Duolingo is one of the best examples of how to create an engaging learning program. However, it is lacking in one area.
It is no secret that I am a fan of Duolingo, the popular (free) program for learning a new language.
I use it personally for keeping my French up to par and still consider it one of the best examples of gamification out there today. In fact, they are the only ones that I know of currently that are effectively implementing Category 3 gamification techniques.
But as much as I think this platform is a great example for others looking to create engaging online experiences, I am quite surprised that they are lacking significantly in one area.
Great Exercises but Poor Instruction
Applying and practicing the language concepts you learn on Duolingo is really enjoyable.
Learning those concepts is not.
When you get to a lesson you are presented with essentially a blog post explaining the language concepts in small, gray text. The formatting leaves a lot to be desired. See for yourself:
As someone who has seen their fair share of online courses, this one pains me to see. For a company that far exceeds any of their competition with regards to language practice, their teaching method is arguably one of the worst.
Easy to Improve
While the current course content format is pretty terrible, the good news is that this is an easy fix for Duolingo. Adding micro-content in the form of video is relatively easy. Their track record with the gamification likely means that they can create some really engaging videos.
I understand that they have a ton of languages so this is definitely a big task. Also, hosting videos costs money. But seeing as the platform is already free, I’d just put the instructional videos on YouTube. This would attract more people to the platform because the real value is in the exercises.
It’s clear that the original time and monetary investment went into creating the “language tree” experience that Duolingo is now famous for. In fact, they just recently released an updated version of this.
Now I think it’s time that they turn their attention back to the instruction. If they do, they will be the best language learning platform available.