A lifelong academic pursuit can be truly rewarding. Exploring a new skill, adding a second language or researching South American horror literature on a whim (guess which one I did!) not only expands your knowledge but can improve your confidence and mental well-being. It makes you feel good about yourself.
Evolving technology has made continuing such practices easier than ever. Putting college-level lectures and study tools in the palm of your hand, there are a vast array of apps ready to educate you on nearly any topic imaginable. Check out our list of the best learning apps available and quench your thirst for knowledge.
Flash cards are a key study tool at any level of education, not to mention one of the least monotonous forms of busy work assigned by high school teachers. That doesn’t negate their effectiveness, though, and that isn’t lost on the creators of StudyBlue. The app lets users create their own flash card packs, including audio and video content. Even better, users can search existing user-created card packs and modify them to their mind’s content. The app offers some undefined additional features for premium subscribers, but its free version is perfectly fine.
GradeProof makes it easy to proof essays and reports on the go. The app scans imported documents for grammatical errors, word choice and sentence structure in a flash. It also has a built-in plagiarism detector but that feature is locked behind a premium subscription. The $9.99 monthly price tag makes it more attractive for mobile document editing, but the accuracy of its toolset pales in comparison to other services (Grammarly, Hemmingway) that aren’t available on phones and tablets.
MasterClass carries an air of sophistication in both its offered courses and presentation. That Black Card of education app sensibility carries over into the service’s rolodex of instructors. From Gordon Ramsey to Margaret Atwood, MasterClass boasts a roster of celebrities with expertise in their respective fields. Who wouldn’t want to learn shooting technique from Stephen Curry? Unfortunately, the app’s price tag gets the VIP treatment as well. A single course will run you $89.99. You’re better off handing over $179.99 for a yearly subscription and unlimited courses.
Photomath is the app I most wish existed during my high school and college days. The app lets users scan math problems straight out of the textbook and delivers a step-by-step breakdown of how they’re solved. You can even scan handwritten problems or type them into the app directly with its built-in calculator. The app is a valuable tool for students of all advanced mathematical disciplines. The app’s functionality works offline as well, meaning there’s no limit to where you can work through your calculus homework.
App stores feature an abundance of budget programs featuring a collection of courses and supplemental materials. The one produced by Khan Academy won’t overly impress, but it offers material on a good array of subjects at no cost. The app’s selection lacks the specialization and pedigree of other free apps, but it’s a good first step anyone exploring education as a hobby. It also offers a number of practice exercises and tests, so it could be utilized by those working through test-taking anxiety.
There is plenty to criticize about the internet’s cornerstone user-created video platform, but its expansive content library means there is a video answering nearly any question imaginable. Such lessons don’t regularly come in the form of full courses and curation is virtually non-existent, but quantity somewhat makes up for quality. You’ll likely have to wade through middling search results and scrub through copious calls to action to learn your desired skill. SO many things about YouTube frustrate, but there’s a reason so many keep coming back to it. Where else can you learn applicable philosophy, cheek contouring and how to change the starter in a 2005 Honda Civic in rapid succession?
CourseGuru boils down to a better version of Khan Academy. The free app offers a wider library of lectures and courses sourced from top international universities. It even houses content from Khan Academy itself. There are few bells and whistles beyond that, the key ones being the ability to limit mobile data usage and download files for offline study. CourseGuru is a solid service that won’t overly impress beyond substance—kind of like a university without a football team.
The Teaching Company has been doing its best to aid current and continuing learners for almost 30 years. The Great Courses Plus is the company’s latest and best tool for that purpose. The app boasts 2000-plus courses for users to stream or download from an impressive roster of college professors. The only immediate drawback is the service’s price point. The monthly $19.99 subscription fee is decidedly cheaper than MasterClass, but a yearly subscription will run users the same $179.99 hit to the wallet. The service is worth the price if it fits into your budget. I learned that from one of the litany of financial courses!
It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t know Duolingo by name. Even if you didn’t know it as the best mobile app for learning foreign languages, you definitely know its imposing yet cuddly mascot, Duo the green owl. Branding aside, the app gamifies learning in the most effective fashion compared to other apps on this list. It’s a pretty good motivator and makes lessons feel far less fatiguing than sitting in a classroom. The free version is supported by periodic advertisements but they are less intrusive than other apps. It’s the rare occasion where an app with a premium tier supplies a superior free version. And with new languages and lessons added regularly, Duolingo is continually improving, just like those that use it.
EdX is the best app available for STEM and computer science students. Period. The free service is a Harvard and MIT joint-production compiling challenging and informative courses from both universities’ stellar roster of instructors. The app does offer lectures on a number of other subjects (law, literature, economics) but its scientific offerings far outshine those of similar platforms. The ability to download courses to SD cards also make the service more mobile than its competitors.That mix of flexibility, substance and affordability make EdX rise above the continually growing field of educational tools.
Brian Bell is a queer freelance writer covering tech, pro wrestling, esports, games, comics and TV. Co-host of the Mr. Videogames Super Show podcast. Find and follow him on Twitter @WonderboyOTM.