Open Education Sites Offer Free Content for All
Open education sites exemplify how technology is democratizing education. These sites allow both learners and teachers to create their own curriculum, whether it’s used in or out of the classroom.
Here’s a comprehensive list of open education sites MindShift has covered. As always, we love to hear about sites that aren’t included in the list, so add them to the comments!
- MIT Open CourseWare: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology publishes nearly all of its course content on this site, from videos to lecture notes to exams, all free of charge and open to the public. Many other universities are doing the same, often using the content management system EduCommons. Read about how this seminal project changed the education landscape.
- Wikis (a.k.a. collaborative Web pages) and nonprofits devoted to enabling open-source curricula are springing up everywhere. One of the most well-known, Curriki, encourages teachers to both publish and download materials — anything from a vocabulary quiz to a full biology textbook — and vets its content through member ratings and incentives such as the annual Summer of Content Awards, which offers grants for specific contributions.
- Open Educational Resources (OER) Commons: Created by the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME), OER is a rich and comprehensive landing site for open source education software, from peer-reviewed e-textbooks to lesson plans, video lectures to worksheets. Almost everything is Creative Commons licensed and open for modification and adaptation. You can follow their blog or find them on Twitter, and the OER Commons Initiative is also hard at work developing training programs and collaborative projects with teachers, students, and schools.
- Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources: A branch of the OER movement with the goal of growing and improving open textbooks for use in community colleges. Established in 2007 by the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, this is a community-college destination page for networking with colleagues and using and editing instructional materials in everything from anthropology to physics. Similarly, the Community College Open Textbook Collaborative catalogs textbooks by subject alongside reviews of those textbooks. Colleges, governmental agencies, and other education organizations belong to this group, which also provides training for instructors aiming to adopt and adapt open resources.
- Flat World Knowledge: One of the leading organizations in the open textbook movement, this for-profit company provides online versions of their Creative Commons-licensed material to anyone free of charge (with the ability to customize and modify it), but sells print and downloadable versions of their books to keep business afloat. Also available: Audio books, study guides, and Webinars.
- HippoCampus: A project of the Monterey Institute for Technology and Education, this affectionately-termed resource page is a one-stop shop for high school and college students looking for study and homework help, and for instructors interested in supplementing their course materials. The site includes multimedia lessons, complete courses, and study aids on a variety of topics.
- Open Textbook Catalog: College students, professors, and the rest of the globe can access this collection of customizable, printable online textbooks. There’s still a disclaimer in place, though, since this site is organized by a student group that doesn’t have the resources or expertise to review and rate every listing extensively. Their Open Textbook Resources page is a great spot for information and links to additional organizations, however.
- P2PU: The Peer 2 Peer University is a grassroots open education project in which anyone can participate. Volunteers facilitate the courses, but the learners are in charge. P2PU leverages both open content and the open social web, with a model for lifelong learning.
- OpenStudy: OpenStudy is a social learning network where independent learners and traditional students can come together in a massively-multiplayer study group. Through OpenStudy, learners can find other working in similar content areas in order to support each other and answer each others’ questions. OpenStudy supports a number of study groups, including those focused on several MIT OCW courses.
- NITXY: NIXTY is building a learning management platform that supports open education resources. Rather than an LMS that closes off both academic resources and academic progress, NIXTY is designed to support open courses so that schools, teachers, and students’ work is not necessarily closed off from the rest of the Web.
- OER Glue: Still under development, OER Glue will be a site to watch. The Utah-based startup is building a browser-based tool that will allow students and teachers to “glue” together OER resources online. Rather than having to copy-and-paste resources into a new setting, OER Glue will reuse and integrate resources.
- iUniv: iUniv is a Japanese startup that is building web and mobile apps to support and make social video and audio OCW content. Resources can be shared to Twitter, Facebook, and Evernote so that students can actively engage in discussions around OCW content.
- OCWSearch: OCW Search is a search engine dedicated, as the name suggests, to helping learners find OCW content. The project is, unfortunately, no longer under development, but it does index ten universities’ OCW content, including MIT, Notre Dame, and The Open University UK.
- Smarthistory: Smarthistory is a free and open multimedia website that demonstrates how very heavy, pricey, and obsolete the traditional art history textbook is.
- CK-12: The CK-12 Foundation’s Flexbook platform provides free, collaboratively-built and openly-licensed digital textbooks for K-12. Much of the content is standards based.
- Flat World Knowledge: [UPDATED] The company offers digital content for college students published under an open license. This allows professors to customize the books they order – edit, add to, mix-up – or use as-is. Students can access the books online for free or can pay $29.95 for unlimited digital access to their textbook in different formats: e-books, audiobooks, downloadable PDFs and interactive study aids. The material is free of digital rights management (DRM) restrictions and never expires.
- Connexions: Connexions is a repository of educational content, containing over 17,000 openly licensed learning modules. Teachers, students, and professionals can search and contribute scholarly content, organized into “modules” or topic areas instead of entire textbooks.
- CK12 FlexBooks: A nonprofit that aims to reduce the cost of textbook materials by encouraging the development of what they call the “FlexBook.” Anyone can view or help create these standards-based, customizable, collaborative texts.
- Shmoop: An up-and-coming collection of freely shared, expert-written content (most Shmoop authors are Ph.D.s and high school or college-level educators) with the goal of inspiring students and providing tons of free resources to teachers that include writing guides, analyses, and discussions.
- Princeton University: The university’s faculty is posting its lectures online for free.