Using Free & Open Tools

Digital Media Considerations Checklist

What is the main goal?

Learn technical skills
Is the focus on learning the technical aspects of using digital equipment or software?
Think in new format or genre
Is the focus on designing or envisioning new ways to engage with information? E.g. converting a written piece into a visual medium.
Introduction to digital options or resources
Is the focus on introducing students to campus resources or options that the instructor feels they are unaware of?

How easily can people access the application?

How many computers have the software? Are those computers open to all students? 24 hours?
Can students work on their projects from home? How do they save their work when moving to different computers?
Different devices
Is the software only available on select platforms? Do web apps work on mobile devices? Are apps available across operating systems?
Web access
Can the software be accessed over the web? If it needs to be downloaded to a personal computer, how big is the file?
Offline access
Can the application be used offline? How can offline work be accomplished?

How big is the learning curve?

The time investment should be proportional to the assignment and course goals. If the 'best' application for the project requires more time than it's worth- is it still the best?

How can new knowledge be built upon?

Will they move to more robust applications?
Image editing in Google Drawings can be a good first learning experience before using Photoshop.
Will they use this software for other projects?
Camtasia Editor can be used to edit video or for creating screen captures and recording presentations.
What do they need to level up in their knowledge?
Share resources, create online guides with links, assemble YouTube playlists, etc...

Does the software prioritize accessbility?

Accessibility includes both the ability to use the software as well as sharing/viewing/listening to projects created with it. Does the video editor allow for the creation of captions? Does the web app comform to WCAG 2.0 standards?

What are the costs of using the software?

'Paid' software
Will students have access to it after graduation? For their personal computers?
'Free' software
How does the software company pay their bills? Will it move to a paid model? Are some features only available for premium? What features? Will those change? How will you keep track of these changes?
Migrating projects to other applicatoins
How easy is it to migrate to a new service? Can the files created be used in other applications?
If payment stops, is work lost? Will one-time payment models move to subscription? If the campus loses the license to use this software, do you have a plan B or a way to transfer previous work?
Are web-based applications charging for storage? How many projects can be stored for free?
Does a new account have to be created? Has the company had any data breeches? Can sign-in go through another service? Can guest/temporary accounts be used?
Data Security
Has the company had major security issues that could put you or your students at risk? Check resources like for lists of data breeches or to check to see if your accounts have been exposed.

Alternative Options

Search Widgets

Check to see if there is another program that will do what you want by entering the name of an application in the search box. Click the buttons below to search for each (or all) criterion.