Learning Sciences – Open Education Scorecard

Building off an earlier post about the upcoming Open Learning Interplay Symposium between folks in the learning sciences and open education communities, here is a table that lists a lot of educational software and curriculum that has been created by the learning sciences community and others over the years. The table shows the license for each tool, along with either open source alternatives or notes on how one might develop a free, open source alternative. Red means commercial, proprietary, and green means free and open source. Orange means free but not open source.

Here is a wiki version of the table (no colors), a pdf version, and an openoffice document (for editing). You are free to edit the wiki and/or upload a new openoffice document. There are of course a great deal of other educational software tools out there that aren’t covered in this table.

Here is the table pasted to this blog post as well:



Developed By


Open Source Possibilities or Alternatives

Understanding by Design Exchange Website

A place for teachers to share lessons built using the backward design framework

Wiggins & McTighue, distributed by ASTD

Restricted Access, Commercial ($89 per user)

You can use an open repository to share curriculum, such as curriki. Such sites have no scaffolding for backward design or problem-based learning, however. Also, repositories do not help you deliver courses to students. For that, there is the free and open source tool moodle, but you still need to pay for moodle hosting.

Cognitive Tutor

Algebra/Geometry tutoring software

John Anderson (developer of ACT-R) and Carnegie Mellon

Commercial, no prices listed, distributed by Carnegie Learning

No open alternatives. There are some open source libraries that can be applied to the development of intelligent tutors and expert systems, such as Jess.

Wise / Knowledge Integration Environment (KIE)

Inquiry-based science education learning environment

Linn, Slotta, U.C. Berkeley

Not publicly available.

Being superceded by SAIL, PAS, OTrunk, and other tools, which are all free and open source. Built using java and other tools. Extensive documentation for developers, such as this.

Knowledge Forum / CSILE

Collaborative concept mapping, argumentation tool

Bereiter, Scardamalia, OISE U. Toronto

Commercial, no prices listed, distributed by Knowledge Forum

Perhaps Belvedere is a close alternative.

Belvedere and other tools

support problem-based collaborative learning scenarios with evidence and concept maps

Daniel Suthers, U. Hawaii

free and open source

Jasper Woodbury Series

Anchored instruction, problem-based challenges for learning math concepts

John Bransford, Cognition & Technology Group at Vanderbilt

Commercial, $360 a unit, distributed by Learning, Inc.

These are video-based challenges, so using free or open source video authoring tools (Kdenlive, iMovie, etc.) plus free sites for hosting video (like youtube, teachertube) and curriculum may work.


Handheld (Palm) based educational software for science and other areas

Elliot Soloway, U. Michigan

Commercial, no prices listed, distributed by GoKnow


Visual modeling and simulation tool

Elliot Soloway, U. Michigan

Commercial, distributed by GoKnow


Simulation and modeling software

Commercial, distributed by isee systems


Visual math & calculus software


Free but not open source


Inquiry-based science education software

Barbara White, U.C. Berkeley

Not publicly available


Web-based science assessment tool

Earl Hunt, Jim Minstrell, U. Washington

Restricted access

Pedagogica, VideoPaperBuilder, and other software from the Concord Consortium

Tools for science education or multimedia authoring

Concord Consortium

All their software is free, and some are open source like Pedagogica

Collaborating to develop the aforementioned SAIL, Pas, Otrunk, and other tools that integrate with Pedagogica, PHET, and other educational java applications.

E-Step Website

Online tool for creating problem-based learning activities

Sharon Derry, U. Wisconsin

Restricted access, teachers can apply

Perhaps develop a PBL module for moodle.

Epistemic Games

Educational video games

David Shaffer, U. Wisconsin, author of How Computer Games Help Children Learn

Not publicly available, will be commercially sold

Persuasive Games

Political flash games

Ian Bogost, Georgia Tech

Free but not open source

Quest Atlantis

Multiplayer 3D educational world

Sasha Barab, Indiana U.

Free but limited access, no source code

River City

3D Game

Chris Dede

Free to teachers who will be mailed a CD


Collaborative game to learn about the Moon


Restricted Access

Persistent Issues in History Network

A community of teachers for learning about historical inquiry

John Saye, Thomas Brush

Restricted Access, teachers can apply

Read 180 / Fastt Math

Remedial reading and math instruction

Ted Hasselbring, distributed by Scholastic

Commercial. Read 180 costs thousands and has strict requirements and training for quality control. FASTT Math costs $250.


Simple to use programming environment – turtle graphics

Seymour Papert and others

There are various free and open source logo implementations, and also a full-featured yet commercial version: Microworlds Ex ($99)

Turtle Tracks, Pylogo, Kturtle, etc.

Starlogo / Starlogo TNG / Netlogo

Agent-based modeling tool. A concurrent, parallel Logo.

Netlogo is the most popular. Starlogo is now out of date, replaced by the 3D Starlogo TNG.

Mitchel Resnick, MIT, Uri Wilensky (Netlogo)

Free but not open source. Starlogo was open sourced recently, ten years after it’s first release. It is now superceded by Netlogo and Starlogo TNG.

Since Starlogo, Netlogo, and Greenfoot are all free, there is not much motivation to create open source alternatives, but see:


Agent-based modeling and programming tool

Sun Microsystems, U. Kent

Free but not open source. Java-based.


Agent-based modeling tool

Alex Repenning, U. Colorado

Commercial, $120


Visual multimedia / programming environment for kids

Mitchel Resnick, MIT

free, not straightforward to get at source (developed in Squeak Smalltalk)


3D programming environment for kids

Randy Pausch, Carnegie Mellon

Free, built in java. Source code appears to be 3 years out of date, may be for older, python-based version.


Visual programming environment for kids

Ken Kahn

Commercial, low cost ($14.95)

Second Life

3D Multiuser Worlds

Linden Labs

free, client is open source, server will eventually be open sourced (uses Mono)


3D Multiuser Worlds

built on Squeak

free, open source, built on Squeak

Project Darkstar

3D Multiuser Worlds

Sun Microsystems

free, open source (GPL), java-based


Simulation authoring tool

Ton de Jong, others

free but not open source

Could build an alternative using open source physics, PHET source code, and other libraries.

Open Source Physics, Easy Java Simulations (EJS)

Java libraries for creating physics simulations, EJS is a front-end

Wolfgang Christian, Francisco Esquembre

free and open source (GPL). For better docs, have to pay for book – An Introduction to Computer Simulation Methods, 3rd ed.


Over 40 free physics simulations – applets, webstart apps, flash widgets

Noah Finkelstein, U. Colorado

free and open source (GPL), java and flash. No link from their site to the source code, nor any docs for outside developers.

National Library of Virtual Manipulatives

Java applets for kids to learn geometry and other math concepts

Utah State University

Free but not open source


Physics visualizations

John Belcher, MIT

Free but not open source


Video analysis software, for physics education

David Brown, Cabrillo University

free and open source (GPL), java application, although requires Apple Quicktime


Video analysis software, for educational researchers


Commercial, $99


Video analysis software, for educational researchers

David Woods, U. Wisconsin

Was free and open source. A wxython application. Windows and OS X only. Now costs $50 due to lack of funding. Still open source.

No free and open source alternatives.

There was also a browser-based video annotation site called Mojiti, but they shut down.


free and open source – firefox extension

See also this list of citation management software alternatives.

Group Scribbles

Free collaborative whiteboard application.


Free but not open source. Requires running a dedicated tuple server.

A java webstart application plus java-based server. There are other free shared whiteboard options out there, like extensions to skype or yahoo chat.

DimDim is an application for web conferencing, sharing applications, powerpoints, and whiteboards that is free and open source and integrates with moodle. See this post for more info.


Web-based tool for handling student homework assignments and assessments

U. Rochester

Free but not open source.

Moodle and other open source tools that can deliver assignments and assessments.


wireless sensor network, can be used in science education

Sun Microsystems

Commercial, $550 for a basic kit

Might be possible to build alternatives using lower cost open hardware and bluetooth interfacable boards such as:

Vernier / Pitsco / Phidgets – probeware

probeware – sensors and computer interfaces for science education

Vernier / Pitsco / Phidgets

Commercial, quite expensive hardware

Possible to build alternative solutions using lower cost open hardware such as:

Lego Mindstorms

Lego based robotics and programming platform


Commercial, $250


platform for developing rich internet applications


Commercial, $300 for a student license, much more for a non-academic license

Posted in education, learning sciences, opensource, software
One comment on “Learning Sciences – Open Education Scorecard
  1. Tony Forster says:

    GameMaker, 20 Euros, http://www.yoyogames.com, possible alternatives, Squeak, Scratch

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