10 Promising Free & Inexpensive Products for Blended Learning

As I’ve stated before, 2014 is the year of the blend; and I’m already seeing impressive new products and creative repurposing of existing products with the goal of increasingly student learning and engagement through blended learning. With that in mind, I put together ten mobile-friendly products (new and more established) that have great promise for the teacher looking to build some blended learning resources and lessons.

1. Oppia – This is in beta and may not be ready for everyone to start using in their classrooms, but this software meets an important need. It allows you to create interactive learning experiences that seek to simulate (not replace) the type of interaction that might happen between a learner and a tutor. It is not simply watching a video or taking a quiz and getting feedback. It is genuinely interactive. It give you a problem, question, or challenge. You respond and you get immediate feedback, not just a yes or not, but tips like what you might get from a tutor. There are exciting possibilities for this when we start thinking about personalized or adaptive learning.

2. BlendSpace – I chatted with one of the founders recently, and I was impressed with the capabilities of this easy-to-use blended learning experience design tool. Their web page boasts that you can build a lesson in five minutes, and you actually can. What is especially impressive is the assessment and tracking capabilities, allowing a teacher in a classroom to track live student progress, using that data to determine who might need extra assistance.

3. 3D GameLab – I met one of the founders of this company recently as well. If you are interested in exploring quest-based learning and how to gamify learning experiences for your students, this is an affordable and well-designed option. It even has badging capabilities built into it. This works for designing quests for students, but there are many quests in the system (it is basically a game-based learning management system) for teacher professional development as well.

4. Ted-Ed – This one has been around for awhile, but it remains a solid option for those trying out the flipped classroom approach to blended learning. You can use existing videos or create your own; but it provides you with a nice template to design a flip that includes watching, thinking, digging deeper and discussing.

5. Schoology – This learning management system has a straight-forward interface, allowing you to quickly set up assignments, quizzes, discussions, and a place to share documents and other resources. You can create a free account and try it with your students in a matter of minutes. Like most LMSs today, they are also set up for the use of digital badges for learning.

6. Moodle – This is one of the most well-known free and open source options for a school learning management system. It has the standard tools of a LMS, is open badge compliant, and can serve as a solid place to build the online elements of a blended learning experience. There are dozens (if not hundreds) of options about where to host an instance of Moodle. You can run it on your own servers, rent a virtual server for a few dollars a month, or pay a small fee for a hosted version somewhere.

7. BadgeKit – This is the badge system used for the Chicago Summer of Learning. It has everything you need to design a robust system for creating, assessing and issuing digital badges for learning with young people or adults; which I happen to think has amazing potential for new and emerging forms of blended learning, especially blending learning across contexts (bridging school and community-based learning, for example). While the software is open, you need to find a place to host it.

8. GoClass – This is yet another free and well-designed LMS that works for those seeking to design digital lessons for blended learning. However, this is an LMS with a twist. It is designed for blended learning that augments the face-to-face classroom. It provides a helpful step-by-step guide. First create a course, create a lesson, and add elements to a lesson. Easily align lessons and elements with learning objectives and/or standards.

What makes it exception is that fact that you can broadcast content to a group of students in a 1:1 environment. You can, “broadcast[ing] media, notes and more to student devices while simultaneously projecting the same or different content to the screen at the front of the class.” After your blended learning live session is complete, you have a robust reporting tool that you can review to learn about both student learning and engagement.

Udemy – This is an established platform for creating fee-based or free courses on the web. It has limited features from an LMS perspective, but the clean and simple interface can work well for creating tutorials and mini-courses that you could use for blended learning.

10. OpenEd – This is an impressive repository of open education resources, but it also provides a place to build your lessons, pulling form an impressive repository. When teachers first learn about blended learning, a common barrier is the time it takes to build the lessons and resources from scratch. So, why reinvent the wheel when there are existing resources waiting for your to use? By the way, be sure to check out the playlist tool, allowing you to quickly create a playlist of the OER that you collect around a common theme.

This is far from an exhaustive list, so please consider using the comments to share your favorite tools for creating blended learning.


Posted in blended learning, blog, education

About Bernard Bull

Dr. Bernard Bull is a President of Goddard College, author, podcast host, and blogger. Some of his books include Missional Moonshots: Insights and Inspiration for Educational Innovation, What Really Matters: Ten Critical Issues in Contemporary Education, and Adventures in Self-Directed Learning. He is passionate about futures in education; leaner agency, educational innovation, and social entrepreneurship in education.

4 Replies to “10 Promising Free & Inexpensive Products for Blended Learning”

  1. David Black

    This is a good looking list, and timely for the discussions connected with the symposium being held next week.

    • Bernard Bull Post author

      Thanks for sharing. I see that they have a free version up to 10 MB along with a school discount of less than $4.00 / month for 10 GB.

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