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Free Online Flashcard Generator Programs for ESL Teachers

I found a couple of free online flashcard generator sites that I used while teaching in the Middle East  (and still use regularly) that I want to share with you: Quizlet and Course Hero.

While teaching in Saudi Arabia, I wound up making a lot of my own materials to augment the boring textbook and make up for the fact that so many topics that are standard in my teaching repertoire (videos,music,controversial current events,men and women talking together, anything romantic, pop culture and more) were not allowed.

As a result, I found that making my own flashcards worked great for class activities, especially when projected in front of a class as a quick interactive activity to review or introduce new vocabulary. Of course, they work well in private teaching too, both during class as a fun interactive review session or warm up. I email links to my students too, but have found it is more effective to go through them together during a class.

I have been pleasantly surprised by all the things you can do using both Quizlet and Course Hero Flashcard generator programs.

With both of these services you can:

  • make flashcards quickly
  •  save them for future use or email them to people
  •  use automatically generated quizzes based on your card set as quick reviews at the beginning or end of class

I like to use flashcards for more than learning vocabulary and verb conjugations, including gapfill sentences and ‘finish the sentence’ activities (one side has the first half of the sentence and the flip side has a possible answers). Mind you, this doesn`t work well when it comes to the automatically generated quizzes based on the cards, but that`s OK for my purposes, usually.

Let me walk you through some cool features for each program, starting with Course Hero.

Course Hero

To make free flashcard sets:

  1. Look on the homepage and click on ‘Flashcards’, then ‘Create Flashcards’.
  2. You may be prompted to create an account. (But it`s free, and they don`t spam you later, so don`t worry.)
  3. Follow the instructions and fill in the fields (blanks) for the set title (your name for the set of flashcards), what they are for, and if you want to share them with the world (everyone) or keep them private.
  4. Enter your terms and click save. You`re ready for action

I love how clean and simple this interface is.

You can email sets to yourself and groups of students and (depending on your browser) they open up automatically in your email. No need to go to Course Hero and log in, or create an account to see the cards, or any such nonsense.

I also like the quiz and test options available. They are so well laid out that even beginning English students can figure out how to get to, and navigate through, the quizzes based on the cards they just studied.

And there is a nice variety of quiz layout options to keep it interesting. The program automatically calculates your score and times you too, if you wish.

Course Hero is focussed on gathering course content, (this is how the site generates money) but I think the flashcard program is the best part of this site.

The downsides of Course Hero that I have discovered:

1. You can`t print out flashcards.

2. The flashcards don`t always appear directly in your email (sometimes just a link back to the Course Hero Site and your flashcards appears).

3. The formatting is one set size, which doesn`t work well for longer phrases.

4. The response time of the site can be so slow that it affects the timed games and activities (or crashes completely). I`m not sure if this was just a problem with a slow connection my end, or on their server side. Regardless, I would not count on using the timed games in class unless I was sure of my connection speed that day.

The flashcard generator program for Course Hero may not have as many bells and whistles at Quizlet, but what it does, it does very well.

This is a great tool for learning and teaching English or any other language.
The more you look, the more you can do with this service, I discovered. Some features are super and others so-so.

I find the interface a bit busy and distracting. But some pages are clean and simple. Basically, just look in the middle of the page to figure out what to do and ignore the options on the sides for the time being.

First of all, to create flashcards:

  1. Go to the homepage:
  2. Click on ‘create set’
  3. Create your set. And save it.


You will likely be prompted to create an account. It`s quick and free. This allows the system to automatically log you into your flashcard homepage (called the ‘dashboard’) next time, and it will automatically remember your IP.

The best things about Quizlet, in my opinion, are:
1. You can add images for free from Flikr`s Creative Commons to your flashcards. Just click `add images‘ at the top of of the part where you enter your terms. The search box for creative commons pops up automatically.

2. You can print out your flashcard sets. Click on ‘print’ at the top, (next to the ‘add images’ option), and see all your layout choices.
There`s one small hitch- you can`t print directly, but must choose a layout option, and save it to a pdf file on your computer (by clicking on ‘open pdf’) and THEN you can print it using your home printer.

3. You can combine sets – this is useful for end of course book, or multi- chapter ( or multi-topic) review sessions.

4. You can email links to the set(s) you create and embed links in your website that display the flashcards directly, without the need to return to the Quizlet website to see them.

5. I have used Quizlet flashcards to make interesting ways to sort students into groups.

For pairs:

For example, one person has the definition and another the term and they must find each other to find their partner for the next activity. Or, one person has a card with an image and the other has a word learned recently that adequately describes the image. Or, to review numbers and their pronunciation, people with a card with a number must call it out to find the person with the same number (written as a word). This works well to get students practicing the numbers that are often confused (14 and 40, 13 and 30) and to practice pronunciation ’15′,12).

For Groups

To form groups of 3 or more,all the people with words with similar meanings are in the same group (synonmyms). Or you can simply use Quizlet to make a nicely formatted set of cards, each with a number on it, and you can distribute one to each student and make random groups using different number combinations( people with 1, 4, 5, 8 are in one group and 2, 3, 6 and 7 in the other).

Back to my feature review of Quizlet:

I haven`t used the Facebook or Twitter social sharing features so I don`t know how well they work.

The downsides of Quizlet that I discovered:

1. The layout can be ugly if you have too much text on a card. The text size changes and reduces and can be hard to read.

2. The quiz options and game options are a bit confusing and cluttered looking. They aren`t always intuitive to use, especially the game where you have to drag a term on top of it`s definition to make them both disappear and clear the screen (which is the end goal of the game, to clear the screen).

3. You have to choose languages for both sides of a flashcard every time you create a set. I find this a bit annoying, especially when I want one side to be an image and not include text at all.

4. The audio that is generated by the program is not accurate or good. It can create completely wrong translations and pronunciation samples, just like Google Translate. My class in Saudi Arabia laughed hysterically when I played the Arabic translation automatically generated for an English word and its definition.

4. You have to pay to upload your own images to use on the flashcards. Too bad. But I guess they need to make money somehow.

In general, both programs are stellar in the online flashcard generator world, so I hope you find them as useful as I have and do.

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