The way many people around the world live, work and entertain themselves is - at least temporarily - changing. Social-distancing and self-isolation measures across the globe have certainly limited access to many real-world resources.
Many schools, universities and public spaces such as libraries have been forced to temporarily close their doors, for example, leaving countless people without access to educational materials, and kids without their favorite stories.
But there's some encouraging positivity coming out during this time of uncertainty, too, with a number of organizations opening up free access to what were previously paid resources.
On this page, we're going to maintain a continuously updated list of all of those – alongside any other useful ones we discover.
Free educational resources
With schools closed in some parts of the world and parents choosing to keep their kids at home in many others, Amazon’s Audible has launched Audible Stories, a new service providing free audiobooks to kids and teenagers everywhere.
Its collection of audiobook titles include young children’s storybooks to literary classics, and will be made available to stream in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Japanese.
Amazon has also made a selection of its family-friendly movies and TV shows available to stream for free on Amazon Prime Video. Its range of Amazon Original content for children will be free to watch worldwide, though the selection of licensed content for kids will vary by country.
This service is usually a perk of becoming an Amazon Prime member, but the e-commerce giant is making it available to all customers with an Amazon account.
As we spend more time indoors, zoos across the globe are making sure we can still connect to animals in the outside world. Many are doing this by live streaming feeding time, but the Australian Reptile Park has created a new educational series for students called Animal Tales with Tim Faulkner.
The series features a new episode every day and takes a closer look at Australia’s wonderful animals, and kids are encouraged to post their homework in the comment section. Available to watch on Tim Faulkner’s Facebook page or the Australian Reptile Park’s YouTube channel.
Zoos may be closed, but you can still see your favorite animals from home. A number of zoos from around the world are giving a behind-the-scenes peek at feeding times and life inside a zoo.
Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia has launched Taronga TV, and is featuring 24/7 live streams of tigers, elephants, meerkats and more, plus chats with the keepers so you and your kids can learn more about wildlife from the experts. There’s also educational videos from Taronga’s animal hospital and conservation programs, so your kids can learn about the importance of protecting endangered wildlife.
Mastercard is giving free access to a section of its dedicated science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) program Girls4Tech, which is aimed at young girls aged between eight and 12.
There are separate lessons to download for both teachers and families, with subjects that give kids real-world challenges and the chance to play the role of STEM professionals. It’s currently available in English, Spanish, French and Portuguese, and other languages are set to be included.
JSTOR is a digital library of academic resources, and part of its database has been accessible to the public for some time.
They have more than 6,000 ebooks and 150 journals available, and the organization has stated they are currently working with publishers to make a larger set of content freely available to institutions where students no longer have access to educational resources.
As teachers, researchers and students are increasingly finding themselves having to teach and learn from home, Cambridge University Press has made its collection of academic textbooks available online for free to university libraries until the end of May.
Availability was temporarily suspended due to unprecedented demand (and potential misuse of the offer), but its range of textbooks are now available again to higher education institutions and their students. A number of open access journals are also available online to anyone.
In response to the pandemic, Internet Archive has created a National Emergency Library so anyone can continue to borrow books. It has suspended waitlists for the 1.4 million books in its digitized collection until June 30, ensuring students and teachers can still access materials while physical libraries in many parts of the world have closed their doors.
The organization says while its collection isn’t comprehensive, it focuses on materials that were published during the 20th century – the vast majority of which aren’t commercially available as an ebook. Signing up to the Internet Archive is all that’s required to borrow from their digital library shelves.
The organization is calling it a time of need, and for those stuck at home, the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) has opened up its entire catalogue of online photography courses to everyone free of charge. There are over 1,100 courses to choose from across a variety of topics for beginners and more advanced photographers alike. Courses will be free until the end of May, and all that’s required is signing up for a free account with the PPA.
The PPA isn’t the only organization lending a helping hand to creatives stuck indoors. Camera maker Nikon is helping those who are keen on photography find new ways to be creative. While initially making its online classes free for the month of April, Nikon has now extended its complimentary classes through to the end of May.
The courses cater to photographers of all skill levels, and each class is taught by a professional photographer, with subjects ranging from the basics of getting to know your Nikon DSLR to how to create video content and plenty in between. Signing up with your email address is all that’s required to get started.
Nikon has also launched a new Creator’s Hour series, which features in-depth conversations with professional photographers on how they landed the perfect shot, as well as photo challenges to spur on your creativity during your time at home.
For UK residents stuck at home who want to get to know an Olympus kit, the camera maker is offering one-on-one virtual sessions with an 'Olympus guru'. The sessions are completely free, and are a fantastic opportunity for those looking to brush up on their skills or get in-depth advice on the workings of their Olympus camera.
There are a number of Olympus experts you can apply for a one-on-one with, who specialize in a range of subjects including portrait photography, wildlife photography and audio recording. Non-Olympus users are also welcome to apply.
You may not have known it, but Disney has had free online drawing classes for years now. The step-by-step tutorials are taught by professional Disney animators, and your kids – or let’s face it, you – can follow along and learn to draw your favorite Disney characters.
The guided classes go from between 10 to 30 minutes, and are available to watch on the Disney Parks YouTube channel. So if you've been looking to pick up a relaxing hobby during this time of physical distancing and self-isolation, this is worth checking out.
With museums closed all around the world, the British Museum recently announced it has fast-tracked the digitization of its various collections so anyone can browse the wondrous displays from the comfort of home.
The online database now contains 1.9 million images of its vast collection, which spans two million years of history across six continents. The images are available in high definition and can be enlarged, so you can examine them in detail.
From a great blue whale to a tiny beetle, and every imaginable animal to live on Earth in between, the Natural History Museum in London is the place to discover them all. You can still get up close to the museum's treasures from home, with a virtual tour of its vast halls.
You can listen to a guided tour from Sir David Attenborough, go face-to-face with a dinosaur skull in 3D or explore over 300,000 specimens from the galleries through Google Arts and Culture. The museum also has a ton of brilliant craft activities and home projects worth checking out as well.
Netflix has made a selection of its documentaries available for free on its YouTube channel. The streaming service usually allows teachers to access these documentaries for free in the classroom, but with schools closed, some students have lost access to these captivating stories.
At the request of teachers, Netflix has made 10 of its documentary films and series available to anyone, and each title has educational resources available for parents, teachers and students.
Netflix also says it’ll be holding Q&As with some of the creators behind these projects, so students can learn more from them firsthand.
In the face of an unemployment crisis, and one that has already claimed 26 million jobs in the US alone, online learning platform Coursera has announced the Coursera Workforce Recovery Initiative.
The US-based organization has made its 3,800 strong course catalogue available for free to local, state and federal governments in the US states of Arizona, Illinois and Oklahoma, while governments in Colombia, Costa Rica, Greece, Malaysia, Panama, Ukraine and Uzbekistan are also taking part.
Unfortunately, that means individuals won’t be able to apply for the free courses themselves, rather government employment agencies will have to apply on their behalf for free access. Coursera is expecting more US states and countries to get onboard over the coming weeks, and says it's also looking at providing free courses through non-government organizations on a “case-by-case basis”.
We’ll be monitoring their progress, and will update you with any new developments.