Online platforms for open learning textbooks and resources

There has been a new trend in the way in which open-licensed and free online textbooks are developed. A number of online platforms have been on the rise that are replacing the idea of a traditional textbook. The platforms contain free open-licenced textbooks as well as resources such as PowerPoint presentations, interactive activities and quizzes but they have the option of allowing lecturers to customise the textbook on the platform that would suit their needs, such as drag and drop sections, remove or add sections, and insert other materials. The ease of customising this online on the platform makes such software attractive for lecturers who are looking to adopt free online textbooks.


There are quite a few different platforms and in this post we have reviewed a couple. The following are some examples:


Drag and drop Psychology book chapters: Noba

Noba is an online platform that allows psychology lecturers to build their own textbooks from materials that are already available in the website, including multiple books that have already been written by academics. Lecturers can adapt ready-written open-licensed and free digital psychology textbooks available in Noba or customise it by adding, removing, writing and re-arranging resources readily available. It has around 104 modules to choose from so the system makes it easy to customise a textbook as it offers a drag and drop option. The platform also has instructor manual, PowerPoint presentations, and test bank. It has been used by many universities and colleges around the world. Students and lecturers can order a hard copy for a low cost from Noba.


Multi-lingual Economics resources: COREecon

Although it is not like Noba where lecturers customise and develop their textbooks in the platform, COREecon is an online interactive platform that provides open access educational resources in the field of economics. It has developed some free open-licenced e-textbooks, as well as a range of sources and materials that are relevant to not only economics but a number of disciplines. It targeted at university academics and students and can be used by high school students who are looking at building their knowledge in economics as they enter into undergraduate studies. COREecon includes content about current issues and recent events such as climate change, injustice, innovation and the future of work  Some of their data sets can be used by teachers for social science, engineering, business studies, or public policy.


To make their materials even more current, they have uploaded slides, graphs, videos, literature and activities that are related to COIV19, and they called it ‘CORE COVID19 Collection’.


COREecon recently released a spreadsheet version to help teachers design graphs and materials for students. They also provide videos and guides to help teachers develop the material. A great feature of this platform is that one can find material in French as well as materials that are specifically targeted for the USA audience. The Economics textbook has been translated into French, Spanish and Italian. In their ‘Projects underway’, one can see a list of initiatives they are currently working one, which include translating The Economics book into Portuguese, Vietnamese, Georgian and Finnish. Also, creating an ebook classroom games and activities, as well as localising elements of The Economics textbooks in the South Asian context for adaptation. The site acknowledged the hundreds of volunteers who are working on these projects.


Commercial hybrid model: TopHat

The students we are interviewing sometimes tell us about others, such as Tophat. It is a hybrid model – more like a learning management system (LMS), but they are doing all kinds of online interactive content including textbooks. They are using openly-licenced free textbooks like these in OpenStax and then they either have licenced or paid for the authoring of new textbooks. Although TopHat is not about OER, however, they are an example of an online platform of learning.

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