Now nearly a year old, educational marketplace Curious is ready for mobile. The company released an app on Thursday for iOS that allows users to access bite-sized educational clips, both free and paid, on a wide variety of subjects.
“We’re trying to replicate an entertaining experience that is teaching you something,” said Curious CEO Justin Kitch. “You can fit it into the nooks and crannies of your life. We can double down on the use of mobile because it’s important to what we’re teaching.”
It’s also a window of opportunity for the company: even without an official app in place, Curious’s statistics show more then 40 percent of its visitors are accessing lessons via a mobile device. The app addresses that demand, offering the company’s roughly 4,000 free and premium lessons for streaming.
Rather than present a whole new experience, the bulk of the app is a condensed version of what’s already available online: courses are searchable by type (like “Pocket Perfect”), started lessons are available in a short list, and there’s a video player to stream on-the-go that also syncs with the desktop to continue the lesson. Users can even pick up the company’s “Curious 52″ challenge, which encourages the user to view a new lesson per week for 52 weeks, and participate in challenge-related tasks.
“We start with the short format because that’s how they get hooked,” Kitch said. “They’re not ready to commit to a 20-hour experience and spend hundreds of dollars learning French. We’re trying to break down learning into its most simple and fun components.”
There are mobile-friendly interactive features, but there are also some important features missing. The Curious “Discovery Cube” is a swipe-friendly 3D interface meant to “easily discover different facets of the Curious marketplace,” including spotlighted lessons, favorite teachers and other tidbits about the website. It’s a nice way to experience spontaneous discovery, but it’s hard to not feel like it comes at the cost of offline learning, which is nowhere to be found. Kitch says that offline learning is in the roadmap of the app, but didn’t make it into the first build. Hopefully it comes to an update soon, allowing users with Wi-Fi only tablets to learn better on-the-go.
All in all, Curious benefits deeply from a mobile app, and not just because of demand. The platform has always been centered around smaller, digestible lessons that often offer practical “how-to” style information — a little bit different than the fully-structured courses typically offered on Coursera or Udemy, but one that has the potential to work best on mobile. It’s my personal philosophy that people aren’t going to want to download a half-hour lesson onto a phone unless it’s the only option, which works against the ideal user interaction of “bite-sized” lessons.
Curious has solved part of the equation naturally, which is a big leap compared to competitors. It’s just not quite there yet in terms of mobile features, despite the smart syncing and searchable course system. It may be another in a long line of education companies scrambling to make it on mobile, but Curious has content worth learning on-the-go.