Opt rdgs-Content + open content


Designing the content for your online course is an obviously important task.

It is critical to make sure the content is aligned with your learning objectives. It is also beneficial if the content is as concise and includes substantial differentiated resources and engaging hands-on interactive activities including Web 2.0.

It's also important to think about copyright (see section below on this - it is important for students to understand this as well). "Borrowing" a chapter from a copyrighted textbook or some other copyrighted content is not OK.

This can leave online teachers developing courses in a bind -- no one wants to have to reinvent the wheel everytime they put together a course.

Fortunately, open content provides an excellent set of resources that you can use freely, ethically, and legally.

Open Content

Traditional copyright requires that you ask permission to use another person's work. There are, however, a couple exceptions to this. One is fair use, which has a number of conditions and stipulations attached to it. The other is open-licensed content content, which is content that the creators have licensed to share.

The most common open license is Creative Commons. If you see content with a Creative Commons or CC license, you can use it as long as you attribute the author. Some CC licenses have other conditions such as requiring non-commercial use or requiring that you share your work as well (share alike). There are other custom open licenses as well.

There is a huge amount of open content that you can incorporate into your class. There are photos, clip art, videos, lessons, interactive simulations, assessments, open textbooks, and even online courses. Using this content in your courses will save you time and also provide more resources for students to access, especially for differentiation.

Here is a livebinder of open content with an extensive list of open resources, including clip art, photos, video, and many of the OERs below.

There is also a whole course in the School of Ed on P2PU about OER in the K-12 Classroom where you can find even more information.

These sites with open educational resources (OERs) that you can incorporate into your course.  The resources below are education-specific resources.

General (all grades and subjects)

This is a collection of teacher-created resources of all kinds, including lesson plans, video, interactives, etc. You can do an advanced search to narrow down by grade level, subject, or content standard. Make sure to check the license on individual items, because they aren't all open licensed.

Teacher's Domain
A collection of PBS-produced video. Filter search under "Permitted Use" for open-licensed content.

Khan Academy (non-YouTube versions available here and here)
Huge selection of math videos. Mostly secondary, but some elementary.

Big collection of resources. Mostly post-secondary and secondary. Do an "advanced search materials" and find materials by Creative Commons to find open-licensed materials.

SoftChalk LOR
Open-licensed SoftChalk objects that you can edit if you have SoftChalk software.

Videos on a variety of topics

Elementary - Reading


A research-based, high-quality reading intervention program with a variety of resources for grades K-6.

Literacy 360
Videos and online books from PBS

K12 Handhelds Literacy videos
A collection of videos for sight words and other lower elementary topics

Elementary - Math

Helping with Math.com
Videos, problem sets, games

Elementary - Social Studies

Library of Congress
Many images, videos, lesson plans, and document resources


Secondary - General

NROC and Hippocampus
High quality interactive online courses (and course modules) in secondary math, government, history, biology, environmental science, and psychology

Open textbooks that can be flexibly configured. Mostly upper-level math and science.

Open textbooks. Math and Physical Science. Science PowerPoints also available here.

Open textbooks and online courses

Open CourseWare
Designed for college use. Variety of media types including video lectures from MIT.

Secondary - Math

NROC and Hippocampus
High quality interactive online courses (and course modules) in secondary math, government, history, biology, environmental science, and psychology

Karl Fisch's Algebra videos - nonYouTube downloadable versions here

K12 Handhelds Math - ebooks and videos (embeddable versions of most here)
Videos and ebooks; mostly middle school or remedial for higher level

Secondary - Science

Interactive math and science simulations

Open textbooks. Math and Physical Science. Science PowerPoints also available here.

Light and Matter

Chem I virtual textbook


Tree of Life and Encyclopedia of Life
Biology, zoology, biodiversity

Short STEM videos

Secondary - Social Studies

NROC and Hippocampus
High quality interactive online courses (and course modules) in secondary math, government, history, biology, environmental science, and psychology

Library of Congress
Many images, videos, lesson plans, and document resources

Secondary - Literature


Project Gutenburg


Secondary - Art

Yale Digital Commons
Over 260,000 images (do an advanced search for resources available online and open access)

Multimedia art history

Online Civility, Plagiarism, and Copyright

These are all important topics for us as teachers and especially to convey to our students. It is expected that you will cover these topics in the introduction to your own course. To do so, you may adapt and use any of the information presented here if you like.

Online civility or netiquette is a set of expectations for how people should behave online, emphasizing polite and civil discourse. The basic idea is that you should act online in a way that is similar to how you would act in face-to-face communications, with consideration of others' feelings. In the digital realm, people sometimes think different rules apply or sometimes ideas are presented with less subtly, but in reality, we should be kind and productive no matter what medium we use to communicate.

Cyberbullying is a serious issue that has gotten considerable attention that should be addressed as a subset of netiquette or online civility.

With students, it is often successful to cover netiquette by having them develop their own rules for online behavior. This activity can result in a stimulating discussion, with students often thinking of subtleties that are surprising. This also results in "buy in" to the rules that are developed through consensus.

Plagiarism is the use of others' words without proper credit -- it is "stealing" and an age-old problem that teachers have faced. This problem is compounded in the digital realm by the fact that copying and pasting is so easy. For many students though, they do not intend to steal, but they have not been taught what is acceptable. Very clear coverage and posting of the rules of plagiarism and copyright is critical, as is teaching students how to cite sources.

Copyright law in the United States says that a significant part of another person's copyrighted work may not be used without the creator's permission. Copyright applies to any created work (whether or not it has a  or coypright statement) and extends for the life of the creator plus 70 years. In the digital realm, this means that any photo, clip art, music, video, etc, that is not clearly indicated as "shareable" (see below) cannot be legally used without permission from the creator.

There are a few exceptions to this. First, here is a provision in the law for "fair use," especially in classrooms. Fair use is generally fairly restrictive though and relies on subjective measures (1) purpose and character of the work, e.g. commercial, educational; 2) nature of the copyrighted work; 3) amount and substantiality used; and 4) the effect of the use on the potential market.) Fair use gets particularly more questionable when applied to online uses like online courses.

If items are embedded (with an embed code used to display the content on your web site while it is hosted elsewhere-- see Powerpoint below as an example), there is no copyright violation because you are not rehosting or republishing the content. You are merely displaying content already online, similar to a link.

Finally, there is content that is "shareable" under an open license such as Creative Commons. This is content that the creator has said is "OK to share." As an example, the content in Wikipedia is open-licensed and OK to use and share. Here is a list of some very good sites for open-licensed content.

For our courses, we will emphasize the use of open-licensed content where possible. We'll cover more on this in later weeks of the course.

All of these issues are important parts of 21st century media literacy. Please share them with your students -- off and online!

Additional resources:

Online Civility/Netiquette






Task Discussion