Foreign Language Courses, Free Online

Thanks to Lifehacker for the pointer to the U.S. Foreign Service Institute langauge courses online. They’re free and available at Unfortunately I wasn’t the only one who saw this announcement — not by a long shot. Apparently traffic from Lifehacker overwhelmed the site’s servers and the site had taken down some downloadable materials, though every language I looked at had at least PDFs of course material available.

The site covers 41 languages, from Amharic to Yoruba. Pick a language from the list on the left, click it, and you’ll get a list of student materials on the right. (In the case of the screen shot I chose Bulgarian.) There’s student texts (available in PDF) and teaching tapes (available in MP3.) There was almost no annotation for the materials. To stop the site from being overloaded again, you may wish to just download one section or text at a time.

If there’s not enough here, check the OffSite page where you will get pointers to other language lessons, including Polish, Persian, and Dari.

If that’s REALLY not enough, you may wish to explore the following sites for more free language lessons:

Word 2 Word
Internet Polyglot
BBC Languages

OCW Search: Find Free University Courses Online

I found an article in The Chronicle about a new search engine for free university courses online. OCW Search (OCW stands for OpenCourseWare) is available at The site is in beta and is only indexing courses from MIT at the moment, but I like the search options and I can’t wait for the indexed content to expand.

The home page has a simple search box but there are also fairly sophisticated advanced search options, with stemming by default and special syntax to search by course title, instructor name, and course description. If you still can’t think of anything to look for there are example searches on the front page.

I did a search for education and got 688 results — and mind you, these were all from MIT! Yow! Search results include title, institution and date of the course, and a description that varies from a few sentences to a few extensive paragraphs. There are also direct links to the course home page and course download materials.

The site has a blog where you can both read about updates to the site and vote on which university’s materials should be added next. Impressive search engine and results even with only one university — but come on! I want to see more!

Wolfram|Alpha Releases Educators’ Version

Wow, I’m talking about Wolfram|Alpha a lot lately, aren’t I? Sorry, I gots a bit more to say. The site announced last week that there’s a new site developed for educators. The new site’s at

What’s here? There are some videos showing how W|A is used in the classroom (from fourth graders to college students) as well as examples of how to search Wolfram|Alpha for any number of concepts and a bunch of lesson plans covering science, social studies, and math (of course.) The lessons plans are PDFs — I downloaded the one for creative writing and learned that W|A works with queries like random name and random city and random food. After some more messing around I found out random disease works and freaked myself out a bit, so here I am back at the review. But these lessons plans may teach you about some new W|A commands that you hadn’t known about.

Wolfram|Alpha also has an education portal (lots of different resources, all broken out by grade), a math resource with thousands of entries, and an education forum that looks semi-busy.

Obviously when you think W|A and education you’re going to think about math, but I was surprised at the amount of science and especially social studies resources available. Teachers, take a look!

Peer 2 Peer University Starts Round Two

Thanks to Creative Commons for the heads-up about Peer 2 Peer University, which has announced its second round of free and open online courses. Read this and sign up quick, because the registration deadline is February 28…

What the heck is P2PU? The tagline for the site is “Learning for everyone, by everyone, about almost anything,” which should give you a good overview. The site, which is run by volunteers, is trying to create a source for high-quality, low cost education.

Currently the site is in its second phase of courses, which will run from March 12 to April 23. You can get the course list at Courses offered include “Solve Anything! Building Ideas through Design,” “Managing Election Campaigns,” “Intro to Concepts in Behavioral Economics and Decision Making,” and “Climate Resilient Cities”. You’ll have to register on the site before you can sign up for the courses.

I don’t know what’s on tap after this next round of courses — pilot phase three? — but you can follow Peer 2 Peer U’s blog at

Find Open Educational Resources and More

Hey! This looks pretty handy. The Open Educational Resources Center for California has a pretty unusual URL — — but a nice collection of resources that goes into open source education and a little beyond.

The front of this site has a great left nav that leads you to seven different resources for finding open textbooks, four each for open educational resources and open courseware, five resources for open media, and two resources for open quizzes. The front page also has some information on the open education movement and links to additional resources. Looking for something more specific? You can get category links to over 400 open textbooks here.

While you’re at the site, check out the Five Steps to Open Textbook Adoption and the goals of the OER Center for California. It’s a little sad; there’s a forum here but nobody’s participating in it, and the site itself feels a bit empty. Maybe take the ebook resources and turn them into a custom search engine?