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Learning as Addictive as Social Media

Do you know how to incorporate elements from social media and gaming that can enhance the time spent on learning and make educational apps more addictive? As someone from Guatemala, Luis von Ahn, the co-founder of Duolingo, has shared in his TED talk his journey of overcoming challenges while pioneering in the United States as he comes from an underprivileged country. One of the hurdles faced by individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds is limited access to top-notch knowledge due to language barriers. This led him to focus on developing a language-learning app. However, creating the app was the first step; his primary goal was to generate interest among users and keep them engaged in language learning. In his talk, he shed light on how gamification principles and concepts borrowed from social media can not only make education more accessible but also captivating. This got me thinking about the application of techniques across other subjects.

Von Ahn mentioned that although education is often seen as a means to achieve equality, it can also contribute to inequality when financially privileged individuals receive opportunities. The idea behind the creation of Duolingo was to ensure that everyone has access to education, beginning with foreign language learning. Duolingo employs a freemium model to ensure that education is accessible to all. Users can access the platform for free. They also have the option to subscribe and remove ads. This approach indirectly helps in wealth redistribution as paying subscribers mostly come from countries.

The key to Duolingo’s success lies in its ability to make learning an experience. It incorporates techniques like streaks (Snapchat uses them for daily engagement) and notifications (similar to Zomato’s approach) to keep users engaged. Streaks motivate users to return consistently. Notifications are strategically timed for reminders. While educational apps may not be as captivating as social media or games, the inherent value of acquiring knowledge can motivate individuals. This model has the potential to revolutionize education across subjects.

These principles can be applied across subjects, ensuring that education becomes a purposeful journey. As we progress, our goal is to establish platforms that motivate learners from diverse backgrounds and financial circumstances to cultivate a lasting passion for knowledge throughout their lives.


Parth Chauhan

Batch 2023-25

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