Launch Pad Series

When the best is free

One of the most common questions we get asked is where to find free educational tools and resources and what you should know when you spot a great tool or resources to ensure that are not only appropriate but also that are not going to be expensive (for you and your students) or fill your inbox with spam or your computer with viruses.

Understanding the difference

Sometimes it is confusing (especially with software) to understand what it is offered and when you find the word “free” in searching resources if it is really free and what strings attached (if any) are to what you are about to download or use. So, let’s do some clarification first.

In terms of software (for example) there are 3 main category you will find:

Proprietary – like Microsoft or Adobe, etc. You will have to purchase a license to use the product. Some proprietary software (or resources) might allow you to download a demo for free but ultimately you will have to pay to get access to the real thing.
Freeware – Most freeware resources or software can have a free component that you can use either forever or for a time or with some limitation till you buy the complete package. The warning here is to be careful to ensure that anything you download or sign in for does not start spamming you with advertisement and even worse damage your computer. It is a good idea that if there are reviews you go and read them first. The other suggestion is to have a download email (Gmail or other) that you use just when you are trying out things so all the spam goes there.

Open Source – This are software or resources that are completely free not only to use but also the code is free to be modified, distributed, etc. The LMS we use at ANU is called Moodle (we call it Wattle) and one of the reasons that is used so widely around the world is because it is not only free but opensource.

Now for some useful tools/resources that are mostly free

Pixaby – Great online resource to find copyright free images. The site has both free and for fee images just ensure that you use the free images or you will have a watermark in them (for some) or will not be allowed to download (for others). There a way to support those who provide the images for free with a little donation but that is up to you.

Zamzar – basically it is an online tool to convert all sorts of files just watch out the size of your upload.

Audacity – This is an opensource (therefore completely free) software to record and edit audio. It has been around for a very long time and it does have some pretty amazing features to a must in the educator tool box, if are serious about your voice recorded resources. – This is an amazing online collaborative annotation tool that is really something that should be known and used more, especially when you have people working/learning together from distant places.

Open Educational Resources – This site is like a treasure trove of all sorts of resources, from lecture notes to books and interactive resources. It takes a bit of time to search and find but like all good treasure hunts you never know what you will end up discovering.

Now this is just a very, very, small sample of what we can show you so if you have any questions or have an idea or wish and do not have the tool or resource come just get in touch.

Happy teaching!


Links for you to explore

Some links