Can your smartphone help you study?

Unleash your studying potential by utilising your smartphone for study. Rosalind Amor shares tips, tricks and app recommendations for when you can't access a laptop.


As my smartphone is practically an extension of my right hand, it makes sense to use it for studying. I only have access to my laptop for certain periods during the day whereas I have access to my smartphone 24/7. Studying via my smartphone, (a Fairphone 3+ to be precise), has enabled me to take notes, progress more quickly with my modules and produce better quality tutor marked assessments. I thought I’d share a few of my tips, tricks and favourite apps for using your smartphone for study.

The OU study app

The Open university has it’s own dedicated study app where you can access your student home and all your modules. The app is available for both tablet and smartphone, Apple or Android. 

It is completely free, you’ll just need your OU username (not your personal identifier) and password when you first download it, in order to login. 

After your first login, the app should remain open unless you choose to sign out. It’s possible to adjust the language, text size and colour scheme within the app, under the general settings. 

The student home page consists of a direct link to your module homepage with external links to other parts of the OU website. The module homepage has all the same functions as a desktop module homepage such as the weekly planner, assessments, tutorials, forums, resources, news and a search engine. 

You can access the module materials via the app, including video and audio materials and it is even possible to download both types of materials to watch or listen to offline. Some interactive activities are not supported by the app. If you have an older model, it can also take a while to load. 

It’s not possible to submit tutor marked assessments (TMAs) via the app, but overall, it works well for general study purposes. It’s easier to view than simply logging into the website via your mobile browser.

Microsoft office

Are you aware that, as a student, you’re allowed to download Microsoft office onto up to five different devices for free? Microsoft office is available as an app for both Apple and Android.

 I have Microsoft office on both my smartphone and my laptop. I have found using the Microsoft office very helpful for working on the written pieces of my TMAs. 

Unfortunately, although you can insert mathematical equations into it, it isn’t very straightforward and I have discovered that the Microsoft office suite app has trouble handling large files, therefore I tend to work on each question in a separate file. Once I have completed all the questions, I then copy and paste them into one correctly formatted file on my laptop. My laptop and phone app are able to sync files. 

I am able to spend more time working on TMAs now that I have the mobile app. The quality of my TMAs has improved as a result!

Note taking

I used to use Evernote to do all my note taking. Evernote is very good for keeping one’s notes organised as you can easily create separate notebooks. You can also ‘clip’ web links and save images. You can purchase it for free but storage capacity is limited. For a small fee, you can upgrade to a bigger storage capacity as well as a few other benefits. 

Evernote has recently updated it’s software and removing the bullet points function is apparently one of it’s ‘improvements’. As I create most of my notes in bullet point format, Evernote is no longer any use to me. The updated version does support superscript and subscript which might prove useful if you’re studying mathematics.

I am now taking most of my notes within Microsoft office suite. Apart from the obvious advantage that this is free, it also has a Dictaphone feature. I have yet to try this out but, again, this might be useful for some students.


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Rosalind Amor

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