Getting an education can be expensive. Universities in the US will set you back tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, and many people in the world don’t even have access to standard higher education. Thanks to the Internet, a good education is more accessible than ever, and it doesn’t have to empty your pockets. Many good-willed organizations out there release educational material for free, and some of it is actually very interesting and entertaining. The real question is, what is the best way to view this content?
Well, if you’re fine sitting at a computer, we have 5 websites that will expand your mind and 3 websites to get a University level education for free. With an iOS device, you can even get an official Khan Academy app. But what is a poor ol’ Android user to do? Read on to find out.
This relatively new app, released in March of this year by Mobispectra Technologies, is fantastic. If you want to organize all your educational videos in one place, Grace is the app to do it. Seriously, go download it right now.
The biggest advantage of this app is that it opens everything within the app, and it is lightning fast because of it. Many of the other apps I tested tried to open YouTube videos in the browser or the YouTube app, or would direct me to other outside links. There’s none of that in Grace. Grace plays the video through your YouTube app (so make sure you have it installed on your Android device) but embeds it within the Grace app. It also allows you to open Wikipedia within the app to quickly find relevant information.
Below the video is a section for taking notes, and if you give it permission to access your Google Drive account, you can save all of your notes as text files to your Drive. It will title your notes “Name Of The Video Notes” in a folder called “grace-app”, making them very easy to find and look back through. If you like to take notes this way, you may be interested in Kingsoft Office (my favorite Microsoft Word alternative for Android) and the Google Drive for Android app. With both apps, it would be simple to go back through your notes and edit them.
Not only is it the most functional app I found, but the user interface is gorgeous. It uses very modern Android styling, almost identical to Google’s own YouTube app. Plus, since you can add any content you like, you can follow all your regular YouTube channels (even if they’re not educational). And there are no ads, which makes this a beautiful experience.
To get the most out of Grace, I do have a few suggestions. By default, it starts you off as subscribed to the Khan Academy, MIT, and TEDEducation channels, among others. To get the full experience, you should also follow: TEDxTalks, SciShow, Crash Course, MinutePhysics, The Brain Scoop, and Big Think. There are a million more fantastic educational channels on YouTube, but those are my favorites.
Mobento [No Longer Available]
Now I know what you’re thinking: “But, Justin, you just drooled over Grace for 5 paragraphs. Why would you recommend another app that does the same thing?” Simply put, this one allows you to download videos to your Android device for offline viewing. Grace can’t do that. Should Grace ever add that feature, Mobento may become obsolete, but for now, I think both apps are a must-have.
Mobento works slightly different from Grace. You don’t get to add your own content here. Mobento curates content from the Khan Academy, TED Talks, Yale, and other respected sources. I found their selection to be more than satisfactory with most of the videos being an easily digestible 8-15 minutes long. You can search within their curated content, and I really like their unique search feature that allows you to see how often a word is spoken, roughly. For instance, if you search for “light and energy” a blue bar and a red bar will appear beside every search result. The larger the blue bar, the more times “light” is spoken, and the larger the red bar, the more times “energy” is spoken. This is a very interesting way of finding content that I think they could do a lot with.
Mobento’s UI is worse than Grace’s, unfortunately. The main color is brown, and I can’t understand who thought that was a pretty design choice. Aside from the color choice, the styling is reminiscent of Android 2.3 Gingerbread, which was pretty dang ugly. It doesn’t come with ads, though, which is nice.
In the options menu, it does have a “Categories” section so that you could only look up videos relevant to your field of interest, which could be very useful. And I should remind you that you can save videos for offline use or stream them; that is a huge advantage for Mobento. While connected to Wi-Fi, you could download dozens of videos and watch them anywhere, whereas with Grace, you would likely be tethered to a Wi-Fi connection.
Sparknotes [No Longer Available]
Most notorious for helping literature-inept High Schoolers pass Shakespeare (including myself), Sparknotes is actually a very educational resource for all kinds of literature ranging from Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World to Plato’s Crito. Don’t think that it’s only for trying to pass a test. If you read a book that they have a study guide for, go through and read the study guide when you’re done. You’ll learn so much about the book. You can even go through the Harry Potter study guides if you’re a big enough nerd.
The app itself is simple, but not very appealing. Again, it uses older Android 2.3 Gingerbread styling, and it does come with ads that run along the bottom and make it tricky to click through the different sections without accidentally clicking an ad. The font can be resized, which is nice, and the ad remains at the bottom without jutting into the text like it does on the website.
Any of the study guides can be downloaded to your device for offline use, and it’s entirely free. Whether you’re just trying to understand what the heck the green light represents in The Great Gatsby for your test, or you’re genuinely interested in the various themes and motifs of Huckleberry Finn, this is the perfect app for comprehensive study guides of popular literature.
I wish everybody could get a free, quality education, but sadly, that is not the case in most parts of the world. If you are able to get your hands on an Android device and a Wi-Fi or data connection, these apps could be invaluable. Learning doesn’t have to be a chore. It is a great privilege, and it can even be fun!
If this interested you, don’t forget to check out how to master a language with an Android app and how to learn something new online everyday. The Internet is an incredible resource that we are lucky to have at our disposal.
What are some of your favorite educational channels from YouTube or across the web? Do you think learning can ever be fun? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!