App review: Curious sends us back to school

App review: Curious sends us back to school
Curious' iPhone app brings a virtual classroom to the smartphone, with video lessons that cleverly snap to full screen when you switch to landscape mode.

There's no excuse for not knowing something these days, with 'how to' videos and ask/answer sites at our fingertips. There are also a bunch of services like Udemy and Khan Academy that open the world of web-based courses.

Curious.com is another online learning offering and it's jumped from the desktop to mobile with iPad and iPhone apps designed to encourage lifelong learning.

The recently-launched iPhone app makes us wonder if the traditional classroom now offers anything other than showing off your lunch and stationery.

It has a lineup of 22 lesson collections, taught by teachers who have registered to offer their educational videos via the service. The collections include arts and crafts, DIY, cooking, languages, software, health and fitness, business, under five minutes, kids only, popular and staff picks.

Examples of the business lessons are making the most of Facebook ads, startup business plan mistakes and effective small business marketing.

Once you sign up you can enrol in lessons, which the app bookmarks and shows you how far through the course you are. If you view the lesson in portrait mode, it includes tabs for additional material the teacher has appended and comments left by other students.

You'll also get related course recommendations and can search for other lessons by keyword. In landscape mode you'll just see the video, along with a very useful navigation bar that lets you jump between the lesson sections. At the end of each section you're quizzed on what you've seen and you can create a Curious Card, showing other teachers and students your prowess.

As you do the course you can discuss material with other students. There's a lot of free material, but the others cost one or a few Curious coins, prepaid at a dollar each.

The beauty of this app is the amount of learning you can do, at your own pace, about seemingly endless topics. It's not just valuable for learners, teachers keep ownership of what they upload, get their own page under the Curious domain, 70 percent of the fees after direct expenses and the ability to share lessons via social media.