Blog Post

Online learning platform ideas - 5 lessons from Duolingo

Duolingo is an app (and website) for learning languages. It’s popular, easy to use and can be a source of ideas for any organisation that is thinking about creating an online learning platform and putting training online.

Learning in Duolingo is personalised - the app delivers small chunks of language training that are carefully matched to a learner’s current level of understanding. Lessons are short and there are a lot of quick tests/questions. A learner in Duolingo gets regular feedback and you don’t unlock the higher levels until you’ve cracked the earlier lessons.

Here are 5 features in Duolingo that are worth a closer look:

  1. Everything is ‘gamified’. You get badges and score points. There’s also a leaderboard so you can compare progress with friends.

    Gamification in Duolingo

  2. A lot of thought has gone into sequencing - the way topics are organised and the ways things are sorted into levels. This has got to be one of Duolingo’s strengths - it feels like you progress through a well structured course that builds on earlier lessons.

    Sequences in Duolingo

  3. There are a relatively small number of different types ‘learning interactions’. To some extent it’s repetitive. The interactions are quite simple. It’s also built around answering questions - you’re answering questions from the start, rather than clicking passively through content and then answering questions at the end.

    Activity in Duolingo

  4. It uses notifications to remind you - or maybe guilt trip you - into doing more work. The app encourages you hit a daily target and you get bonus points for maintaining your daily streak. It can be genuinely annoying when you realise you’ve forgotten to use it for a day and you’ve broken your streak.

  5. It’s mobile first. There is a web app, but I suspect that the overwhelming majority of learners are using the mobile app for most of the time. Why isn’t more corporate e-learning done on mobiles? You can see that any competency based, induction type e-learning that might normally be done in a web browser on the desktop could work on a mobile.

There are a lot of feature rich learning management systems on the market. If you want something simpler that you can build on over time then a bespoke online learning platform may be a good choice. Duolingo is a good place to go for some ideas - particularly if you want to introduce gamification and lots of short, focused questions/tests.

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