Open Course Library (OCL)

If you could download a free textbook for one or all of your college courses, would you do it?

If your instructors had access to online course materials like lectures, discussions, and assignments, do you think they would make more use of eCourses?

The Open Course Library comes from Washington State, thanks to funds from the Legislature and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Run by the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, it seeks to provide an open-access repository for popular courses at 2-year colleges. And it really is open:

  • Textbooks are free or low cost (below $30).
  • Everything comes from Google Docs.
  • Practically everything is available for reuse under Creative Commons Licenses.

As the FAQ for the site says,

We invite faculty everywhere to explore, copy, customize, translate and adopt any and all course materials. We only ask that you give us credit somewhere in your course.

Good deal.


Naturally, I went to ENG 101: English Composition I. When I click on “Browse,” I get sent to a Google Docs area with modules (essay units and assignments) and resources (syllabus, discussion prompts). I can’t help but think, wow. What a great resource for the new instructor who’s given a book and relatively free reign over how to construct his assignments. The General Psychology course has 14 different modules, ranging from lifespan development to disorders. MATH 107: Math in Society has a completely free online textbook, plus a $15 hard-copy print option.

For many teachers, moving a class online is a terrifying prospect. Resources like this could ease the transition.


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