“Educational” is a broad term. When it comes to mobile apps, there’s a diverse range of software that falls under the umbrella of education. You could peruse the top educational offerings in any app store, but locating the best ones — and those that aren’t merely a fad — is more difficult than you think.
Some educational apps are tailored for high-school students, some for soon-to-be college graduates, and others still, are more apt for those who provide an education or those who still pine for knowledge long after school lets out for summer. We’ve looked at helpful apps for teachers and educators, so this list is more focused on apps for students.
Whether you’re specifically looking for ways to exercise your mind, organize your coursework, or expand your knowledge on King Matthias Corvinus’ role in the Hungarian Renaissance, there’s more than one app specifically designed to get the job done. Then again, no app is truly tailored for exploring the global repercussions of the Renaissance. You’ll simply have to settle for our favorites below.
The Great Courses (Free, with in-app purchases)
College is a great place to get an education, but if the thought of doing homework or racking up a hefty sum of student debt doesn’t appeal to you, The Great Courses offers lectures from expert professors, covering a wide variety of subjects including literature, history, business, math, music, even cooking. The Great Courses app lets you download or stream courses, and is compatible with Chromecast. The lectures are professionally made and presented clearly, with visual aids when necessary. While the app itself is free, you’ll have to pay for individual courses. There is a free trial, though, and courses go on sale from time to time. Plus, your smartphone probably weighs a lot less than a textbook.
Memrise (Free, premium version available)
Learning a language can be tough, particularly if there aren’t any courses offered near you. While you could buy yourself a textbook and teach yourself, Memrise offers a different path, teaching you vocabulary through gamification. Boot up Memrise, choose a language you want to study, and the app will drill you on various words and phrases, testing you on definitions, spelling, and aural recognition. Memrise is available for free, although the free version only offers so much; for the full deal, you’ll need to purchase a “Pro” subscription, and the app is aggressive about advertising it. Still, if you’re looking for an easy way to brush up on a language, Memrise is more fun (and convenient) than flashcards.
Udacity offers you free online courses. There are hundreds of different topics to choose from, and you can even pay for a nanodegree service that gets you feedback from professionals, coaching, and a verified certification for $200. A nanodegree can be a great choice for those looking to get a job in programming.
Brainscape claims you can double your learning speed by using flashcards. Brainscape paces the repetition of each concept perfectly, so you retain knowledge more effectively. Rate how well you know each concept and Brainscape will determine the right time to give you another quiz. It’s free to create, share, and find user-generated flashcards. Pro subscription is billed at $10 per month, $30 semiannually, or $36 per year. You can also opt for a lifetime subscription for $80. Subscriptions give you access to unlimited premium content, features like bookmarks, browse mode, card reversibility, and allow you to create flashcards without ads.
You can think of the aptly-titled Due as a robust alarm clock, one that functions without an account or Internet connection. With Due, you can set reusable countdown reminders and implement both daily and weekly reminders that capitalize on nearly 60 alert tones. Moreover, reminders sync across your devices and automatically shift as you cross time zones.
Ready4’s series of test prep apps, like Ready4 SAT, goes well beyond just drilling you to answer practice questions. It actually aims to teach you the material and test-taking tips in mobile-friendly chunks, so that you can study whenever and wherever you have your smartphone. This free app even tries to match your potential SAT score with schools and academic programs around the world, just in case you need extra motivation to study.
For high-school students who just need a bit more guidance on how to isolate “x” in their algebra homework, Photomath is essentially your math buddy that can instantly solve and explain every answer. Simply snap a photo of the question (you can also write or type), and the app will break down the solution into separate steps with helpful play-by-play so that you can apply the same principles to the rest of your homework.
Most students don’t have a personal editor to show them how they can improve their writing, one sentence at a time. GradeProof’s AI offers concrete ways to improve your style, check for originality, as well as identify complex grammatical issues that other word processors often miss. While the app itself is free, you’ll need to upgrade to the $10-per-month GradeProof Premium to unleash the full power of this pocket writing coach.
Not many kids are excited to practice addition or multiplication outside of school, but they might be more enthusiastic about applying their math skills to run a mean cupcake business. From figuring out the cost of each cupcake, fulfilling orders, to paying back business loans to keep the bakery running, Math Motion: Cupcake brings elementary-level math to life in a deceptively sweet — yet palatable — package.
Higher education is no longer exclusive to college students or contained within Ivory Towers. EdX makes it possible for anyone with a smartphone to learn from distinguished institutions such as MIT and McGill, and maybe even earn a certificate while you’re at it. You can tune into online lectures, take quizzes, and complete assignments at your own pace, all without having to worry about getting a student loan (though some certificates and courses do cost extra).
School life is complicated. To help you stay on top of your schedule and often conflicting deadlines, My Study Life is more than just a day planner and school calendar — the app even sends reminders to your mobile device whenever you have upcoming deadlines. As one of the few ad-free agenda apps on the market, My Study Life’s colorful interface gives you all the info you need regarding your day at a glance.
If you already use Mendeley Desktop to manage your research citations and collaborate with classmates, then the Mendeley app is a no-brainer. After all, the app is a PDF reader that lets you annotate and search across the journal articles you need for your paper or your class readings, directly on your mobile device. Once you’re back at your computer, the app will also sync your mobile notes to keep you organized.
Now that Evernote is charging users who want to use its app on more than two devices, Microsoft’s OneNote is looking like a decent alternative for your mobile note-taking needs. It helps that the app is usually pre-loaded on new Windows 10 devices, and works across all platforms. Not only can you record a lecture and snap photos while “handwriting” your notes with a stylus or pen, but you can back up your class notes to OneDrive and Office 365.
More than just another interactive periodic table, this Periodic Table app from the Royal Society of Chemistry incorporates everything from podcasts to videos to help you learn about the elements. Don’t worry about being overwhelmed by all the information though, as the app showcases different levels of data to satisfy everyone, from a novice to an AP Chemistry student.
Studying is the mainstay of an education. With StudyBlue, you can create and share a plethora of mobile flashcards, study guides, and quizzes, or choose from an extensive collection of student-authored flashcards and flashcard decks. Afterward, accept the score you earn or try again to top it.
Queried by Apple’s Siri, WolframAlpha utilizes a vast collection of algorithms and data to answer any questions you might have about, well, anything. The knowledge engine is surprisingly accurate, culling answers from a variety of sources, with thorough instructions on how it arrived at the answer.
It’s rare that an organization truly makes you think. The TED app lets you peruse more the entire library of more than 1,700 TED Talks videos, introducing you to intriguing presentations and revolutionary ideas from education radicals, tech geniuses, business gurus, musical legends, and the like.
Education can be expensive. Fortunately, Khan Academy provides more than 4,000, free downloadable videos, so you can brush up on everything from K-12 math and earth science to art history and computer science. You can also track your progress and unlock basic achievements.
We’ve touted Evernote more than once. The free productivity app gives you the tools for taking photos, crafting notes, creating to-do lists, and recording voice reminders, all of which you can tag for additional organization. The app even syncs content across multiple devices.
Simply put, the iCloud-abetted Notability lets you take notes in a variety of forms. With Notability, you can sketch ideas, annotate uploaded documents, sign contracts, and complete worksheets in addition to other actions. You can also format documents, using the app’s advance word processor.
Star Walk ($5)
As an augmented-reality app of sorts, Star Walk is an elegantly designed mobile stargazing app of the highest quality. The app follows your device’s movements in real-time, offering views and providing info on more than 200,000 stars, constellations, and other celestial bodies. Moreover, the app possesses a remarkable calendar of celestial events and lets you view the night sky during different time intervals.
Learning a second language isn’t easy. The crowd-sourced Duolingo gives you the opportunity to translate real-world texts in your desired language of choice — i.e. Spanish, German, Brazilian, Italian. It can translate Web pages and other documents into many languages. It also offers language courses at all levels.
For most students, school doesn’t stop when you leave the campus grounds. Fortunately, Studious offers a quick method for organizing homework and exams via their due date, allowing you to see what’s on deck for the upcoming week and add assignments with a simple shake of your device. You can even use the app to jot brief notes and email your professors.
Turn your mobile device into a portable scanner with the CamScanner app. Simply take a photo of the page you wish to digitize, and the app will give you the option to convert it into a PDF/JPEG file, store in the cloud, and even print or fax the document. Best of all, it can extract the scanned text (Optical Character Recognition) and make your PDF files searchable.
As the name implies, Quizlet is an app specifically tailored for marathon study sessions. It’s fairly no-frills, sure, but the rudimentary app allows you to create your own personal flashcards — using text, images, and audio — or browse a wealth of user-created quizzes spanning nearly any topic you can think of. The straightforward interface and setup process just adds to its appeal.