Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Establishing conventions for citing educational materials

I am giving a lightening talk at SIGCSE-2017 on establishing conventions for citing educational materials. SIGCSE is the big computer science education conference. This lightning talk summarizes motivations for and history of citation generally, argues that conventions be adapted to educational materials, and forwards a start at a sample convention used in a survey of coursework (in computing and sustainability).  See links to support discussion at the bottom of this post. What follows immediately below is modestly revised from the abstract submitted for SIGCSE review.

Course designs (manifest as syllabi), exercises, assignments, and project specifications are all creative acts of design by the instructors who create them. But there are no conventions for citing such works, as one would cite a research paper, patent, or certain other results. The core issue behind this suggestion is that we want to track and assess the influence of an educational artifact. This lack of convention, or even a “citation mentality” or expectation in the educational realm, is even true in established educational repositories.

There are several (potentially) important reasons for establishing conventions for citing educational content, such as courses and various assessments used in courses, and thus tracking their diffusion and influence.

(1) Teaching faculty design materials. Design of courseware is at least as important to teaching as is delivering lectures and grading assessments. If citation conventions were established, then perhaps the degree of adoption by others could be part of a teaching faculty member’s professional evaluation.

(2) Citation counts would also useful for flagging and vetting educational materials that are candidates for reuse and adaption by others

(3) Research grants often include education and outreach plans, and again, being able to track the influence of materials under such plans would be valuable material for funding agencies.

(4) Establishing citation conventions online may raise the consciousness of the importance of citing any and all creative works that an instructor uses, particularly when we want our students to do so.

(5) Conferences like SIGCSE are increasingly competitive, and publishing a paper that reports of a particular piece of educational material, thereby enabling “conventional citation” may be difficult.

The real goal of the lightening talk and post is to gauge interest and solicit collaborators, perhaps with a SIGCSE Special Project proposal ( A Google Drive folder and primary discussion document has also been established to continue this conversation and planning.

Fisher, D. H. (2017). Establishing Conventions for Citing Educational Materials. In Proceedings of the SIGCSE-2017 Conference (, Seattle, WA, March 8-11.