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9 Sources of Free eBooks for MOOC Teachers and Students


by Ariel Diaz

By enrolling in a MOOC, a student is already showing signs of self-direction and motivation that are key to successful online learning. While MOOCs provide great guidelines for what students should learn and set a good pace for learning, self-directed students can also look to other online content resources to get the full value out of their course. Given the wide variety of students who are enrolling in MOOCs, it should be obvious that these students will need a wide assortment of additional learning content to hone skills, understand concepts and share with classmates.

free ebooks for MOOC students

by Johan Larsson via Flickr

Offering free classes through online MOOCs isn’t enough to expand access to quality education. Students need a full range of affordable learning resources, not just lectures. They require everything from one-on-one tutoring to video explanations to modular content. Integrating their MOOC experience with a space to read content, identify clear examples, share notes with classmates and practice for exams is a natural, beneficial addition to these online courses.

That some MOOCs rely on traditional textbooks as part of the curriculum goes against the very nature of a digital learning experience. Traditional textbook content may be appropriate for some MOOC students. However, given the wide variety of students who enroll in MOOCs, it is highly likely that each student has different content needs — and many of these needs will be different than what a traditional textbook can provide.

For example, MOOC students are likely to be more familiar with online tools and more reliant on mobile devices. They also often prefer interactive learning methods. Not to mention that a large number of MOOC students don’t live anywhere near a traditional textbook retailer.

Free ebooks and other online content resources that help MOOC students

Professors teaching a MOOC should consider using or assigning several learning content options — beyond a traditional textbook — to suit the varied needs of their students. At Boundless, we are working to connect students with the wealth of high quality, openly licensed and free educational content created by leading educators and institutions over the last 20 years. Today MOOC teachers and students have several choices for free online content:

  • Connextions, Creative Commons and OER Commons are just a few of several open resource repositories where instructors can find free learning materials for their courses. These organizations offer free ebooks, films, activities, artwork and lecture notes that can be assigned to students. (In fact, the illustration for this post was found through Creative Commons.) Other helpful digital resources like Deardorffs’ Glossary of International Economics, or similarly openly available papers and reference materials, can be used by students to research concepts or to find as secondary (or even primary!) sources of learning content.
  • Boundless has online textbooks for loads of popular subjects and have a built-in suite of study features like flashcards, quizzes and highlighting. Boundless digital textbooks don’t come with an expiration date, so students can continue honing their skills after the MOOC ends.
  • Similarly, also has a library of open-license free ebooks available for download, online reading and sharing. Saylor publishes some texts as part of their Open Textbook Challenge.
  • Chegg and Coursera recently announced a new partnership that will give MOOC students free digital texts. Students can access these books freely on the Chegg e-reader. These books are free to students while enrolled in their digital classes but require payment beyond the course.
  • WikiBooks, created by the Wikimedia Foundation, cover a range of subjects and are completely free for users. Wikibooks include digital textbooks, annotated texts, manuals and instructional guides students in MOOCs would find helpful.
  • Open Tapestry allows instructors to collect and share open resources from around the web with students. Instructors can also use Open Tapestry to send out practice quizzes to those enrolled in their MOOC.


MOOC instructors need to accommodate their students’ needs in all aspects of the course, including their need for high-quality content. Whether they assign students a free textbook through their MOOC platform or point them to other affordable, digital options, instructors have a wealth of quality content to choose from. Resources like those listed above will round out a MOOC student’s online learning experience.


Ariel Diaz is the co-founder and CEO of Boundless. Boundless is making education more accessible and affordable for students everywhere with its an innovative learning platform that curates the world’s best open educational content. Boundless has raised $9.7 million in funding to date. Follow Ariel on Twitter @arieldiaz.


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