Apps that can help students with college courses and down time

August 19, 2011 By Mark W. Smith

The smartphone has become the centerpiece of many students' digital lives.

Yes, it can be a distraction.

But it also is an incredible tool that can transform classroom learning and late-night studying.

Savvy professors and students are starting to explore what the can contribute to learning - and there is a whole host of apps to help that process along. There are also plenty of apps to help students with the less academic parts of college life.

To download any of these apps, search the Store or Android Market. iOS apps are built for Apple's and can run on the , iPod Touch or iPad.

Cost: Free

Platform: Android, BlackBerry, iOS

More and more smartphones now ship with front-facing cameras that make them great tools.

There are several competitors here - including Apple's FaceTime - but Skype is still the best cross-platform tool for keeping in touch with faraway friends and family. Users on either end can be on a computer, smartphone or tablet.


Cost: Free


This innovative app is one of the best uses of the Apple iPad I've ever seen. It turns an iPad into a digital flashcard system using Apple's Smart Cover ($39), the fold-away cover that snaps on and off the iPad 2 with magnets.

Peel the Smart Cover back just one notch and a prompt is displayed. Peel it back another and the answer is revealed. It's fun enough to do that it may even inspire more studying.

Commonly used flashcard packs are available through Evernote, but you can also create your own. It keeps score as the student works through the lesson.


Cost: Free

Platform: iOS

This app is a sophisticated tool for calculating grades. Students can use it to figure out what grade they'll need on a test to achieve their target grade and also keeps track of overall GPA, weighted by each class' credit count.

Students can also enter due dates for assignments as reminders.

The app is free and supported by ads, but users can pay $1 inside the app to turn them off.


Cost: 99 cents

Platform: iOS

This is a great tool for logging long lecture classes or smaller study sessions. It records audio and pairs that with time-stamped pictures that the student takes of presentations - say, equations on a blackboard - or of his or her own notes.

When the student wants to review, he or she can use the pictures as a visual guide to what the instructor was saying and replay that section.


Cost: Free

Platform: Android, Blackberry, iOS

Task management is an increasingly competitive niche for app developers, with many paid options available. But Wunderlist is still the best out there.

Users can create tasks and to-do items - homework assignments, for instance - and organize each in a series of lists. Completed items fall off the list of pending tasks.

The app syncs to the cloud and can also be seen and managed in a Web interface at


Cost: Free

Platform: iOS

This app is great for the student in everyone. It compiles video from hundreds of presentations at Technology, Entertainment and Design - a conference that features short speeches focused on new ways of thinking.

Presenters often speak about technology, social good or education and challenge societal norms.

It's a great way to spend an hour or so hearing from some of the world's leading minds for free. All of the videos are also available at


Cost: Free

Platform: iOS

This leading photo-sharing app for the iPhone churns out those popular antique-looking photos seen on many a Facebook page and adds a social layer that allows users to share photos with friends inside the app. It's a great way to keep in touch with friends or record that first year in school.

It's an incredibly simple app that has stayed true to its original intention: to display beautiful photos taken with the smartphone.

The Instagram community - IGers, they're called - has grown to millions of users. Users can follow photos from celebrities including Justin Bieber and news organizations including the Free Press.

An Android version is planned, but a release date hasn't been announced. A similar option for Android users is Lightbox.


Cost: Free

Platform: Android and iOS

This app uses a smartphone's GPS to find nearby locations by category such as banks, gas stations, bars, coffee shops, restaurants and supermarkets - all the college staples.

Explore further: Yahoo! helps find smartphone 'apps'


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