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September 30, 2020

Student Success

11 studying platforms you’ve never heard of.

A woman on her laptop and cell phone simultaneously.

Advancements in studying platforms and digital learning tools offer unprecedented opportunities to digest, retain, retrieve, and apply important information. When every year seems to bring a new set of learning tools and platforms, keeping up can be overwhelming. Forget about trying out every single one.

To save you the trouble, we’ve scoured the internet and put together a list of 11 tools you might not have heard of but that we think are worth checking out. Don’t feel like you have to master them all at once—pick one or two that suit your needs, then get learning.

Studying tools and platforms.

The best studying platforms focus on retrieval practice, a learning strategy that’s all about “getting information out ... rather than cramming information into students’ heads,” according to, a clearinghouse for research, resources, and teaching strategies based on the science of learning.

  • Anki: Anki is a free and open-source flashcard program that uses spaced retrieval. The mental exercise, Tech-Based Teaching says, provides students time to forget what they’ve learned, which helps facilitate deep learning and improve recall.
  • Cengage: Cengage makes it easy for students to create flash cards as they work through whatever text they’re engaged in. It also converts written material into audio formats so you can listen to required readings or lectures while commuting to work or while exercising.
  • CourseNetworking: CourseNetworking is an academic social networking platform that offers a portfolio page where students showcase achievements and associated social networks. Students can use it to exchange knowledge, resources, and ideas.

Note-taking apps.

“Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them,” writes Getting Things Done author David Allen in The Mission, and that’s a compelling argument for keeping a note-taking tool handy. Whether it’s for writing down observations during class or capturing a sudden insight or idea during a reading assignment, taking notes is a great way to process information and keep your brain buzzing. Evernote is probably the best-known cloud-based notebook, but there are others worth considering.

  • Notion: Notion is a powerful note-taking application, but that’s just the start. It has database features, an array of templates, and tons of flexibility for creating tables or viewing multimedia. Its basic version is free, and so is its upgraded Personal Pro version if you sign up with an academic email address.
  • OneNote: OneNote is Microsoft’s note application, and it’s free and compatible with most web and mobile platforms. It serves the same primary function as Apple Notes or Google Keep, but it’s more accessible.
  • Bear: Bear is available only for iOS and macOS, but users love its simplicity.

Tools for organization and focus.

You can have the best studying platforms in the world, but you won’t make the most of them if you don’t have good study habits. Here are some tools to keep you organized and focused.

Project management.

  • myHomework: myHomework is an option for students who want a tool devoted solely to school. Unlike many other project management apps, myHomework’s core functionality is organized around students’ academic life, helping them keep track of class schedules, upcoming tests, assignments, and due dates.
  • Trello: Trello is a flexible, easy-to-use tool that lets students manage coursework and school projects by dragging and dropping cards.
  • Todoist: Todoist is a platform where users can manage multiple tasks—school, work, personal—and assign a task to a corresponding project.


  • SelfControl: SelfControl blocks access to anything on the internet that steals focus from studying. Add sites to the blacklist and set a timer, and you'll be unable to access those sites until the timer runs out—even if you restart your computer or delete the app. The app is only available on Mac devices.
  • StayFocused: The StayFocused Google Chrome browser extension lets you select the websites that are your biggest time wasters and set an amount of time that you're allowed on them during the day. Once you use up your time, those sites will be blocked so that you can concentrate on working.

It’s easy to look at this list and feel overwhelmed. But you don’t have to make it a goal to master every one of these tools—that’s a recipe for failure. As Bonni Stachowiak recommends in her Educational Technology Essentials guide at Teaching in Higher Ed, focus on one or two tools and try them out over a semester or term. The process of learning about and using a new tool is usually just as important as the tool itself.

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