Updated By Phillip Baker
Your smartphone or tablet is good for more than just posting cat videos on social media. Shocking, I know! But, consider this: Mobile devices are one of the most important developments in the history of learning technology. Period. Just think about it. Before the advent of mobile apps, if you wanted to learn anything for free there was only a handful of ways to go about it:
- Learn what you want to learn in school
- Check out a book from the library
- Find someone willing to teach you for free
- Find someone willing to pay for you to learn
- Learn the hard way, through trial and error
Of course, there was learning software long before cell phones were invented, but, like textbooks, you either had to buy it or check it out from your local library. Aren’t you lucky to be alive in the Information Age? Now, here are 15 of the best free mobile learning apps available on Android and iOS.
Udemy is an online service that offers a vast array of courses on everything from web development to personal development. Want to learn how to play the guitar? Whether you’re a beginner or a virtuoso, Udemy’s got dozens of courses to help. How about starting your own business? Yeah, they’ve got that, too. Virtually any subject you can think of, chances are Udemy has a course for it taught by an industry expert.
The Udemy app allows you to access all of your courses’ videos and learning materials on the go through your mobile device. Just keep in mind, while the Udemy app itself is free to download, you’ll have to pay for each course you take. Some courses are longer and therefore more expensive than others. The good news is Udemy frequently hosts blowout sales on many of their offerings, allowing you to buy a $100-plus course for as little as ten bucks!
Similar to Udemy, Lynda.com boasts a huge variety of courses in a whole slew of different subject areas, such as video production or software development. The Lynda mobile app likewise gives you the freedom to learn at your own pace, whenever and wherever it’s most convenient for you.
Unlike Udemy, however, Lynda’s vast library of courses is offered on a monthly subscription basis, allowing you to take as many courses as you like each month. Not sure if you want to commit to a monthly payment? You can take Lynda for a no-risk, ten-day test drive for free.
3. KHAN ACADEMY
Khan Academy is the non-profit brainchild of Sal Khan (no, not the Star Trek villain) and is one of the best learning apps available. Before founding the world-famous organization, Khan was a teacher, entrepreneur, and hedge fund analyst. In 2012, he was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
What’s different about the Khan Academy app when comparing it to services like Udemy or Lynda, however, is that all its courses are offered 100% for free. Like, literally. You can take as many of Khan Academy’s professionally taught courses at absolutely zero cost to you. Most of the organization’s classes focus on more “academic” subjects, such as math, science, and the humanities, though there are some great courses in computer science, too.
Touting itself as a repository of “knowledge in dangerously addictive short ideas,” TED is another non-profit organization dedicated to the spread of intriguing or inspirational thoughts, usually in videos of 18 minutes or less. These videos, dubbed “TED Talks” can be on a diverse range of subjects, from art to science to global issues. The TED mobile app gathers the entire TED video library into one place for your education and enjoyment, and all content is free to view.
If you want to build muscle, you go to the gym and hit the weights. But, what do you do if you want to work out your brain? The Lumosity app provides one solution by offering several series of brain-training “games” designed with the help of scientific experts and game developers. Lumosity’s brain exercises focus on improving your mental faculties, helping you learn new things, sharpen your focus, increase your retention, and solve problems faster and more efficiently. As with other apps mentioned in this list, the Lumosity mobile app is free to download to your device. But, to get the most out of the app, you might consider subscribing to Lumosity’s monthly service.
Even in today’s digital world, books are still one of the best ways to learn about almost anything you can think of. There’s just one problem: There are a bazillion different books on a kajillion different subjects out there, and some of them are better than others. For instance, which books should you read if you want to gain skills in graphic design software such as Adobe Photoshop®, Illustrator®, or InDesign®? That’s where Goodreads comes in.
With over 40 million members, Goodreads is basically the Facebook of, well, books. Their mission is to get the right book in the right hands at the right time, whether it’s fiction, nonfiction, or self-help. No matter what your interests, the free Goodreads app can probably point you toward the perfect book to help you learn whatever it is you want to learn. You can read reviews from other readers, and share good reads of your own.
Want apps that help you learn a foreign language? Whether you wish to learn Spanish, French, or one of 12 other available languages from around the world, Duolingo’s mobile app is a great way to get started. The Duolingo app provides a user-friendly, go-at-your-own-pace system that works well for both beginning and advanced speakers. Using pictures and phrases spoken by native speakers, you’ll be beefing up your language skills faster than you can say, “Ich bin ein Berliner!”
Lost in your classes? Need extra help cramming for your exam? A tutor can provide some assistance. But, if you’d like access to supplemental study materials created by students and teachers in courses similar to yours, check out the StudyBlue app.
StudyBlue is a crowd-sourced learning platform designed to help you “conquer your course” using flashcards, notes, study guides, and more. It’s kind of like having a mobile study buddy who goes with you wherever you go. Pretty neat, huh?
There once was a time when people actually had multiple volumes of the encyclopedia on their bookshelves. Nowadays, we have Wikipedia. The Wikipedia app is a wellspring of knowledge on virtually every subject from academics to pop culture. Instead of lugging around multiple heavy volumes of the encyclopedia, you can now access millions of articles at your fingertips.
Students be warned, however. Because anyone can edit articles in Wikipedia, most teachers do not consider it a reliable source of information for essays and other assignments. Instead of citing Wikipedia as the source, look up the original sources listed at the bottom of a specific Wikipedia article and then cite those in your research papers.
That’s right, folks! YouTube is more than just the only place in the world where you can watch a cat/Pop-Tart hybrid soar through space on a magical rainbow road while singing the world’s most annoying song for 10 hours straight. Type the words “how to” into the app’s search bar and you’ll find everything from how to get started in a healthcare career to how to tie a bowtie.
Like Wikipedia, anyone can upload a video to YouTube, so be aware that some learning videos will be more reliable than others. How do you know whether a video on a certain subject is trustworthy? Look for one that’s made or has been posted by an expert with real-world experience in the subject you’re interested in.
11. TYNKER: CODING FOR KIDS
Users can also learn how to build websites, create apps, and design games. If you have kids at home, this may be a great activity to do together as you both learn about computer programming.
12. GOOGLE ARTS & CULTURE
With the Google Arts & Culture app, you can take free 360-degree virtual tours of some of the most famous museums and historic landmarks in the world with the option to zoom in close for more details. You will also be able to learn about artists, art, and history through information and stories. Plus, create your own galleries by saving your favorites, then share them with friends. There is even an option to translate exhibit information into your own language so you don’t miss a thing.
The Quora app allows you to browse content related to the subject you are interested in learning, as well as post questions. Other users who have experience in your field of interest can respond to your question and provide you with the answers you are looking for. You also have the option to share your knowledge by answering questions posted by others.
EdX is a great way to access free online courses from some of the top universities. It is not a degree program, but if you are interested in a class or two on virtually any subject, then EdX is a fun resource. Try one of over 2,000 courses in Biology, Chemistry, Business Management, Computer Science, and many other subjects from places like Harvard, UC Berkeley, MIT, Microsoft, the Smithsonian, and more.
15. STAR CHART
Become an astronomer at home with your very own virtual planetarium. Simply point your phone or device at the sky and instantly receive information about what you are looking at. Discover constellations and planets even during daylight hours. You can also point your device downward to see the sky on the other side of the world!