Flip, flip, flip: Who is king of online flashcards?

Flickr: koalazymonkey

Flip. Flip. Flip.

Countless hours are spent every year by students trying to memorize through repetition. (Rote learning, by the way, isn’t a dead art, according to this Edutopia article.)

But many students are substituting “flip, flip, flip” with “click, click, click” or “tap, tap, tap.”

The options for online flashcard websites are numerous, and it seems that each site is a little different. If you’re new to online flashcards, here’s what’s similar across the board for most online flashcard sites:

  • You can create their own flashcards (term and definition) and often can add audio and images to them.
  • Flashcard decks created by others are searchable and can be studied if you don’t want to make your own.
  • Most sites offer a basic “flashcard flip,” where you view the card and can flip it to see if you got the answer right. Most also offer some sort of quiz or test feature, where you can check your progress after you’ve studied the terms.
  • Sites will often log which cards you struggle with and provide feedback or additional learning opportunities.
  • Mobile apps and/or mobile web versions of the site are often available.

Beyond that, many sites have provided their own brand of innovation to stand out from the competition. Below, I’ll review the unique points of several sites and give my personal recommendations for which ones to use.
Study Blue

StudyBlue (www.studyblue.com)

StudyBlue has some creative features that stand out. It will send you a text message to remind you to study and you can customize the kinds of tests you take. Its clean, simple and classy design is inviting. But its best features aren’t available for free ($30/year or $5/mo. premium), which turns the penny pincher in me off, especially when so many alternatives exists.

Flashcard Machine

Flashcard Machine (www.flashcardmachine.com)

Flashcard Machine is your standard online flashcard site. Options are limited to flipping through cards and taking multiple-choice quizzes. Users can flag trouble cards themselves for more practice. An advanced search (by title, author, description, subject and level) is free, which is a paid option for StudyBlue. iOS and Android apps are available, but they’re not free.


Quizlet (www.quizlet.com)

Quizlet offers a nice mix of polish and options. Learning options include a fill-in-the-blank test, a test where terms are read aloud and spelled, and a test with a variety of questions. Learning games include the catch scatter (match scattered terms together) and space race (type the answer before it crashes). Its iPhone app includes a fun tactile twist on the scatter game.

Flashcard Exchange

Flashcard Exchange (www.flashcardexchange.com)

Flashcard Exchange boasts two unique features: cram mode and three-sided cards. In cram mode, students engage in a structured practice where trouble cards are repeated and mastered cards (those correctly answered five times) are set aside. Three-sided cards include a term, a definition and a hint. Flashcard Exchange integrates its card decks with other flashcard mobile apps.

Study Stack

Study Stack (www.studystack.com)

I developed a quick love/hate relationship with Study Stack. It easily has the best variety of learning games, including matching, hangman, crossword, unscramble, bug match (a spider chases and eats the bug matching the correct answer) and hungry bug (a caterpillar gobbles correct answers and grows, making the game more challenging). However, the site is laden with ads and is glitchy.

Brain Flips

Brain Flips (www.brainflips.com)

Brain Flips appears to be the online flashcard site geared toward the younger crowd. Its fun design uses cartoonish characters, flashy animations and lots of color. It’s also the only flashcard site I found that allows users to add video to flashcards (which may or may not be a great option). Its practice features are pretty standard, though.

examtimeUPDATE (5/20/14): ExamTime (www.examtime.com)

As of this update, ExamTime has undergone a design overhaul, and the results are beautiful. Its full-screen flashcard study option is simplistic and elegant. It provides an I know/I don’t know option for studying only the cards you need to. It also offers quizzes and mind maps as additional useful features. It doesn’t have games or other options for studying flashcards, though.

The final verdict!

Flashcard Exchange’s cram mode is somewhat unique and would be a useful feature, and I love Study Stack’s great selection of games for practicing vocabulary terms. However, Quizlet appears to be the overall total package to me. Quizlet’s free iOS app, its addicting learning games and huge network of users and existing flashcard decks offer the array of options that no other site can rival. Plus, users playing the learning games can battle for top scores on a leaderboard for each created deck.

Therefore, Quizlet receives the Ditch That Textbook seal of approval for online flashcard sites!

I’d love to hear which sites your students are using or which ones you feature in your classroom. What are the best features? What could be added to flashcard sites? Please leave your thoughts in a comment below!

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