             undergraduate major, but has a job in the "real world,"
             a family to support, and so forth. Not everyone is free to
             dash off to graduate school. 
             
          5. The person who wants to supplement their undergraduate
             education in their own major. For example, if one's interest
             is in Religious Studies, and one's own college or univeristy
             lacks particular courses... let's say one is forced to take
             a survey course in eastern religions, when what one would 
             really like to do is take an entire course on, say, Tibetan
             Buddhism... then that person should have the resources to 
             construct a self-study course. Independent study for college 
             credit is sometimes possible if one can find a willing professor
             with the time and expertise in the subject matter to work
             with, but how often does this happen?

          6. The person who is contemplating going to graduate school
             in her undergraduate field of study, or some other field.
             For example, the Philosophy major who never had a chance to
             study the Philosophy of Science, or the Philosophy major 
             considering graduate study in Neuropsychology. 

          7. The polymath in training.

          As I see it, the easiest way to accomodate all of these people
is to make syllabi available on-line for specific courses. The rub is 
of course in obtaining the information and organizing it. 

          I don't know how realistic a goal it is to expect professors
to contribute their syllabi directly to me for inclusion in a World Wide
Web accessible database. Especially professors at Ivy League institutions.
Don't know, really. I've never asked any. I suspect that some would be 
guarded and secretive about it and refuse. However, that wouldn't stop
students from coming forth and providing the information. I don't intend  
to electronically publish full-text syllabi (that would violate copyright
laws), but I don't see how publishing lists of texts (in the order in
which they are assigned to students) used in specific courses would present 
any legal problems. If you forsee any legal problems in what I propose
to do here, please contact me immediately. 

          I haven't yet decided and/or figured out how to collect the data,
how much is too much, etc. One idea I have is to somehow ascertain the 
top 5 schools in each respective field (how would one do this aside from
falsely assuming that the 5 most popular "big name" schools by 
default had the best programs?) Perhaps I could choose 5 big name
private universities, 5 high-quality state universities, and 5 state
colleges. I think the key is to get syllabi from a variety of schools,
but I'd also like to have some consistency and/or a foundation so people 
don't experience information overload. Your comments are welcome as to
how I ought to go about this. 

          Of course all of this is no substitute for the real thing - but
perhaps it's the next best thing, and sufficient for most peoples' purposes.
In addition to Project Syllabi, I would also like to provide a central
clearing house for specialized discussion mailing lists - recently, I've 
heard people talking about organizing a discussion on Daniel Dennett's 
book _Consciousness Explained_. Perhaps I could organize a mailing list 
for announcements of these kinds of discussions. And of course, it goes 
without saying that there ought to be a permanent archive of these 
various discussions so that people who missed out on them will still
be able to benefit from them.

          In the future, when we have faster connections and storage 
devices with larger capacities, I would like to offer downloadable 
lectures by various scholars (any who are willing to contribute 
cassettes of their lectures for digitizing). Scholars would also be free 
to post text versions of their lectures for all to download. Now that 
I've graduated, and not being close to my alma mater, I often miss
attending public lectures that traveling scholars would give. 

          Perhaps I could start with philosophy and/or psychology
(collecting and organizing syllabi) and see how it goes. In the future,
I could assign volunteers to maintain syllabi in various departments:
i.e. anthroplogy, linguistics, history, physics, classics, biology, 
religious studies, etc. 

          I have no funding for this project (I'm devoting my own time out 
of the goodness of my own heart) at the moment. I've considered starting 
a non-profit organization to help the project along, but don't know the 
first thing about doing so. Therefore, I'd appreciate any comments 
or suggestions along these lines. Further, I would love to see a CD-ROM
emerge from this project. It's nice to have this info available on-line
gratis, but it's also nice to be able to do searches off-line. Plus, 
public libraries could provide access to the disc. 

          Well, that's my idea. I would appreciate any constructive 
comments. Please don't start sending me syllabi just yet. I need to 
come up with a protocol for collecting this data. Maybe I ought to 
post to a particular newsgroup, say, the philosophy newsgroup, and 
begin by asking for syllabi for a particular class, i.e. "Ok folks,
I need syllabi for a senior level Philosophy of Science class."

	  Send all flames to /dev/nul. Send all comments to me via
private e-mail. 


                                                        Kind Regards,

                                                          Dana 


        




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