Usable Media for Online Courses | Online Teaching | Kent State University

Usable Media for Online Courses


Learning materials form the core of any fully online course. Though these materials often include content created by the faculty (e.g. recorded lectures), many resources are now being integrated in from a diverse range of external sources.

The sites and services listed below provide access to high-quality learning materials that can be used in or linked to from your Blackboard course site.

Kent State University Resources

Books & Articles

  • Open Textbook Library (OTL) - Textbooks that have been funded, published, and licensed to be freely used, adapted, and distributed
  • Open Textbook Network (OTN) - Promotes access, affordability, and student success through the use of open textbooks
  • ReadPrint - Includes thousands of free online books
  • World Library - The world's largest collection of books and articles in electronic format
Creative Commons

Creative Commons is an organization that serves as a gateway for persons to share their intellectual property with standardized levels of permission. It helps you legally share your knowledge and creativity to build a more equitable, accessible, and innovative world.

Creative Common Licenses provide an easy way to manage the copyright terms that attach automatically to all creative material under copyright. Our licenses allow that material to be shared and reused under terms that are flexible and legally sound. Creative Commons offers a core suite of six copyright licenses. Because there is no single "Creative Commons license," it is important to identify which of the six licenses you are applying to your material, which of the six licenses has been applied to material that you intend to use, and in both cases the specific version.

There are varying licenses within Creative Commons that offer different usage rights:

  • CC0 or Public Domain - Items found with CC0 or Public Domain as the designation are "No Rights Reserved." You are free to use these objects within your course without restriction. You can even modify them to your needs if necessary.
  • Attribution CC BY - This designation on materials means that you can use them in your course, tweak, modify, or build upon, as long as you credit the original creation (cite with a link to the original).
  • Attribution ShareAlike CC BY-SA - This designation allows you to use the materials for your course, and even modify them, but you must provide attribution to the original creator (cite with a link to the original) and if you license your work that utilizes it, you must apply the same CC license.
  • Attribution NoDerivs CC BY-ND - This designation allows you to use the materials for your course (such as a photo or artwork) and you must provide attribution (citation with link to the original) but you may not modify the work in any way.
  • Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) - The most recent license. You are allowed to copy, redistribute, use it in your course, remix, transform, and build upon the work for any purpose. You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the 4.0 license, and indicate if changes were made to the original. You can do this in any manner you wish, but not in any way that suggest the licensor endorses you or your use.

There are many locations where you can search for materials shared in some manner for your use. Some of these include:

Multiple Learning Objects

  • Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) - Connects people to the riches held within America’s libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions
  • Google Cultural Institute - Explore stories from around the world
  • Library of Congress 
  • MERLOT - The MERLOT system provides access to curated online learning and support materials and content creation tools, led by an international community of educators, learners and researchers
  • MIT OpenCourseWare - Explore materials from 2,400 courses through MIT's s web-based publication of virtually all MIT course content
  • Shared Shelf Commons - Search images from libraries, archives, and museums
  • The Internet Archive - A non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more
  • The Public Domain Review - Founded in 2011, The Public Domain Review is an online journal and not-for-profit project dedicated to the exploration of curious and compelling works from the history of art, literature, and ideas
  • The New York Public Library - Explore 727,359 items digitized from The New York Public Library's collections
  • Wikimedia - A global movement whose mission is to bring free educational content to the world
Photos & Images

Primarily public domain or free images. Make sure you look for public domain or Creative Commons license (CC0 images can be used for any purpose)


  • 99% Invisible - Design is everywhere in our lives, perhaps most importantly in the places where we've just stopped noticing. 99% Invisible is a weekly exploration of the process and power of design and architecture.
  • A History of the World in 100 Objects - Director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, narrates 100 programs that retell humanity's history through the objects we have made.
  • BBC 
  • Freakonomics - Stephen Dubner “explores the hidden side of everything” from and economical/sociological side.
  • Invisibilia - An array of topics about human behavior and how we interact with one another
  • Keepin’ it 1600 - If you want political commentary from real Washington insiders, then listen to the informative and hugely entertaining "Keepin' it 1600." It's hosted by Jon Favreau and Dan Pfeiffer, both former advisers to President Obama.
  • NPR Fresh Air - Nobody can beat Terry Gross at her own game. She's been conducting interviews since 1975, and isn't slowing down anytime soon, whether its by public radio or podcast.
  • RadioLab - Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich tackle scientific and philosophical topics.
  • The Bowery Boys - New York City history is America’s history. It is the hometown of the world, and most people know its familiar landmarks, buildings and streets. Why not look a little closer and have fun while doing it.
  • The Memory Place - From public radio producer, Nate DiMeo, comes The Memory Palace, a finalist for the 2016 Peabody Award and one of iTunes Best Podcast of 2015. Short, surprising stories of the past, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes hysterical, often a little bit of both.
  • The New Yorker Fiction - Some of your favorite authors are brought onboard to read New Yorker short stories aloud, and then get interviewed, too.
  • The Partially Examined Life Philosophy Podcast - A philosophy podcast by some guys who were at one point set on doing philosophy for a living but then thought better of it. Each episode, we pick a short text and chat about it with some balance between insight and flippancy.
  • This American Life - Ira Glass hosts this storytelling podcast, which feels like it's from an early era of radio. Several stories in the show have inspired movies, TV shows, and books
Video (Cable Sources)
Video (Web-Based Sources)