8 Free or Cheap Educational Apps for the Savvy Professional

You use an app for navigation, another app for email, still others for document storage, payments, transportation, photography. Why not use an app for education?

No, not all educational apps are exclusively for kids. Many — perhaps most — are built with adults in mind, or at least designed to be age-agnostic.

A professional using educational apps

Educational app quality varies widely, of course. The Center for Digital Education outlines 12 “secrets” to finding the right education app, at the right time, for the right audience. Check out what they have to say, then review this list of eight high-quality, free-or-cheap educational apps released or updated this year.

1. Coursera

Coursera website screenshot

Coursera is one of the world’s most popular continuing-education apps. It boasts more than 2,000 courses from elite universities like Yale and Stanford, with no application (and certainly no admissions process) required.

Coursera covers a staggering range of topics, from applied sciences to liberal arts. It’s particularly useful for busy professionals who seek relevant skills or certifications, but lack the time or resources to enroll at elite universities. You can learn Python, MySQL, and other super-useful skills in a matter of weeks here — for far less than the cost of a single Ivy League credit-hour.

2. NAK Collection

NAK Collection website screenshot

The NAK Collection is an approachable web series for students of Islam. Its video and audio lectures cover a host of thorny, complex topics, such as:

  • How to be a caller to Islam
  • How to interact with non-Muslims
  • How to raise children in harmony with the Quran’s teachings
  • How to practice one’s faith in a secular modern world

You don’t have to be a practicing Muslim to appreciate the NAK Collection. It’s a great introduction to the faith, whether you use it as a standalone resource or a springboard for further investigation.

3. Duolingo

Duolingo website screenshot

Duolingo is a free app for kids and adults who want to learn a new language in the comfort of their own home (or wherever they choose). It’s hyper-gamified, with points and rewards for correct answers, successfully completed lessons, vanquished modules. Even if you’re confident you don’t need to be fluent in one of Duolingo’s many languages, it’s an absolutely addictive endeavor — one that’s great for building memory and recall skills to boot.

4. Khan Academy

Khan Academy website screenshot

Khan Academy’s mission is simple: “to provide a free, world-class education to anyone, anywhere.”

Its approach is similar to Coursera’s, without the elite university component. Don’t worry: Khan’s courses are strictly expert-generated, meaning they’re just as rigorous and well-designed as university-sanctioned modules. Like Coursera, Khan is a great place to learn relevant skills that you can quite literally bring with you to work — or leverage to finally achieve escape velocity from your stultifying daily grind.

5. Video Science

VideoScience app screenshot

Video Science is a bit more kid-friendly than some of the other apps on this list. With more than 80 interactive, hands-on science lessons, it’s a great way to introduce students to the wonders of the natural world — and avoid halting explanations for how things actually work. Use it with your kids, and who knows — you just might learn something yourself.

6. Pocket

Pocket app screenshot

Pocket, formerly known as ReadIt, helps bring order to the chaos of your reading and viewing list. Use it to save and organize articles to read and videos to view at a later time.

There’s a social component to Pocket — you can quickly recommend material to your friends and connections. And, as you might guess, it’s not designed solely for education. Any good read or view is fair game.

7. EarthViewer

EarthViewer app screenshot

EarthViewer is a must-download for anyone with even a passing interest in natural history. It’s a four-dimensional Google Earth: a look at the past, present, and potential future of the only home we have. Use it to map primordial continents (stretching back at least a billion years) and track projected sea level rises as the climate warms.

8. TED Conferences

TED Conference app screenshot

Don’t have time to attend a TED Conference on your own dime? Download the TED Conferences app and view or listen on the go, at your convenience.

The TED Conferences app has more than 2,000 video and audio files that you can easily assemble into a customized playlist. If you don’t know where to start, use the recommendations feature to build a library based on your personal preferences. And remember that not every TED lecture is heavy — there are plenty of funny or just plain weird talks to add to your extracurricular repertoire.

What’s your favorite educational app right now?