I consider Duolingo he best learning application available on the market to date. I have been using for quite almost 4 months and I thought it is useful to write down the reasons why I consider it to be an outstanding mobile-first learning app. I think all educational developers and instructional designers should take inspiration from Duolingo much as possible. The reason is the combination of some important elements.
- It's a mobile native application: it's thought as a mobile-first application, it offers also a desktop web version although 80% of users are mobile.
- It uses gamification elements: it uses a structured learning plan divided into several learning stages which the user has to unlock progressively. For each level completed experience points are awarded. The app allows to compare the experience points collected periodically with other friend users.
- It's free of charge and is ad-free.
- It's fully adaptive to the learner. A opening test at the beginning of each course determines the level of expertise in the language. That influences the entire course.
- Reinforces learning: it uses strength bars which decrease without constant training. In this way it encourages the user not to give up and learn more.
- The GUI is well designed: the options are minimalistic and seamless.
- It uses crowdsourcing: to earn money it asks the users to translate documents and review other translations. Crowd translation is not only a smart business model but is also the most reliable way to elicit ground truth.