Review: StudyBlue study tools

StudyBlue has been helping students study for a little over a year now. Flashcards are the site’s main focus, but it also allows students to create traditional review sheets. Recently added is the exciting functionality of community notes. Similar to what GoodSemester is doing, StudyBlue crowdsources learning by letting individuals both upload their own study tools and use other people’s studying materials. You can choose to view resources globally, or limit search results to your own school or specific class.

It’s a quick and painless sign up–always a plus. StudyBlue asks you for your name or email, your school, and a password, and you’re already on your way. The mobile app is where StudyBlue really flexes its muscles. The Android and iOS apps are virtually identical on the surface, so there’s nothing to worry about there. A breath of fresh air, the apps are devoid of any fancy effects, giving you a real opportunity to see what StudyBlue has to offer–and it’s a lot.

The app gives you the full functionality of the online web version, allowing you to easily see how others are studying specific content. You can also create your own original content, and you then have the option of making it private or publishing it to the world so that other people can flip through your digital flash cards.  The app’s UI is scores better than the web app’s, making the mobile version a much more potent and useful tool.

The website looks pretty simple at first, and seems to be well designed. Nice big search box in the middle for you to “just type,” although it took me a brief moment to realize it was a search box. The search results come up quickly, but they’re hard to navigate through, due to some over-the-top transition effects.

As a study guide, the site is pretty distracting. Every single time you click on something, the screen fades in and out, which quickly gets irritating. It’s hard to even find what the site has to offer through all of these effects; it’s as if the team has taken the term “flash”cards a little too literally. There is a subscription service that they don’t hesitate to remind you about around every turn, and it repeatedly interrupts you to let you know that you should post to Facebook telling your friends not to distract you. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems counter intuitive for a study tool to send you to Facebook.

One of the redeeming features of the web app is the fact that it syncs with its own mobile app. Once you’re logged in to both, anything you search, create, or save online will also be reflected on your mobile device. Also included in the cloud is the reminder system, giving learners a quick way to remind themselves mid-commute that they need to whip out their flash cards.

Overall the StudyBlue system is a great tool with a poor web presence. That’s neither here nor there though, as one can use all the robust features without ever visiting the website at all.  Not for nothing, it also is convenient that flashcards are usually used on the go anyway, so the mobile apps feel a little more natural.  Definitely a tool that is something worth a download and worth checking out, but avoid the website if possible.