Grockit, which calls itself the social learning company, specializes in collaborative online test preparation for those studying to take the GMAT, GRE, LSAT, SAT, ACT and other university-related exams. But now the company is expanding its vision with Learnist, an app designed to let anyone learn more about, well, pretty much anything. Think of it as the Pinterest for education.
Or for informative multimedia, at the very least, which you can curate on any subject, and also share with others. Click “more” to see what it’s all about.
Learnist teaches via boards, or Learnboards, which have been created with material sourced from a number of places, including YouTube, Vimeo, WordPress, Wikipedia, UStream, Scribd, Soundcloud, Slideshare, Amazon, Google Docs, spreadsheets, forms, Google Maps, books and other online resources. Board creators can even upload their own resources from scratch.
As a user, you can take a look around first before deciding whether or not to connect your account, but to sign in to Learnist, you must do so with a Facebook account. Grockit has said that in the future there will be alternatives, but for now this is your only option.
Upon signing in, you can determine who sees your posts (everyone or just your friends), and you can also give Learnist permission — or not give Learnist permission — to post to Facebook on your behalf (videos you’ve watched, etc.).
Categories/tabs at the top of the main screen include Featured, Popular, Art & Design, Music, Sports, Education, Food & Drinks, Politics, Technology, Travel, Games, Health & Fitness, News, Entertainment, Crafts and others. Tap any one of these to see a grid of Learnboards containing relevant items, or learn more about any topic you want by typing a keyword, tag, title or phrase in the search bar at the top of the screen.
By “items” I mean a wide variety of multimedia, including videos, ebooks, maps, blog posts, podcasts, surveys and other things found on the web.
Clicking on a board you’re interested in will reveal a sidebar on the lefthand side where you can view the name of the board, a brief description and users’ comments. You’re also given the options to give the board a virtual like; share the board via email, SMS, Facebook and Twitter; and add a comment to the board.
Hide the sidebar by sliding it to the left, then you’ll see snapshots of articles at the bottom of the screen. You can browse through the board’s items by swiping to the left, or by tapping on them in any order.
Viewing the items included in a board is easy and intuitive. If it’s an article, simply scroll down the article the same as you would in your browser. And when you’re finished, just swipe to the next item. Each item is numbered for a reason. Think of each one as a lesson, which has been sequenced by the board creator in such a way as to facilitate learning.
When you find a board you really like, you may be interested in who created it, or even want to follow that user. Every board page displays the creator and a profile photo, if the user has provided one, and you can click on his or her name to view a bite-sized bio, as well as that user’s followers and who he or she is following.
On users’ profile pages there are also grids of their boards, their likes and who they’re following. You’ll notice that at the top of every single article or board snapshot there are three icons — an eye, a speech balloon and a heart — which stand for views, comments and likes.
You can view your own profile page by tapping the silhouette of a head in the top right. Once you’re viewing your own profile page, tap on the settings wheel in the top right now to enable, disable and manage your notifications, which include comments on your boards, comments on your learnings, replies to your comments, new followers, and boards your friends create.
As of the time I write this, not just anyone can create a board on Learnist. To do so you had to have requested and received an invitation from Learnist to become a content creator for what they are calling the beta release. Creators can make boards via the web (either at http://learni.st or with the Learnist bookmarkelet) with uploaded photos, recipes, how-to guides and anything else you can think of on the web.
Once you become a creator, you can embed your boards into pages on the web. The feature is given as a share option and allows you to choose the size, plus the app generates the code for you. Beyond that, all you have to do is copy and paste that code into your blog of website and presto, you’ve got an embedded Learnist board.
While select users can create boards from their computers and iPhones, the iPad app for Learnist does not yet have this capability, although Grockit promises the feature is coming soon. I look forward to that, but in the meantime, I’ll be having a pretty good time getting a lot of learning done on my iPad.