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Welcome to another post on EdTechist. Today we are looking at the best online learning apps that are available to you in 2021.

There’s something for everyone here, so let’s get started and hopefully introduce you to something that might change your professional learning forever!


Perlego homepage

I think I love this app!

The idea is really simple – academic textbooks are really expensive! Restrictively so but we have a potential solution that doesn’t involve downloading pirate pdf copies, or paying over the odds for a second hand copy on Amazon, that is a little more than ‘used’ when it arrives!

Perlego is a subscription library service that gives you access to over 500,000 books. You won’t need that many, but on clicking on the education section, I immediately saw three books that I’ve come close to buying on Amazon. For those three, I could pay for access to Perlego for a year and still get more value for my money.

What I love about Perlego is that it gives a fair deal to authors. Let’s be fair and honest here – academic books are not going to hit the bestsellers’ lists, but their importance cannot be understated, so it’s important that we find an alternative solution to publishers gauging students (of any age) for ever-rising fees for books that is increasingly becoming a thing of the past.

Another aspect of Perlego that I’m beginning to like more and more, is the number of publishers they’ve got onboard. I have a subscription to Packt that I may now be rethinking as Perlego gives so much more for the same amount. Packt focuses solely on Computing, which I like for my job, but for overall professional development, Perlego has the advantage. Packt also has a large presence in Perlego, so my time with them may be coming to an end!

Perlego is available on the Apple app store and Google Play.


Udemy homepage

Udemy is an online learning tool that I have used extensively for computing courses. It is an online learning centre that delivers via video tutorials.

Udemy is best understood as a site for professional development, and everyone can be the teacher. Completing a short course qualifies you to become a tutor and produce your own video courses.

There is a mixed cost to using Udemy. Some courses are free, others cost a fee, but there is timing needed to get the best price: the website, app and email can all offer the same course at different prices, so it’s best to add the courses you want to your shortlist and wait until they’re ‘on sale’. This way you can get them for around £15. This price is made even better depending on the course – some can give you over 100 hours of video tutorials in your chosen course.

With regards to topics, Udemy focuses on business-orientated skills: computing, design, business, finance, design, marketing, lifestyle and others. Within these is an entire range of topics with varying levels of difficulty – allowing for progression in a topic with difficulty.

The Udemy app is available on the Apple app store and Google Play.


Coursera homepage

Coursera is similar to Udemy in terms of what it does, but has a major difference in terms of course providers. Where Udemy is supported by individual tutors, Coursera is supported by over 200 leading universities and companies (see the partner list here).

Coursera is much more of a diverse online learning environment focused at the Higher Education market. There is still a focus on IT and business categories, but we also have Arts & Humanities, Social Sciences, Science and Language categories to appeal to a wider market of student.

Coursera also offers degree track programmes at undergraduate and post-graduate Masters level from various universities around the world (University of Michigan, Imperial College London, HEC Paris and Universidad de Palermo).

It’s the partnership with universities and leading companies that helps set Coursera apart from other online learning sites like Udemy. It’s also flexible and structured to suit different learners. There are hundreds of free courses available on Coursera, as well as the premium courses. Certificates, and degrees can range from $39 to $45,000. Along with plenty of pricing options, there is the ability to study anywhere in the world and at any time of the day.



Duolingo homepage

This next recommendation for online learning comes in from my daughter!

Duolingo is a language learning app that would have come in very handy for some of my friends when I was at school. I got an A and B in GCSE French and German respectively. If you want (simple) directions to the train station or swimming pool I’ll be fine, but if you’re about to ask about the finer points of Piaget in his native tongue, then I’ll be getting my coat.

Regardless of the trip down memory lane, Duolingo is simply phenomenal.

Learn languages.

For free.


I’ll wait while that sinks in.


OK, you’ve had your moment, but really think about this – career opportunities for free! I’ve seen job advertisements in Belfast asking for speakers of Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish. I don’t know a single person who speaks any of those languages fluently (my wife spent some time in Sweden, but not enough to master conversational Swedish).

Imagine the scene: you’re in the office, a phone call comes in from a new customer and the frantic/desperate plea asks if anyone knows anyone who speaks Norwegian/Swedish/Finnish. Without saying a word, you nonchalantly approach the person, take the phone and begin a casual conversation.

And before you say anything, this is not the scene from The IT Crowd, this is you properly speaking a foreign language! FOR FREE!

At present, you can choose languages such as English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Russian, Portuguese, Turkish, Dutch, Irish, Danish, Swedish, Ukrainian, Esperanto, Polish, Greek, Hungarian, Norwegian, Hebrew, Welsh, Arabic, Latin, Hawaiian, Scottish Gaelic, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, and more via Duolingo.

I think we can agree, that’s more language than anyone person could handle.

Duolingo is available online, on the Apple app store and Google Play.


Kahoot! homepage

Kahoot! is one of those apps that all of a sudden everyone uses. Particularly throughout our series of lockdowns, it can be used to gauge student understanding, motivation and wellbeing, all while making learning engaging and interactive. Competitive elements can be added for class competitions and to ensure learning is taking place through interaction.

Kahoot! is an app that I don’t use as much, but given the time, I could very easily use the platform in any of my classes as part of my plenary sessions to review and check for learning. The question difficulty would be easy to amend for all my classes – from Level 2 (GCSE equivalent) up through Level 3 (A-Level) and into Degree classes.

Kahoot! is a web app and is accessible for students via their web browser on any smartphone.


Photomath homepage

Photomath is one of those apps I could find myself relying on as my daughters’ maths homework get more complicated, but it’s also an app I fear I would rely on it rather than being able to work it out myself.

Photomath is an app that can scan and read a mathematical problem and then provide the full answer – not just the final answer, but all the steps required to get there.

The app has a team of mathematicians who examine effective maths teaching methods and develop solutions for mathematical problems. With the support of this app, you can help students understand concepts in a better way.

As a tool to help students who might struggle with maths, it could be very useful. I guess I’m still part of the group that needs to be convinced that students are solving the prolems themselves, rather than using technology to get ahead, without learning the skills needed.

Photomath is available on the Apple app store and on Google Play.


Scratch homepage

Scratch is one of those online learning platforms that can be used by 6 year olds and 26 year olds. The interface is simple to understand and use, but the level of complexity that can be built into a programme will challenge the 6 and 26 year old.

I have used this platform with my children (7 and 12), primary school pupils (P4-P7) and post-primary students (Years 8-11) in Coder Dojo classes, as well as students in Further Education. Scratch can be used to build simple games (like Pacman) or chatbots. It has a wide range of applications and so is a great tool to be used in the classroom. I’ve found that students are quite happy to show you what they have built – and even more, how they can extend what you have asked them to do.

Web login allows students to store their work online and so can become a nice platform for them to show parents and family what they can do.

Quite simply, if you are teaching programming, it’s difficult to look beyond Scratch.

Scratch is available online, on the Apple app store, Google Play and as a desktop app for Windows.

Bringing it all together

There are several apps I could have chosen for this list – but it’s got to end somewhere.

I’ve tried to strike a balance between online learning for the teacher and for the student. CPD is a big deal for me and so I’m in favour of anything that can help make me a better teacher. And part of that is knowing what apps are out there to help make learning a bit more engaging. If we can reach just one student with a tool that sparks an interest in a certain topic, then we could set them on a path for life. That’s a big deal, so why not make it as interesting as possible?

Thanks for visiting! If you have any apps you would recommend, please drop them in the comments – let’s help each other to be better at what we do!

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