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.

OneClick Digital and the Medrano Project: OER as Content, OER as Pedagogy

Key Takeaways

A need to reduce course material costs sparked a project fueled by two epiphanies: students need access to free content, even if it requires a login; and, when armed with information literacy research skills, students can find their own content.
When students cull and curate a living textbook, their role changes from passive recipients of knowledge to active content experts and drivers of the pedagogy, creating a “read-write” classroom culture.
The project succeeded in solving the textbook-cost dilemma and resulted in impressive gains in student satisfaction and engagement with learning.
Open educational resources can become a library service center much like instruction, reference, and collection development, supporting faculty and students with digital content, corresponding creative pedagogies, and copyright compliance.


Announcing MERLOT II: Multimedia Educational Resources for Learning and Online Teaching

Published on Oct 7, 2013
Since 1997, MERLOT has been an international community of faculty, staff, students, administrators, librarians, and others in education interested in discovering, using, and sharing Open Educational Resources (OER) for the improvement of technology-enhanced teaching and learning. The MERLOT community has developed a unique and globally-renowned collection of more than 40,000 online learning materials, all of which have been peer- or crowd-source reviewed by members of the community. MERLOT is free to use, and is sustained through the support of higher education institutions from around the world, led by the California State University. More than 25 editorial boards of discipline-specific subject matter experts develop and curate MERLOT’s collection with quality assurance methods. Many higher education and K-12 institutions, non-profit associations, special interest groups, and corporations have adopted and integrated MERLOT services into their online education initiatives.

Announcement video on YouTube:

CCCOER webinar – Oct 30: OER and Open Textbook Adoption and Sustainability

See on Scoop.itOER

Please join the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources (CCCOER) on Wed, Oct 30, noon Pacific, 3:00 pm EST for a webinar on how three statewide projects have established open education portals to expand student access and foster faculty innovation.  Leaders from California, Florida, and the province of British Columbia will share successful strategies and challenges to the continued growth and adoption of their OER and open textbook collections.

Aimee DeChambeau‘s insight:

Open webinar Oct 30, just click to connect the day of the event. Students want faculty to help reduce course costs. Faculty need help finding resources, ideas, and proven strategies for creation, adoption, use, and reuse of open educational resources. The CCCOER should prove fruitful for attendees, regardless of their institutional level… 

See on

Good sources for open textbooks

One big question about open access materials is “Where can I find texts?” The following sites are good places to start your search:

Connexions at Rice University (

College Open Textbooks is a collaborative primarily geared for 2-year and community colleges

The Open Textbook Library from the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota

Florida’s Digital Repository for instructional resources is The Orange Grove

Open Textbooks at BCcampus, British Columbia’s funded project to develop texts for 40 of the highest-impact, first and second year courses

OER Commons provides a variety of open resources, including textbooks

Free Digital-Textbook Venture at Rice U. Adds Users and Titles

A little more than one year after its debut, the digital-textbook program OpenStax College is set to expand by adding a sixth title to its slate of free online textbooks.

OpenStax, a nonprofit group based at Rice University, will add an introductory-statistics text in October. Five additional titles will be available for download by 2015, according to officials.

OpenStax doubled the number of professors adopting its textbooks during the past four months, bringing the total to 319 at 297 colleges and universities. The program is expected to save 40,000 students more than $3.7-million in textbook costs during the 2013-14 academic year.

The Price is Right: 11 Excellent Sites for Free Digital Textbooks

If you’re committed to shifting your curriculum to e-textbooks, consider trying free first. Here are the best sites for digital books that won’t cost your students a dime.

By Dian Schaffhauser08/14/13
Sure, there are plenty of options when you want students to try out digital textbooks — CourseSmart, CourseLoad, Flat World Knowledge, Chegg,, Apple, Amazon, Google Play, eFollet, and an ever-growing number of other sources. But little in education trumps free. That’s one of the findings in a recently released research report from Educause, Internet2, and McGraw-Hill, which examined the value of digital materials in higher ed. “Faculty and students were both clear and consistent in their criteria for adopting digital course material,” the report’s authors wrote. Little surprise: The most important factor turned out to be cost.

With that in mind, we have hunted down the top sources for digital textbooks — all free. What you and your students do with them on Android devices, iPads, and laptops is up to you.

Free Resources: Saylor Foundation Opens Thousands of Learning Tools to Colleges and Universities

The Saylor Foundation has opened its Media Library to the public, providing thousands of open educational resources, videos, articles, and full-length textbooks.


The Saylor Foundation is dedicated to providing free and open education, with complete courses offered t the K-12 and post-secondary levels. It provides a total of about 300 academic courses, along with workplace skills courses.

Its online Media Library, built on the open source DSpace repository platform, provides a growing list of about 6,000 total resources, including 3,000 open educational resources, 1,300 videos, 124 full-length textbooks, and 2,500 articles. Resources cover the arts, sciences, humanities, social sciences, engineering, business, and test prep. Materials include primary texts (such as Beowulf and Hamlet), references (such as the Catholic Encyclopedia), textbooks (such as The Electronic Introduction to Old English), maps, presentations, audio recordings, assessments, assignments, data sets, and others.