At Magoosh, we love learning. Moreover, we love helping students find the best tools and materials to learn. To that end, we’re trolling through the app stores looking for the best, most effective, most addictive learning apps, and reviewing them all for your benefit.
First, a little about me (and why you should pay any attention to my reviews). I’m the Content Team Lead at Magoosh, meaning that I support our teachers and test prep experts to make sure that our students are getting the best possible lessons, questions, and explanations. Before Magoosh, I was a high school teacher and instructional coach, meaning that I’ve spent most of my adult life teaching students and working with teachers.
Here’s how the reviews work: I’ll grade different aspects of each app on a scale from, you guessed it, A+ to F-. At the end I’ll tell you the app’s overall GPA and grade. New reviews will be posted every two weeks (or so — we’re busy here!). So without further ado…
The first app: StudyBlue!
StudyBlue is a platform for finding and sharing study materials — everything from class lecture notes to flashcards to quizzes. Much of the content is user generated, although you can also join specific classes at your college or university and see professor-uploaded content as well.
The app is stable and fast, moving quickly from class lists to content and back. You can bounce around a lot, and the app keeps up with little wait time. The app does have two main usability problems, though. First, there are no reviews of different content, so in order to determine whether one set of, say, GMAT flashcards is better than another, you actually have to look at them all. Further, some user-generated content is password protected, and some is not — but it’s impossible tell which is which when scanning through the different search results. So to find a flashcard set that will work for you, you have to try to look at them all — but sometimes you can’t.
It’s a well-designed app that’s easy on the eyes and simple to use. Some small design flaws prevent it from getting an A, though. The inbox messaging system sends messages that run off the screen and contain links that take you out of the app. Other icons and logos aren’t clear, and you can spend some time going down a rabbit hole looking for what you want.
Well, this is a tough one. StudyBlue is a platform, and users, professors, and fellow students can upload content to study. So depending on what you’re looking for (and whether or not you can find the best resources) StudyBlue might be really effective — or really not. If you’ve got a specific course or piece of content that you’re looking for, it can be great. But for content discovery, it’s not the greatest.
The point of StudyBlue is to keep all your notes and study materials in one place. This app is a work horse, but it’s not fun to use. If you need access to lots of study materials or notes, then this is your app. But if you need games and badges to help keep you motivated to actually look at those materials, then you should look elsewhere.
Ad Distraction: C
There are no traditional ads, but lots of content is unavailable unless you upgrade to pro. Pro membership costs vary depending the length of subscription ($7 per month for a full year, or $18 for one month).
StudyBlue is only as good as the content you access through it. Some of that content is going to be engaging and motivational, and some will not. The tone of StudyBlue is not aspirational — they emphasize helping you get the material you want to accomplish your assignments. It’s certainly not de-motivating, but the focus is on doing what you have to do, not what you want to do.
The app contains several helpful tutorials and explanations, complete with screen grabs and images. There isn’t however any way to send in a question to a help team. So if you can’t figure it out on your own, tough nuggets!
Overall GPA: 2.4
Overall Grade: C+