The Public Domain Core Collection project consists of a collection of public domain texts and a faculty guidebook for using those texts either as standalone resources or as the basis of open assignments.

Public Domain Core Collection

The Public Domain Core Collection consists of over 50 titles of public domain works that have been created using the Pressbooks authoring platform and made available in online, epub, pdf and editable formats. Although the primary audience for this collection is students and faculty members in the post-secondary education sector in Ontario, the titles are freely available on the web to anyone who wants to read or adapt them for their own use.

Titles were chosen for this collection based on the following criteria:

  • Relevance to post-secondary courses taught in Ontario
  • Frequency of appearance on syllabi listed in the Open Syllabus Project
  • Proposed usage in open assignments in courses at Ryerson and Brock universities during the Fall 2021 semester
  • Inclusion of underrepresented voices (including titles by BIPOC authors)
  • In the public domain

All texts are in the public domain (50 years after the death of the author) in Canada as of 2021. If you are accessing these texts from another country, please be aware that some of these works may not be in the public domain in your country. Supplementary materials (introductions, acknowledgements, etc.) are licensed under a Creative Commons CC BY 4.0 license.

If you have suggestions for additional public domain titles that you would like to see in this collection, please complete this suggestion form.

Open Pedagogy

One of our objectives with this collection is to encourage the use of public domain works in tandem with open, effective teaching strategies which involve students in the creation of knowledge.  OER-enabled pedagogy is a form of experiential learning in which students create meaningful content that can be shared beyond the classroom.  These public domain texts are ideal for these types of assignments as there are no copyright

Three pilot projects were undertaken as a part of this grant project to explore how public domain works can be used with open assignments. These projects included:

Social Annotation of Public Domain Poetry with Hypothesis
Students publicly annotated poems in the textbook and then worked in groups on a project using those annotation

Greek Myths Annotation Project
Annotation was used in a large, 500 student, class in place of a final exam

Teaching Textual Analysis Using Hypothes.is
Annotation was used to incorporate textual analysis into synchronous online meetings

Art in Revolution:  Nineteenth Century Visual Culture
Students created content for a text of public domain images

More detailed descriptions of the projects can be found later in this guidebook along with other examples of open pedagogy assignments and descriptions of tools that can be used with these texts.


This project was made possible with funding by the Government of Ontario and the Virtual Learning Strategy. To learn more about the Virtual Learning Strategy please visit: https://vls.ecampusontario.ca/.

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