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Education Apps: Help or Hindrance?

Education AppsThe app has become a common feature in everyday life, ranging from social media, to gaming, to productivity; by 2017, it’s expected that over 268 billion downloads will generate $77 billion worth of revenue*. Whether it’s Uber’s travel or MyFitnessPal’s health and fitness, thousands of apps offer services to solve routine everyday problems and make life easier. But the debate continues as to whether apps, on the whole, are successfully lightening the load or more trouble than they are worth. Ultimately, the purpose of an app is to save the user time and energy by condensing the experience into a simple application that has a single purpose. But has app culture drifted away from its original underlying principle?   

Time is an extremely valuable commodity for all of us. Students feel the pressure more than most as they aim for perpetual productivity in order to complete coursework, pass exams and reach project deadlines; all whilst dealing with the complexities of everyday life. With the abundance of educational apps at their disposal, it is a tempting proposition to rely on technology to streamline processes and provide respite in the academic maelstrom; but are these apps beneficial or detrimental to productivity? We’ll take a look at both sides of the argument on whether educational apps are a help or hindrance.

Apps: The unnecessary obstacle

Many students that have taken the online education route elected to do so in order to balance their academic pursuits with their careers. These learners have little time to waste, and the app, in theory, is a brilliant concept as it offers a way of improving time management and getting the most out of each day. Various educational apps claim that they can increase productivity, but few have the significant data to prove this improved efficiency; are these apps effective? For example, the My Study Life app is a digital interface that works as a calendar and planner, providing scheduling tools and reminders about upcoming deadlines. With an app of this nature, the process of installation, learning the features and successfully integrating it into your study routine takes significantly more time than just getting a piece of paper and writing a to-do list. In addition, relying on technology in this way can be a double-edged sword. While an app offers the benefit of convenience to access material on the go, if the app breaks down or your device is damaged, the data you have stored will be inaccessible and productivity will dramatically decreases.  

While these educational apps are theoretically useful for productivity and streamlining processes, in reality the reminders and notifications, on mobile devices in particular, has been shown to have an adverse effect on student productivity as the constant disruption hampers workflow. There is also the threat of losing focus while completing the debatably necessary task of updating information on an educational app. There is the temptation to foray into other apps irrelevant to your studies, or to quickly update social media. A simple task that should have taken 5 minutes has expanded into 30 minutes; that valuable time has disappeared. Ultimately, many of these apps that are designed to improve student productivity and workflow can have an opposite effect as they become a distraction, and turn into the focal point of a learner’s attention. This may be great for the app developers, but it is detrimental to the student. 

Apps: The future of education

The ‘app’ has evolved to become a fundamental element in everyday life and in the workplace. Research from software company suggests that apps can boost productivity by more than 34% as they offer a tremendous amount of flexibility in completing tasks and planning. Apps are always available and can be used during periods of free time such as lunch breaks; this is very useful, particularly for students that balance their careers and studying online.  Dr Sharon McDonald, from the University of Sunderland, also notes that these apps help people to “make better use of what might have previously been 'dead time' - for example, making notes during the daily commute.“ 

Educational apps can also work as the perfect tool to negotiate between these two worlds by improving productivity and efficiency of daily tasks. For example, the Evernote app is a free tool for taking photos, producing notes, to-do lists and recording voice notes; all of which can be synced across multiple devices and platforms.  By incorporating a time-management app into their daily processes, students can fundamentally improve their productivity by expanding the potential volume of data input compared to traditional methods, eliminating the need to carry physical documents, and having data that is easily accessible anywhere, anytime. In addition, InterActive’s online study platform removes the problems associated with external apps as it includes a calendar, planner, course notifications and email update and reminder functions. With all of these tools online, the data that is input by the student is accessible on any device, at any time, and safely stored. Furthermore, being located in a single location associated with the study tasks at hand removes the allure of wandering aimlessly online and wasting time. All of these features work to negate the pessimism and problems surrounding time-management apps while incorporating their best features.

There are a variety of apps that work in unique ways to benefit student life, here are three of the best:

CamScanner: This app transforms a mobile device into a portable scanner. CamScanner allows the user to take a photo of the page they wish to digitise, and provides several options including PDF/JPEG file conversion, Cloud storage, and printing. In addition, the scanned text can make the PDF files searchable, which is very useful tool for students revising academic documents and looking for key terms.

EasyBib: Writing a bibliography can be a painstaking task for any student but the EasyBib app makes it a slightly easier and more bearable process. The app works as a basic citation generator and allows the user to automatically create and instantly export citations using more than 50 different source types and over 7,000 citation styles including MLA, APA, and Chicago.

GradeProof: While we’re all familiar with the convenience of the spellcheck feature on our word processors, they can sometimes miss complex grammatical errors and even the most basic spelling errors. The GradeProof app not only identifies these errors, it offers useful ways to improve writing style and checks for content originality. This app not only improves student productivity by saving editing time, it also works to enhance their writing ability in the long-term.

Are educational apps the way forward, or are they a waste of time? Let us know your views on Facebook.

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