As more and more people are turning to Internet to supplement their courses and independently further their education, more apps are becoming available for free or low cost to help in a variety of academic subjects. There’s even tools available to help with everything from writing your papers and planning for projects, to giving you access to instant information in any subject you might be interested in.
Here are just a sample of some of the hottest web, iPhone, and Android apps from around the web, specifically tailored for the online learners.
iPad and iPhone Apps
- Evernote – This is a great iPhone app for note taking. It’s free, supports text, photo, and voice notes, and it syncs to an online account so your data is securely backed up no matter what happens to your iPhone! It even integrates photo-based search, Twitter, and geolocation. You can access the notes later from your Mac or PC, too.
- Wikipedia – Now you can access the world’s most comprehensive online encyclopedia on the go! Obviously it’s not the world’s most reliable research source, but it’s an easy way to get a basic grasp of just about any subject.
- Dictionary.com – Easily look up any word for free from your phone. This app also supports mobile access to Thesaurus.com, so you can find exactly the word you’re looking for.
- PI83 Graphing Calculator – This app isn’t free, but at less than a dollar, the price shouldn’t stop anyone from having the full functionality of a graphic calculator on their phone. This is certainly less expensive than buying a dedicated graphic calculator for $100! It includes all of the features of the Texas Instruments TI83 calculator.
- 3D Brain – A free app for iPad and iPhone that allows students to actually see the human brain. It even describes what each part does. This is great for a beginning class on any subject related to the brain.
- History: Maps of the World – A free iPad and iPhone app that includes both contemporary and ancient maps. Great for the history or geography student.
- NASA App – This is the official app of the US government space agency, NASA – it includes images and videos of space, a calendar of NASA missions and a launch schedule. Space fans can also learn about individual satellites. Great for kids, but let’s face it, this one is fun for adults, too.
- iTunes U – Free podcast lectures from top schools delivered straight to your Apple device. You can even subscribe on your computer through iTunes and sync to your iPod or other MP3 player. These free courses include material from UC Berkeley, MIT and other prestigious universities. Definitely a must-have!
- iBooks – Read books straight from your iPad. You can access best-sellers, classic literature, and even full-screen, interactive textbooks. Unlike a traditional textbook, you can search the text and instantly find exactly what you’re looking for.
- TED – Now you can view talks from some of the world’s leading experts on countless topics, instantly and for free on either iPad or iPhone. You can browse and search in online or offline mode. There’s even “TEDRadio,” an instant, streaming audio channel with TED talks 24/7.
- Gdocs – An official Google app that allows you to connect to your Google Docs account for easy access on the go. You can use it from your Android device or any computer. There’s even support for multiple accounts (say, a personal and school account), a PDF viewer, document syncing, and more.
- Android SMS Backup – If you take notes on your smartphone, you can avert catastrophe. This app automatically backs up your notes, photos, and more from your SMS card, and sends the files to your Gmail account. That way, if you lose your phone, drop it in a lake, or accidentally smash it during the course of a science experiment in class, your precious notes will still be easy to access.
- Astrid – This app is great for people taking online courses – it’s so easy to forget deadlines, assignments, etc., when you aren’t showing up in a physical classroom once or twice a week. Astrid is a to-do list that also helps you track tasks. It’s simple and easy to use. Never forget the due date for that big paper or homework assignment again! Astrid is free, but there’s an inexpensive paid version that includes voice recognition and audio reminders, as well as better tech support.
- Knowledge – This app is great for anyone, whether you’re taking formal coursework or just want to expand your intellectual horizons – it bills itself for “students, businessmen, and curious minds.” Knowledge allows you to ask for any information you need to know, and then store that data for later use. Topics are far-ranging, including culture, sports, weather, physics, chemistry, math, nutrition facts, chemistry, and more.
- ColorDict Universal Dictionary – The great thing about this dictionary is that you can search for words even without being connected to the Internet. You can scan multiple dictionaries at the same time, and there’s even an option to search for idioms – not just individuals words.
- DroidScan – Allows you to turn your smartphone into a high-quality document scanner! The app uses perspective correction to convert captured images into high quality scans. This is great if you don’t have the benefit of access to a campus computer lab and don’t have a scanner at home. Why buy yet another piece of equipment when your Droid has the power to scan paperwork for you?
- Offiviewer – Now you can read any document format without having to buy expensive software for your computer, even on the go. Offiviewer opens PDFs, Word Documents (yes, even .docx!), PowerPoint presentations, OpenDocument format, and RTF. It does use an internet connection to render the documents, however.
- StudyDroid – If you’re trying to memorize facts and figures, this is the perfect app for you – create digital “flash cards” on the go. You’ll never lose them for forget to bring them with you. You can create your own cards, focused on whatever information you need to remember.
- Mathdroid – This free app turns your Android phone into a scientific calculator. One less machine to worry about carrying around – and more useful and functional than the built-in calculators in most phones.
- Periodic Table – This app makes studying chemistry or biology easy! Look up information on any element right from your smartphone. Much easier to carry around with you than a printout of the entire periodic table.
- Almost A Doctor – An amazing app for anyone studying medicine, or just interested in learning more about the field. Includes hundreds of articles on diseases, pharmacology, examinations, skills and data interpretation, etc. This app is aimed at medical students and professionals, but would likely be helpful for pre-med students or people in related fields like massage therapy, physical therapy, or pharmacists.
- Voice Recorder – If you hate taking notes by hand, this app is the one for you. You can record audio (and even record based on a timer), title your records, search for recordings by title and date, set recordings as ringtones, play back your recordings, and send them to yourself via Gmail.
- Star Chart – This is the app for anyone interested in astronomy – using your phone’s GPS, you can simply point it at the sky, and Star Chart will show you exactly what you’re looking at! You can also scroll around the night sky to find out the names of constellations and stars. It even has a catalogue of deep-space objects and powerful zoom features – it’s not exactly the same as your own telescope, but at $2.99, it’s much more affordable!
- BibMe – This is a free app that helps you make a bibliography or works cited page for your papers. It supports MLA, APA, Chicago, and Turabian formats. All you need to do is enter the required information, or use the site’s search feature to find the book, article, website, or film you’re trying to reference. Never worry about incorrectly formatting your citations again!
- Awesome Highlighter – One of the most frustrating things about studying online is not being able to highlight important information they way you would in a textbook or handout. But thanks to Awesome Highlighter, that frustration is now a thing of the past. This app allows you to highlight information on web pages and attach it to a short, easy link to the marked-up page – so that you can come back later to review your notes, or send it along to a friend.
- Bubble.us – This is a fun, free web app that helps you turn your ideas into a color-coded mind map. Great for brainstorming and outlining papers or projects. This is the perfect tool for visual learners who have a hard time organizing their ideas, or anyone who needs to brainstorm before they can get to work.
- Miscellaneous Math Utilities – The site may not look fancy, but it’s a great time-saver when you’re working out complex math problems for algebra, geometry, physics, and related courses. Some great utilities for when you have a computer but no graphing or scientific calculator on hand.
- Quizlet – This not only allows you to create online “flashcards” for studying, but also includes over 10 million free sets of flashcards addressing topics including science, math, geography, history, foreign languages, art, standardized tests, professional studies, and more. There’s free educational games to help hone your knowledge, too. Who says learning can’t be fun?
- A Better Calculator – This is another, free, online app that functions the same way as a graphic calculator! It works on your laptop, but also your iPad or smart phone! This is a perfect tool to help you deal with the complex arithmetic required for advanced mathematics or science courses.
These are only a small sample of all the great education apps out there! There are so many, we couldn’t even begin to cover them all. But hopefully, regardless of the device you’re using or subject you’re studying, you’ll be able to find what you need on this list.
Are there any great apps out there that we missed? Let us know! We always encourage feedback in the comments.