31/3/2014, Javier Pastor | Education

Udemy and Duolingo: Two ways of changing education with smartphones

Udemy and Duolingo: Two ways of changing education with smartphones | Mobile World Capital

Young people are especially active mobile users. And because of that, educational apps have great potential in this segment

Education is changing. Or at least this is what various projects are trying to achieve by bringing the advantages of technology to those wanting to learn: Not only in the form of lessons that are free of charge --and which may even include esteemed certificates-- but also in the way we access education. Beyond the popular Massive Open Online Courses (also known as MOOCs) educational apps have been emerging, which bring the features of MOOCs to another important element of our everyday lives: the mobile phone.

Until now, not many recent educational solutions were focussed specifically on mobile use, but there are some examples that show how precisely these platforms --and tablets are clearly leading the way here-- are the ones that could change the educational sector significantly. As a complement to the current (face to face) educational system as well as by providing an attractive offer to continue to learn and make progress outside the classroom.

Udemy, a Mobile Education Market

The first of these examples is Udemy, a platform created in 2010 by Eren Bali and Oktay Caglar in San Francisco, which stands out because it works as a complete solution for anybody with teaching experience or mere vocation to give courses.

“There are great teachers outside of academia”, said Dennis Yang, COO of Udemy, in a recent interview. With this app, these people and others have the opportunity to share their knowledge and to do so by using all the means offered by technology today, for example by uploading videos or images with complementary learning material.

This model already attracted two million people worldwide, but this growth is mainly based on one critical factor: Mobile education. As Yang explained, users like to learn “on the go” - anytime, anywhere - and that makes mobile devices the ideal learning tools for the time we spend on public transport or in waiting rooms without anything else to do.

Duolingo teaches you Languages as you Play

Equally interesting is the case of Duolingo, an educational platform aimed at learning languages. Just like in the case of Udemy, at Duolingo they also believe that anybody with a certain amount of knowledge and experience is able to teach that knowledge to others. In fact, this is the reason they founded the Language Lab, a parallel platform to Duolingo where you can find preconfigured language courses that were not created by Duolingo, but by users knowing two languages.

The people in charge of the company have to check the applications from people wanting to submit courses and guarantee their quality later on. This laboratory already has a dozen alternative courses in addition to those offered by Duolingo itself. And again, even though mobiles and tablets have become the most important tools, they continue with their web service as well.

Its creator, Luis von Ahn, was in charge of creating the CAPTCHA and reCAPTCHA technologies and has now taken the leap to a different concept. Still, Duolingo uses some old ideas from these systems he created years ago and which Google ended up buying for an undisclosed amount estimated somewhere between 10 and 100 million dollars.

Duolingo’s creator recently told in another interview how they did not include mobile support at the beginning: People learned at the service’s official website and only a few months later they started developing a mobile solution, which in fact was considered a mere complement to the true pillar at the time.

However, mobiles changed everything. The use of Duolingo grew explosively due to the launch of their mobile application, which once more proved the attractiveness of this concept for ubiquitous learning, allowing users to follow lessons from their mobile devices whenever they want, wherever they are.

In addition to this, it comes with another important element: The gamification which is applied to this service and which turns the learning experience into a game. Users are getting certain rewards when they do well on the lessons and this has proven to be a component that makes them continue to use the application.

The mSchools programme is a multi-year, multi-faceted mEducation initiative by the Mobile World Capital Barcelona. The mSchools programme is designed to lower dropout rates, improve student attainment in schools across Catalonia and throughout Spain and, ultimately, to better prepare students as they pursue further education and employment in today’s digital world.

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