Salsa: an open source syllabus creator for educators

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Who wants to tackle the complex problem of helping educators create learning service agreements? I don’t see too many hands. How about you there, reading this article? Wait, you weren’t aware that this is an issue that impacts the education system? Well, here's an open source project that solves this problem and needs more collaborators.

Meet George Joeckel, a product development manager for the Center for Innovative Design & Instruction at Utah State University. He’s working on a project called Salsa and they are looking for partners and talented individuals to participate. Salsa is an open syllabus project that aims to promote institutional cooperation while gathering and analyzing syllabi.

For some reason, I feel like dancing. Help Joeckel and Utah State University make this project successful. Help Salsa be a disrupter. Class dismissed... after you read this interview.





Tell us about the Salsa project. What is it and what problem does it solve?

Salsa is an open source, web-based application for creating higher education syllabi. SALSA stands for Styled & Accessible Learning Service Agreements.

Salsa addresses the complexity educators and learners face in modern learning environments—online, hybrid, flex—by providing targeted information in six domains: information, outcomes, resources, activities, policies, and grades.

Salsa promotes a learner-centric document structure that is well-organized and consistent. Students and instructors are already familiar with the benefits of styles such as APA or MLA: these formats are easier to read and promote a greater emphasis on the content. The Salsa authoring tool also assists instructors in creating learning service agreements that are compliant with Federal regulations for students with disabilities.

Why would an educator who has a system for creating a syllabus want to switch to Salsa?

Salsa incorporates research-based best practices in an easy-to-use layout. For instance, Salsa helps educators build learning outcomes based on action verbs grouped by Bloom’s revised taxonomy. Salsa generates accessible and well-organized documents in "read-only" PDF and HTML formats. Each SALSA is associated with a randomly-generated hyperlink for editing—there is no need to sign up for an account or supply an email address.

Take us behind the scenes. What is some of the technology that powers Salsa, what language is it written in, and are there open source components being used?

The source code is available on GitHub under the MIT license. Salsa in built on Ruby on Rails—an open-source web framework created by David Heinemeier Hansson. Twitter is built on Rails, as is GitHub. We use standards maintained by the World Wide Web Consortium (CSS, DOM, HTML), as well as JavaScript, AJAX, and jQuery. Salsa also uses some free tools from ZURB’s Foundation in our website and application design. 

You're looking for people to collaborate on this project. What types of partnerships are you looking for?

We are looking for collaborators across the higher education spectrum: public and private institutions, non-profit organizations, for-profit businesses, and talented individuals.

How can someone get involved in the Salsa project?

Go to and try out the application. Contact the project at


Jason Hibbets is a Community Director at Red Hat with the Digital Communities team. He works with the Enable Architect, Enable Sysadmin, Enterprisers Project, and community publications.


Salsa looks brilliant. Really looking forward to playing around with it.

But shouldn't the link to github in the article point to instead of ?

I've updated the GitHub link to be:


Please recheck the Github link.
Should be:

Nevermind, after submitting I saw the correction.

This is wonderful indeed!!! I've sat in many curriculum committee meetings wading through syllabi that needed serious revisions. I think having something like this to help set a standard is brilliant.

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