As technology advances, educators, students, and parents are more frequently asking, do educational apps improve learning?

EduTech is on the rise, and the market for learning apps is expected to grow by 28 percent in just five years.

Yet as educational structures rapidly evolve to integrate technology and innovative learning, it’s not easy to discern which educational apps add value to the learning process and student experience.

Let’s take a deep dive into the uses of educational apps, trends in education technology, and how apps improve learning.

Should Technology Become the Teacher?

In some classrooms, the role of the teacher is changing.

Within a computer-supported learning environment, teachers can become a classroom facilitator while the technology takes center stage.

With this approach, learning technology becomes a “force multiplier” for the teacher.

Each student has individualized instruction, and personalized learning programs make it possible for each student to go at his or her own pace.

However, there is a learning framework that commonly occurs when the apps do the teaching.

Learning platforms frequently rely on repetition-based processes.

This means students then learn the material through memorization and test their success through multiple-choice quizzes.

“In more recent years, the intelligent tutoring system, which provides customized learning to students who essentially work alone with a screen, has been seen as a replacement for teachers,” said Brookings.

“Ultimately, it is not the technology that does the teaching.

“Technology is a tool that is wielded by people to accomplish specific ends. While it can serve as an accelerator, it can just as quickly accelerate poor strategies as effective ones.

“It is the teaching approach — the pedagogy — that ultimately determines learning outcomes.”

How Can Technology Support Learning?

Digitization of existing learning tools is not necessarily the best way to support learning.

Researchers have found that computer-based instruction like electronic workbooks has a similar academic impact to teaching programs that don’t use software.

There’s another approach to classroom technology.

It can be used as an opportunity to immerse students in digital and interactive environments.

Rather than using apps that are platforms for passive information consumption, technology can be a way to facilitate active learning.

Apps can provide opportunities to explore, create, design, research, and collaborate.

According to Stanford researchers:

“Substantial research illustrates that activities supporting many kinds of interactions between learners and the material were essential to support learning by lower-achieving and other at-risk students.”

Examples of effective tech-supported learning include the following:

  • “different visualizations of concepts;
  • multiple ways of seeing, hearing and learning about them;
  • and opportunities to be active in manipulating data, expressing ideas, and other aspects of the learning process”

Technology Has Changed Information Access 

Once, it could have taken hours to hunt down a single piece of information, but now it’s possible in just seconds.

Naturally, our wide-reaching access to nearly unlimited information has changed the structure of learning.

Today’s students are not just “digital natives,” as is commonly said.

They’ve come of age during cloud computing.

As Brookings says of today’s students:

“Acumen with social media or even extensive experience mining the Internet for information does not transfer directly to the acquisition of the knowledge, skill, and mindsets associated with mastering a particular domain of expertise.

In an age when nearly all knowledge is a few clicks away, the goal of learning is transformed from the ability to access more information to focusing on better information.

For example, college students can find websites to explain microbiology or YouTube videos explaining calculus.

However, generic learning content potentially adds to different information than taught in classes, and online lessons could use different methods for solving equations.

Learning platforms like OneClass are addressing this issue by localizing learning.

study tips

Students can search for class notes and study guides that pertain to their school and their class.

This gives students wide-reaching access to their teachers’ explanations and the information that’s most relevant to their classwork.

Rather than providing access to generic explanations, students can use OneClass to focus on the most helpful learning content.

With this approach, OneClass users have achieved significant academic process. More than 90 percent of users have improved by at least one letter grade.

Appropriately used, education apps improve learning.

Using Learning Apps Outside of the Classroom

Within the classroom, students and teachers are increasingly discovering ways to integrate technology effectively.

However, the impact of learning apps goes far beyond student-aged users.

They’ve become a significant force among the general population.

Consider how learning apps have expanded the study of foreign languages.

Duolingo currently has about 300 million users, and Babbel sold more than 1 million U.S. subscriptions in 2018.

The impact is significant.

In 2017, Duolingo reported that the number of people using the app in the U.S. surpasses the number of students learning a foreign language in the entire U.S. public school system.

How have learning apps become so popular outside of the classroom?

For Duolingo, the secret to their wide-reaching success has been gamification.

Zan Gilani, associate product manager, said:

“Motivating yourself to learn is very hard, and learning a language is even harder, especially when you are doing that online on your own.

“So we realized early on that we needed to try to encourage people to form a daily learning habit. We found that the most effective techniques for this come from the gaming world.”

Gamification isn’t the only successful strategy.

The rise of the MOOC (massive open online course) has expanded access to structured learning through online classrooms.

More than 100 million people have taken a MOOC class during the past seven years.

In 2018, there were 20 million new learners who signed up.

Participants are not traditional students.

The Harvard Business Journal reported that 52 percent of people who take MOOC courses are career builders.

They’re looking to acquire skills that can help them improve their current job or find a new job.

Additionally, 28 percent of people who complete MOOC courses are education seekers.

They’re completing prerequisites for an academic program or earning credits toward an academic degree.

Using Learning Apps to DIY Your Education

A Pearson’s learning survey from September 2019 reveals that a DIY mindset is reshaping education.

In the U.S., perceptions of lifelong learning are currently the majority.

About 59 percent of people believe the world is shifting to a model where people participate in education over a lifetime.

The remaining 41 percent believe education still happens mostly in academic settings for children and young adults.

This trend may continue into adulthood or advanced years.

However, DIY education trends exist among younger students too.

About 33 percent of parents have sought out learning support outside the classroom to help their child prepare for college.

Using Learning Apps for Academic Success

As millions of students using OneClass know, learning apps can have a dramatic impact on classroom success.

Thus, educational apps improve learning if used appropriately.

In an age where there’s endless information available, students have found value by focusing on platforms where they can get high-quality content.

The increasing time deficit has prompted learners to use tech-based learning to become more efficient.

Rather than searching the wider Internet, effective learning apps provide access to high-quality and relevant information.

This improves how students study for exams and complete homework assignments.

OneClass has supported efficient learning by letting students crowdsource class notes and study guides.

Online materials are not generic concept explanations.

It’s shared by paid note-takers who could be sitting a few rows away in the same lecture hall.

As students take learning into their own hands, learning apps like OneClass are providing the resources to help them get better grades.


Now I’d like to pass the conversation over to you.

Do you use learning apps?

Do you think educational apps improve learning enough to integrate them actively in classrooms?

Let us know!


Jack Tai is the CEO and Co-founder of OneClass. Visit the site to find out more about how this online tool has helped 90% of users improve by a letter grade.