We’re going to make this a regular public gig (we’ve been circulating these internally for a year or so) — each month, we’ll serve up the latest and greatest of free and open learning resources, tools, and fun sites.  We try to get the details right and to toss out thanks where they’re due; please let us know of omissions and errors. The first  issue is here.  Perhaps, one day, we’ll post the hundreds of items in our internal archive (er, maybe I should just write a grant). Have a resource that deserves a spot on a future list?  Let us know!

Open License

Contemporary Health Concerns (Judy Baker, Ph.D.) – [CC BY-SA]
This wiki-based course, broken down into modules and lessons, is comprised of extensive and well-organized text-based lessons, with links to external sites and video as appropriate. The comprehensive nature of the course — including topics on personal relationships, nutrition, exercise, stress, and more — means that modules can readily be used as part of courses in diverse disciplines.  Thanks to Jacky at College Open Textbooks for the link. (Many disciplines)

ChemLab Boot Camp (MIT OCW, Dow Chemical) – [CC BY-NC-SA]
Not quite OER, more like advertainment. But the videos are openly-licensed, so what the hey. They’re also short, fun, and provide a nice little glimpse into MIT culture, MIT students, lab work, and chemistry work in general. (Chemistry)

Free Physical Chemistry Tutorials (Solis Research, LLC – Robert Disselkamp) – [Shareware]
Shareware still makes me happy, even all these years after I first played Commander Keen: Marooned on Mars off a 5.25 inch floppy. These tutorials, in pdf form, carry the reader through topics like gases, thermodynamics, matter, chemical equilibrium, classical and quantum mechanics, atomic and molecular structure, spectroscopy, and kinetics. When I say “carry through,” I mean just shy of 300 pages of diagrams, equations, and notes in an easy-to-read, eminently digestible format.  Thanks to the author for the heads-up!  (Chemistry)

World War II Poster Collection (Northwestern University) – [Public Domain]
While these aren’t difficult to find through a simple image search, these are cataloged and lightly referenced. See here for FAQs. A nod to the Scout Report. (History)

Open Access/On the Web

Designing a New Learning Environment (Paul Kim, Ph.D.)
If you’re at the center of the Venn diagram for free/online/education, you’ve heard of a MOOC…and here’s an example, presented as being of particular interest to folks associated with The Saylor Foundation. This team- and project-based course, led by the CTO and Assistant Dean for Stanford’s School of Education, aims to “promote systematic design thinking that will cause a paradigm shift in the learning environments of today and tomorrow.” You can see other Stanford open online courses, including those posted at Coursera, Class2Go, Venture Lab, and iTunes U here. This free course starts October 15th; expect to see some of us there! Thanks to our very own Denis P., web-guy emeritus, for the link.  (Education)

Distillations Podcast (Chemical Heritage Foundation)
The site’s pretty and the podcasts look more than compelling. Most likely for fans (me!) of the likes of Science Friday, Radio Lab, and the like. Have a favorite? Let us know or drop a line for students in the forums. Oh, yeah…there’s a mobile app for Android and iOS…I’ve downloaded it, and it works great!. A nod to the Scout Report. (Chemistry, etc.)

Color Uncovered (Exploratorium, San Francisco)
An interactive iPad book/app about color. From the Exploratorium. ‘Nuff said. A nod to the Scout Report(Art History, etc.)

Firefly Lectures (Devin Henson)
Devin is a math instructor at Midlands Technical College in South Carolina with an easy-going approach and a knack for explanation.  He’s assembled his short video tutorials on the linked website and on his YouTube page.  The site is new and growing, and Calculus is already well-fleshed out, with links to longer classroom lectures for additional topics.  Thanks to the author for the heads-up!  (Mathematics)


Class2Go (Stanford University)
So, speaking of Stanford…if you’re a giant open course geek like me, you’ll want to know about Stanford’s brand-new open source online courseware platform, incorporating Khan Academy’s exercises code as well as other open elements. Class2Go joins a stable of other platforms for course publishing, including Utah State University’s estimable eduCommons and Google’s new Course Builder open source project (see below). Check the link for more info on this “open…portable…interoperable” system from one of the nation’s premier land-grant schools. Two courses are on offer this fall! (Computer Science, Engineering)

Course Builder (a Google Code project)
Where to begin? Course Builder is an open source project that lives on Google Code. It runs on Google App Engine and is the rapidly evolving version of the code that ran Google’s inaugural MOOC, Power Searching with Google.  I know, I know…enough with the G-word.  Anyhow, Course Builder is open, flexible, and available to all; it still requires a little coding know-how, but future iterations should be much more friendly to all of us non-engineers.  You wouldn’t expect any less from Goog…I mean, the team behind the project.  (Any discipline)

ASSISTments (Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Carnegie Mellon)
Free automated tutoring tool currently in development. It’s easy to see these things as diametrically opposed to “real, breathing human” interaction, but even back in the 60’s B.F. Skinner was touting machines as liberating rather than replacing the human element in education. Bring ’em on! A nod to EdSurge for the link. (Many disciplines)

Users of Evernote, Diigo, and, to some extent, of Zotero may find themselves great fans of this new tool. This browser extension lets you easily highlight, annotate, and save chunks of text from websites…best of all, it automatically generates proper citations, it may have never been easier to quote liberally and honorably from your readings. And their video, seriously? Emotionally compelling. I’m talking pathos, here. What can I say? I’m a child of an advertising age, but at least I’m discerning. Another nod to EdSurge.

“Learn to use the Internet, faster.”  Short, animated tutorials on how to do real, useful things…like figure out the difference between reply and a retweet.  This site is possibly essential for the modern web-enabled professional.  And what’s better?  The Saylor Foundation and Grovo are best-of list buddies: 15 Free Learning Sites You Haven’t Heard of Yet.

Video Questions Editor on YouTube
An opt-in beta, with no promises to stick around for the long haul.  With this tool, you can layer interactive multiple choice questions on top of a video and follow up on responses through analytics. Stuff keeps getting better, huh?

Serious. Fun.

It’s a tool. It’s on the web. It’s fun. Not often can you start learning and feel entertained from the actual homepage, before logging in. This new Beta covers JavaScript, Python, and Ruby. From the site: “Whether you are completely new to coding or a developer looking to pick up a new language, LearnStreet courses make it engaging and fun to learn to code.” (Computer Science)

We nearly didn’t include this one…at first not much more than a toy, these folks see value in the sound of the voice; with croak.it one can make short, voice-Tweet-like recording that can then be instantly shared around the world or to a chosen individual.  Does your OS already do this with voice recorder? Yeah, probably.  Does Croak.it do it better/faster/more easily? Yep.  Oh yeah — Android and iTunes apps…awesome!  Cheers to the Scout Report.

Writer (Big Huge Labs)
I almost skipped this: simple, delicious browser-based writing tools are numerous. But since I’ve last seen this (I believe), manual and electric typewriter sounds have been added (totally optional)! And that does it. Oh — there’s a Chrome app, too. Yep…thanks again to the Scout Report (even if I did see it first).

3 thoughts on “OER Newsletter – October 2012 (open. useful. fun.)

  1. Thanks for the plug for Firefly Lectures, I appreciate it! These other resources are great too and I love what you guys are doing.

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