Where the action is – with learning apps

October 30, 2013 | Blog-Admin1 | Learning Elsewhere, Methods & Tools |


Rating: 2.7 out of 5

 Katrin HansDaniel StollerLouisa Nigg




Mobile devices are booming. Around the world, in the global South, North, East and West people are using smart phones. And with the mobile devices apps are becoming more and more popular. Learning apps are an ideal form of learning for “homo mobilis”, the mobile human being. For example on Human Rights: Do you know what Human Rights Watch does? Or where the original manuscript of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is kept? Learning apps link theoretical and historical knowledge to actual events.

By Katrin Hans, Daniel Stoller-Schai and Louisa Nigg, LerNetz, Switzerland

What do learning apps have to offer?

Mobile devices don’t gather dust in the office. When I leave work, I take them with me. Apps serve a huge variety of daily needs from finding an address, looking up technical terms, staying up to date with the news and communicating with people, to games and entertainment. There’s an app for just about any task.

Learning apps take learning and education out of the classroom and are always on hand wherever my mobile device goes. That means I can use time spent waiting or commuting to do something productive or satisfy a spontaneous urge to learn something.

Thanks to the versatility of mobile devices, learning apps don’t simply transmit knowledge – they make complex social learning methods possible using GPS, motion sensors, cameras, audio and video. I solve a problem in my learning app, then I can see in real time what my peers have done and how my results compare. I can contact them at any moment and ask for help if I get stuck.

In this way, in connection with all the other apps on my mobile device, learning apps are an ideal form of learning for “homo mobilis”, the mobile human being.

Example: eco-zoom

Take the eco-zoom learning app. It helps students of economics and related subjects apply their theoretical knowledge to actual situations. Weekly topical articles are selected from a reputed Swiss newspaper and targeted questions encourage users to think about economic issues in a fun way. Each article can be completed with a test, which not only checks your knowledge and understanding but also gets you to look at topics from different angles. The results of the test show which options other eco-zoom users went for. So it stimulates your thought processes as well as testing your knowledge.

eco-zoom website:

Learning apps in development cooperation?

How might a learning app like eco-zoom be used in the context of the Swiss Agency of Development Cooperation (SDC)? Via “human rights zoom”! Imagine members of a network would receive current reports specific to their topic. For example, the app for members of the human rights network provides articles on topics such as minority rights, multinational organisations and human rights in old age. A glossary function that explains specialist terms guides users through the reports. Selected questions on the reports help them to build up their expertise, link theoretical knowledge with topical events and develop their own opinion on human rights, climate, water, migration and health issues.

Uses for learning apps

The reports and activities are easy to read and do on the way to work or in a coffee break in about 10 minutes on a smart phone or tablet. The following learning activities are available:

  • Read a report
  • Look up terms in the glossary
  • Work through the tasks and compare your own answers with the results.
  • Easily locate old reports on your topic in your archive

eco zoom

Photo: example eco-zoom:  read – test – correct

In future, it will also be possible to post comments on reports, highlight important passages and add images in connection with the topic from different regions. This information is also available to other users. Other features that allow users to rate an article, forward it to someone or mark it as a favourite make the app a complete social learning tool. It facilitates the formation of learning and knowledge networks in which users build up, share and develop their knowledge together.

Learning apps are becoming an integral part of learning and knowledge environments. As part of people’s daily routines and because of the opportunities they create for networking with other learners, they are becoming an efficient learning method that also supports social and informal learning processes; for example on Human Rights.

What is your experience with learning apps? Where do you see most potential in development cooperation for learning apps?

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Comments to“Where the action is – with learning apps”

  1. Most of these learning apps use some kind of gamification approach to keep you learning: elements from the world of gaming (be it online or real board or card games) make the experience a little bit more fun (thus keep you hooked). This could be a score board where you can measure yourself with your friends. Or an indication how fare you are through the learning exercise.

    Games are not just for kids. The game concept bears great powers for a more enjoyable learning experience.


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