Flashcards, Free Books and Other Study Aids

There is a constantly expanding range of resources online that can help with whatever you are studying as an adjunct to your course at Otago - or simply to expand your horizons. This article touches on just some of them you may not have encountered. - I’m assuming everyone knows about Youtube, etc!

This article is a somewhat expanded version of one I wrote last year, and includes some study aids not mentioned in that previous article, in addition to checking what I wrote about is still valid. 

If you have education-related favourites of your own not mentioned here, or comments about the resources I have mentioned, please let me know. These could be used in a follow-up article. I have concentrated on free or low-cost educational resources.

Electronic Books

Many people like to use printed books for various reasons, but e-books do have some advantages over normal texts, such as:

  • Much less bulky and heavy (I have over 400 books and other documents on my iPad at present).
  • You can have them with you just about anywhere (great on plane trips).
  • Generally cheaper than printed texts, e.g. books from Amazon are around half the price of the printed version, and that’s without taking postage into account.
  • You can adjust font and text size to suit.
  • They are very easy to search.
  • You can add highlights just as with normal textbooks.
  • Depending on the software you use, you can add your own notes and also list highlights and notes of epub books* - a great revision aid!

*This does not appear to work with PDF files, at least in Apple Books in my experience. However, PDFs can easily be converted to the epub format using the free multiplatform application Calibre (https://calibre-ebook.com/). So bear in mind if you want to use this function for revision you need to convert to epub before starting to make notes.

Another reason to look at ebooks is that some of SMC's older printed volumes are literally falling apart, plus space for books new to our library is not unlimited. Those books are virtually all free to download from Project Gutenberg.

At the end of this article is a link to a more complete list of sources of electronic books, with some emphasis on free ones, and books related to courses with which members might be involved. Most of these sites also offer fiction books for that all-important relaxation.

’Openstax’ is of special interest and potential, so I have given more detail below.

Openstax college

Openstax College is now generally known simply as ‘Openstax’. It is a non-profit arm of Rice University of Houston Texas - a University with a very good reputation. For example, it was ranked first in the World for Materials Science research by the Times Education Supplement in 2010.

Openstax is supported by around 23 philanthropic foundations, including for example, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, National Science Foundation and Google Inc. You can find out more about the offerings, history and philosophy of Openstax at:


While Openstax have a limited number of offerings at present, this education-oriented source is expanding. Since last year they have introduced the Openstax Tutor, which looks very interesting.


Openstax free (electronic) Texts:

A caution: While such books are unlikely to replace the Otago recommended texts, it can be useful to have an alternative approach to a topic you are finding a bit tricky. In the Preface, the aims of the Anatomy and Physiology text used here as an example are stated as:

“Human Anatomy and Physiology is designed for the two-semester anatomy and physiology course taken by life science and allied health students. It supports effective teaching and learning, and prepares students for further learning and future careers. The text focuses on the most important concepts and aims to minimize distracting students with more minor details. “

The text has a large number of ‘Interactive links’ to videos, etc., aimed at helping to explain many of the concepts. Most of the ones I looked at were the ‘chalk and talk’ variety, which can be helpful, but I did think animations would sometime have been more explanatory. There are many things I do like, including review questions, notes on diseases of a particular body system, lists of key terms with definitions, ‘Everyday Connections’ linking a topic to everyday experience, and plenty of very good illustrations.

Steps to obtain a free Anatomy/Physiology text:

  • Go to https://openstax.org
  • Click on ‘Subjects’
  • Click on ‘Science’
  • A series of panels pops up showing several books on Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Astronomy etc.
  • Click on the 3 white dot icon top right of the panel ’Anatomy and Physiology’ (or, of course, any of the others that interest you).
  • This lists ‘Get this Book’, ‘Instructor Resources’ and ‘Student Resources’.
  • Click on ‘Get this Book’ to see details
  • Almost any (probably all) electronic device has the capacity to read pdf files, so you could click on ‘Download a PDF’. However, if you are using an Apple device or Kindle you might want to use a more direct option further down the list. To see them, click on ‘+ 3 more options . . ‘. WARNING: the ones for which I tried this option stated they were not available for this country, but the PDFs are, and can be converted to e-pub with Calibre, as mentioned earlier.

Another text from Openstax that may be of interest to Health Science students is ‘Microbiology’ - not a specialist text but one written specifically with “careers in allied health” in mind. This is an example from the Immunology section:

Image by: John Cross

Free ONLINE COURSES e.g Biostatistics at edX.org:

Started by Harvard and MIT to provide Higher Education to anyone prepared to put in the work, edX now has more than 150 entities contributing. Some of the courses are free, those with an exam, certificate or diploma at the end usually carry a cost.

EdX state that their mission is as follows:

There are three commitments we've made to the world. We've been grounded by these since day one:

  • Increase access to high-quality education for everyone, everywhere
  • Enhance teaching and learning on campus and online
  • Advance teaching and learning through research.”


Immunology at the Khan Academy

The Khan Academy is an American non-profit online service which aims to provide a free personalized learning experience. The main resource is videos on Youtube which the originator started doing some years ago, built it up as it became popular, and then started the web site as a supplement to those videos. The website provides features such as progress tracking, practice exercises,[16] and teaching tools. If you have an iPad, try the Khan Academy app, (lots of exercises otherwise you can access lessons through any browser. You can get a taste of this with respect to immunology at:


My opinion: Useful, again largely a ‘chalk and talk’ approach even when other approaches could help to clarify concepts, perhaps still in a developmental phase. But I only looked at some of the Immunology . . .

Learn Human Anatomy and Physiology in 7 Days! (??really?)

This set of lessons by an experienced teacher is not free, and I have no personal experience of it. However, at around NZ$75 it could be worth a look, maybe for a small group. (Price is at the time of writing, and appeared to be a “special offer”). It is on sale on line from the U.S. - If any knows, or finds out, information on this one based on using it, please let me know and I will follow it through. Read their description at:


Just About Anything at futurelearn.com

Offers courses in a wide variety of topics, including IT and Computer Science, Business and Management, Healthcare and Medicine, Literature, Law, etc. etc. There is a free option and two paid upgrades. Courses are derived from Universities and other establishments in many parts of the world.

Flashcards et al.

Flashcards are distinctly better for learning than passive review. - For a good article on design, uses and pitfalls of flashcards, try:


I certainly found flash cards very handy for revision - and that was in the days when you made them on pieces of card. Now they are even better when used electronically, on your mobile phone, for example, anytime and anywhere.

There are many, many flashcard apps. The Quizlet web site is certainly worth a look, having loads of flashcards in all kinds of subjects, from Arts and Humanities to Science, somewhere around 350 million study sets.

I was interested in one that:

  • Can use multimedia (not merely words, but images and sound).
  • Is digital not printed
  • Works with both iOs and Android.
  • Allows sharing of decks.
  • Has a library of shared decks.

After exploring some other options, I decided on ‘Flashcards de luxe’ which has all of the above, and is inexpensive with a one-off charge rather than repeating fees. It is available both as a rather restricted free version, and a not very expensive (under $7), much more useful, paid one. The free one only allows 6 cards in each of 4 decks, and is handy mainly for trying the app out.

Flashcards deluxe is produced by http://orangeorapple.com. Preparing this article, I searched their shared decks for one on ‘cartilage’ as a trial, and had 10 hits.

You can also access Quizlets text-only decks using Flashcard deluxe.

Free offer! I have prepared a short 6 card set on Flashcards deluxe on the topic of cartilage. Let me know if you are interested, and I’ll post it on their web site and give you the details of how to get it. - You will need the app to run it, but the free version should work on this small set. I am also preparing a method sheet for using and making sets, and if there is a reasonable demand, I will send it to interested members either as a PDF or e-pub, so let me know which you would like.


Link to eBook Sources:


Also, of course, you can find more by typing ‘e-book sources’ into your web browser.

1Those documents on my iPad include recipes, equipment instructions and guides. At least I’m less likely to lose them that way!

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Posted: Thursday March 17, 2022