Skip to main content
Create interactive lessons using any digital content including wikis with our free sister product
. Get it on the
Pages and Files
About Cost of Free
What Does Free Mean?
Open Source and Free Software
Free Software Movement
Open Source Software
Free Software and Open Source in Education
Examples of Open Source Free Software
Open Education Resources (OER)
Freeware in Education
Examples of Freeware for Education
Examples of Shareware
Free with Advertising-3rd Party Pays
Examples of Free with Advertising
Examples of Freemium
Evaluation Criteria and Template
History of Free and Open Movements
Free Culture Movement
/Open Access Movement
Criticisms of Free and Open Culture
The Copyright-CopyLeft Argument
What is Fair Use?
Lessig on the Network we Need
Rip: A Remix Manifesto
Implications of Free in Education
Best Sources of "Free" for Education
Future of Free
Social Networks and Sharing
Open Network Economy
Threats to Traditional Journalism
Clay Shirky: How Cognitive Surplus will Change the World
The Virtual Revolution -The Cost of Free - Documentary
Glossary of Terms
Implications of Free in Education
oun or a
Free software is not only rooted in monetary policy but also in a philosophical belief that information should be free, as in liberated, and available to all who seek it. A number of different Free Culture subgroups have emerged with various interpretations on what free information should be. Some believe any for profit use of information is counter to the values of the free movement while others see a place for free existing together with fee.
"I believe that all generally useful information should be free. By 'free' I am not referring to price, but rather to the freedom to copy the information and to adapt it to one's own uses... When information is generally useful, redistributing it makes humanity wealthier no matter who is distributing and no matter who is receiving."
Richard Stallman: (
While the amount of information at users' finger tips explodes, budgets shrink and there is no denying the financial incentives of free – especially the free without cost part!
"The triple play of technologies – processing, storage, and bandwidth has combined to form the Web, the abundances have been compounded….there are only two numbers on the Internet: Infinity and zero…The Web has become the land of free, not because of ideology but because of economics. Price has fallen to the marginal cost, and the marginal cost of everything on line is close enough to zero that it pays to round down". – Chris Anderson (2009, Free: The Future of a Radical Price, p. 92)
verview of Software Types
“Free” software-as in free without cost- comes in many forms.
Open Educational Resources (OER
) are teaching, learning and research resources in the public domain or released under intellectual property license that allows free use or repurposing. This can include full courses, course materials, software and tools to support access to knowledge. (Atkins, 2007)
Open Source Software
allows developers access to the program language so that they can modify (and distribute) a product to meet their own needs. Some open source software allows users to bundle free software to create a “for-profit” product, while other categories of open source software restrict “for sale” redistribution.
Other categories of free software allow the user to “use” the software but not to change it or redistribute it. While open source software is freely available within the public domain,
is software that is licensed under exclusive legal right of its owner. This can include making it available free of charge. For example,
is computer software that is fully functional, available free of charge for an indefinite period of time and is either downloadable from the internet or runs on the internet.
service/software is usually a basic, scaled down version of what the company offers at a premium price. Unlike Freeware,
Shareware or Demoware
is designed to encourage users to try out the product before buying it. The initial version may not have all the features of the full version and expires after the pre-determined trial period.
Free with Advertising
is the model most similar to the economic delivery model used by more traditional media. Advertisers pay for media to reach consumers, who in turn support advertisers by buying their advertised products.
"Cost of Free"
Implications for education
Open source/free software
No license fee for use
New features always being developed
Technical support volunteers
Contributors always developing software
Variety of long tested applications with user communities
Possible tax benefits
Promotes a culture of openness
Equal and free access without monetary cost
For IT courses provides code to evaluate and work with, and build on
Not always compatible with existing software
Absence of guarantees present in commercial products
Technical support unreliable
The software may be free but implementation is not!
Training, implementation, hardware, network and labour costs can all be expensive
*Note: Software procurement costs are typically less than 5% of the total cost of a project (Hein 2003)
Encourages open culture of sharing and collaboration
Schools will be drawn to the no license fees factor
Moodle will continue to be a popular learning management system choice
Open Office will continue to be popular with lower income groups
Choose carefully to maximize benefit!
Covered by copyright
Use little space in memory
Variety of applications
Can come with viruses
Technical support not always reliable
As is, user cannot alter, or adapt
Free to use
As with Open source/free software freeware implementation can be labour intensive
Schools, again, will be attracted by the financial incentives
Training and implementation have to be considered in budgets
Quality software is available, but research products carefully!
Free trial or limited access period
Allows for assessment time before purchase
Technical support usually available
Software is on a trail basis; therefore, once users pass time period, they must pay
Some suppliers provide little or no technical support
Software prices very hugely
Most producers reveal prices during initial download
Training costs still apply and time is needed to familiarize users with software
Schools will be attracted to initial trial periods
Planning implementation timeline is very important to maximize advantages of shareware
As ever, pick products carefully!
Free with advertising models
No purchase costs
Many are already popular with both students and colleagues
Sites such as YouTube contain a wealth of educational material
Advertising can be problematic
No control over site content
Privacy issues on sites such as Facebook
Newly introduced applications may not pass the test of time and may disappear
Primarily, the real cost is to one's privacy
Facebook and Google users may reveal important private information and security breaches can occur
Sites such as Amazon track individual and group spending patterns
Free media sites can be addictive
Sites such as Facebook have huge potential, though they face opposition from critics who point to their often frivolous nature
The advantages of international access are yet to be fully utilized
YouTube often banned by school boards
Can often mean use of quality software without charge
Some software available on the internet without download for immediate access
Can provide simple access to technology for less IT literate teachers
No guarantee that work created will exist indefinitely
Little control over software performance
Security of work posted can be questionable
User may wish to upgrade to premium packages
Loss of control over personal data
Companies may not cover their initial costs and, therefore, fold
This is possibly the largest area of potential for education
Software such as Skype, Google Apps and Wikispaces are all used extensively by educational institutions as well as private individuals
As long as the service remains steady, they will continue to grow
The problems will come if one or more of these closes and schools realize how much data has been lost!
ummary of advice for educators
Under the current financial climate it is difficult to see schools' reliance on using free software content not increasing in the near future. Therefore, it is important that educators always evaluate the product carefully before adoption or purchase. This should involve the following:
Checking customer (especially educational users) views on, and reviews of, the product/service
Researching and analyzing technical support levels given by the product or user community
Constructing a well planned timeline for software implementation
Creating of a financial plan to project both short and long term purchase costs
Developing of an institution-wide acceptable use policy
Ensuring adequate resources are invested in training and professional development...not just in terms of "how to" but in terms of effective use
Please see the page
Evaluation Criteria and Template for Free Software
to learn more about key points to consider when adopting any type of free software.
Open Knowledge and Education
The implications of open knowledge and open access to information in education are profound. For the Generation-Y Millennials born into the digital age of social networking, sharing, remixing, mashing, creating, collaborating and posting. Students today learn from each other, and may even teach the teacher. Teachers in the future may more often play the role of guide and facilitator; therefore, selecting appropriate tools may be key.
Free and mostly free resources provide tremendous opportunities for educators and educational institutions who do their homework and make practical decisions. Today's student live digitally, and using tools that allow them to collaborate and create may improve their interest in subjects they may never have enjoyed before.Yet, all free resources are not the same nor is the definition of free as straightforward as it might appear. While most of us tend to think of free as “without cost” (gratis), others believe passionately in our unencumbered right to free (as in liberated) information.
The alternative to “free information” however, means someone or something owns it. Traditional Copyright licensing provides the means for protecting the intellectual property rights of the creator. It gives an author of original work exclusive rights to the work for a defined period of time, including its publication, distribution and adaptation, after which time the work enters the public domain.
In response to increasingly restrictive copyright legislation, free culture advocates like Lawrence Lessig (co-founder of Creative Commons) works with others in the Free Culture Movement to ensure that there are alternatives to restrictive Copyright. Creative Commons operates on the principle idea that everyone should be able to share, use, remix, and reproduce various types of sources for educational and non-educational purposes with no cost to them. Rather than restrict access to their work through rigid copyright licensing, creators can choose from a variety of Creative Commons licensing alternatives to grant copyright permissions to their works. Copyleft is a type of license that attempts to ensure that the public retains the freedom to use, modify, extend and redistribute a creative work and all derivative works (i.e., works based on or derived from it) rather than to restrict such freedoms. Understanding terms like intellectual property, public domain and fair use, instructors must model good practice and teach students current copyright regulations.
There's No Such Thing as a Free Lunch
Educators must be aware of the types of software they use and the real costs that are involved. Everything - even free- comes with a price. Software charges are but a minuscule portion of the total cost associated with any software implementation. Training cost, lesson planning, hardware and network costs, as well as migration and support costs typically make up the lion’s share of any project. Students and teachers can be constantly subjected to intrusive advertising. Failure to understand the limitations and permissions of the license agreement can result in a costly lawsuit. Default settings on free software often grant suppliers access to user computers and user databases. Having grown to depend on its functionality, mission critical software can unexpectedly and without notice be subjected to new user fees or disappear at the whim of the provider. Unreliable software can have catastrophic consequences at both the individual device and enterprise levels.
When considering free software and services it is wise to heed the caution in the old saying: "There's no such thing as a free lunch." Too often users confuse FREE with simplicity, low risk, and no cost. Although it might seem contradictory, FREE can be costly, and a free mistake can be costly. Just as knowing how to operate an oven does not make one a master chef, having limitless access to tools and information does not make students experts in critically evaluating the quality, limitations and risks inherent in the information, tools, license agreements, and online communities they engage with. In order to help students make informed decisions, teachers must become informed and always teach the critical thinking skills that are necessary to navigate the tangled web of today.
"Your Neighborhood: Electric circuitry has overthrown the regime of 'time' and 'space' and pours upon us instantly and continuously the concerns of all other men. It has reconstituted dialogue on a global scale. Its message is Total Change, ending psychic, social, economic and political parochialism. The old civic, state, and national groupings have become unworkable. Nothing can be further from the spirit of the new technology than 'a place for everything and everything it its place'. You can't go home again
." - Marshal McLuhan
Next up: Enjoy some of Cost of Free's
Best Sources of "Free" for Education
help on how to format text
Turn off "Getting Started"