Project Transformational Technology Integration Proposal: DuoLingo

Adult Capacity Building on a Systematic Level


DuoLingo is an education-technology company that helps users succeed in learning a foreign language. DuoLingo users have access to a plethora of learning resources to build their language comprehension - ranging from linguistic materials to effective learning strategies.

According to statistics from Business of Apps, in 2020, DuoLingo had over 500 million registered users, in which 42 million are active once per month. Given the user statistics, Duolingo's user retention rate roughly translates to 8.4%.

Since Duolingo is a for-profit corporation, one of its top priorities would be to generate revenue. The company currently employs a freemium model and two of its main revenue streams come from display ads and premium subscription. Therefore, higher retention rates will translate to increased revenue through conversions from free to paid users and more targeted in-app advertisements.

Currently, the existing curriculums on Duolingo do not provide materials for learners to dive deeper into understanding the cultural contexts behind the language they are learning. Cultural context is essential for allowing language learners to acquire comprehensible linguistic knowledge. To address this need, I propose developing a new curriculum that integrates knowledge of cultural customs & contexts within DuoLingo, alongside its pre-existing language learning programs. Teaching a second language effectively requires a facilitator, system, and developer of situations that can help students understand the meaning of their words in context. In this case, Augmented Reality is the proposed technology solution to play the role as the engaging facilitator that is integrated within DuoLingo's Cultural Context Curriculum learning system.

1.0 Context Summary


  • System: DuoLingo, a digital language learning app.
  • Online Education System
  • The platform provides student-centered and active learning.
  • Employs AI in achieving Intelligence Augmentation for users
  • Mobiles in Education


  • DuoLingo serves anyone above the age of 13 who wants to learn one of the 37 languages offered on DuoLingo's platform.
  • Users of this service should be technologically savvy enough to navigate a smartphone. 


I am interested in DuoLingo's learning system as they incorporate a lot of learning strategies such as UDL, intrinsic & extrinsic motivation, and cognitive load, just to name a few. I'm also especially interested in exploring the topic of language learning, as I am a bilingual speaker myself.


  • Online / Virtual

1.2 Role of AR Technology In This Context


  • Effectively utilizing augmented reality technologies to improve everyday language immersion

Customizable Learning

  • Supports UDL, situated learning, informal learning
  • Enhance individualized education
  • Improve learning outcomes 
  • increase engagement


  • Caters to learners' location and schedule 

Elicit intrinsic Motivation

  • Increase learners' self-perception for self-efficacy
  • Tap into learners' funds of knowledge
  • Gamifies learning in an AR context (e.g. Pokemon Go)

1.3 Scope of the System

  • Education sector/industry
  • Scope of system covers the learning experience/process for young adults; those with a minimum level of digital fluency
  • Working with populations for which mobile devices are the primary digital infrastructure
  • Learning solution model: hybrid between b2b and b2c

  • partnering with companies to sell translations
  • User-generated translations
  • Test center for English language certification undefined

  • Members paid premium plan (without ads)
  • Free plan (ads) 


2.1 Challenges

Implementation Logistics

One of the biggest challenges with teaching a language remotely is that it can be difficult to create an experience engaging and immersive enough to keep the learner coming back. To boost engagement, Duolingo in 2016 launched bots to help teach languages through automated text-based conversations inside its app.

Content Integration

Through interviewing DuoLingo users and reading DuoLingo's community forum, the lack of cultural contexts has been a trending challenge that learners seem to be dissatisfied with. Within the philosophy of Theories of Knowledge (TOK), Language is recognized as a Way of Knowing. Hence, it is reasonable to argue that cultural context is essential for language learners to acquire comprehensible linguistic knowledge. 

The current curriculums in place at DuoLingo faces the same challenge that current AI technologies fail to resolve, which is to incorporate the "collective cultural knowing".

DuoLingo's programs have yet to also introduce foundations of Culturally Relevant & Responsive Education within its curriculums.

2.2 Opportunities

Covid-19 Impacts Online Learning and EdTech Industry (2020)

  • Organic Traffic: 233.91% Average Increase 
  • Engagement: 188.56% Average Increase
  • Sign-Ups: 290.55% Average Increase
  • Revenue: 335.08% Average Increase

During Covid, most of the world was forced to adapt to the new way of learning -- remotely. As a result, more people became equipped to navigate education technology. This phenomena drastically increases the scope of potential target audiences for EdTech products.

Maturity of AR Technology

AR opens up new doors for the following possibilities:

  • Blended learning
  • Use of multimedia and open education resources
  • New forms of assessment

Object recognition technology already exists in the market, allowing users to direct a smartphone camera in a panorama of their immediate surroundings, with captions overlaying the real-world objects that identify their names in the target language.

The interactive nature of this type of AR implementation resembles mobile games, like PokemonGo, or immersive museum tours.

2.3 SWOT Analysis



3.1 Stakeholders

Primary Stakeholders: people or groups that stand to be directly affected, either positively or negatively, by an effort or the actions of an agency, institution, or organization.

  • Language learners
  • Duolingo Users

Secondary stakeholders: people or groups that are indirectly affected, either positively or negatively, by an effort or the actions of an agency, institution, or organization

  • Parents, spouses, siblings, children, other family members, significant others, friends.
  • Foreign schools
  • Language schools
  • Foreign market labor
  • Foreign culture

Key Stakeholder: might belong to either or neither of the first two groups, are those who can have a positive or negative effect on an effort, or who are important within or to an organization, agency, or institution engaged in an effort. 

  • Funders / board directors (shareholders)
  • Heads of business
  • Duolingo employees

Influential Decision Makers

  • Investors
  • Founder /CEO
  • CFO
  • Chief product officer
  • Chief Business officer
  • Co-founder/CTO
  • VP Design
  • VP, Strategy of Business Operations

3.2 User Personas

3.3 User Research: User Forum

On DuoLingo's Discussion Forum, there are several threads discussing the importance of cultural context in the context of language learning. Some users notice this missing aspect on DuoLingo and asks the community how they resolve this situation. Most of the answers suggested that users resolve this situation by conducting their own research off of Duolingo's platform.

3.4 User Research: User Interview

After interviewing 3 previous users of Duolingo, the general consensus was that they all ended up stopped engaging with the app because they didn't feel a connection to the culture of the language they were learning.

Drawing from what has been observed on the user forums, it may be likely that users who take the initiative to conduct their own cultural research outside of Duolingo are not common. If that is the case, then the lack of cultural context can potentially lead to the user retention rate to stagnant or decrease in the long run.


4.1 Current System's Curriculum & Instructional Strategies

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Machine Learning
  • Digital Learning
  • Personalized Learning
  • Extrinsic Motivation
  • Funds of Knowledge

4.2 Company Mission Statement

"We believe that anyone can learn a language with Duolingo. Our free, bite-size lessons feel more like a game than a textbook, and that's by design: Learning is easier when you're having fun. But Duolingo isn't just a game. It's based on a methodology proven to foster long-term retention, and a curriculum aligned to an international standard. Let's explore how language learning happens with Duolingo!"

4.3 Company Pedagogical Approach

"Our Curriculum Designers and Content Developers have extensive training in foreign language pedagogy and years of classroom teaching experience. For example, we know how to contrast similar-yet-different structures to help learners tune in to grammar, and we know how to present new words in manageable chunks, so learners can better remember vocabulary. "

Balanced Approach

  • Duolingo allows learners to discover patterns on their own without needing to focus on language rules — the same way you learned your first language as a child. This approach, called "implicit learning," is ideal for developing a strong foundational knowledge of a language and its rules.
  • But explicit instruction is useful for some concepts. So Duolingo offers both! In addition to lessons, learners can access Tips for explanations on grammar, pronunciation, and helpful phrases.


  • With over 500 million learners, you’d think personalized instruction would be tough to pull off. But we’re up for the challenge! Machine learning algorithms are always at work to serve up learning material at just the right difficulty level for each learner.

4.4 Available Technological Infrastructures

  • Individual Internet connectivity (or ability to download)
  • DuoLingo server & Full Stack System
  • Smartphone device (self-supplied by user)

4.5 Financial Resources

This could be a premium member only access content, or it could stay free. The main goal of introducing this content from a business standpoint would be to increase user retention rate and expand market share (# of users). A/B testing can help provide helpful insights in making such decisions.


5.1 Proposed Curriculum

AR technology takes the "Augments any classroom" curriculum approach. With AR, learners are provided with creative ways to increase engagement that seamlessly aligns with their own curriculum. They will have the option to utilize content from Duolingo that designed to promote long-term retention, or to build their unique learning experience based on their surroundings.

DuoLingo's existing "crowd-sourced translation" model serves as an exemplary approach for how contents for cultural context may be generated. By leveraging user-generated content, Duolingo would have a higher chance to develop culturally encompassing materials, ones that offer special insights, sourced from the users' unique funds of knowledges.

5.2 Next Steps: Metrics

(action plan)

To evaluate the effectiveness of the program, below are some metrics for consideration:

Primary Stakeholders: New Users, Retention, Usage, Channel Specific Metrics

Secondary Stakeholders: Channel Specific Metrics

Key Stakeholder: New Users, Retention, App Specific Metrics

Influential Decision Makers: New Users, Retention, App Specific Metrics

5.3 Solve & Scale Framework

The scaling analysis below is based on Dede’s framework for designing successful educational innovations that can scale, which builds on a foundational framework by Coburn (2003).

1. Depth: AR now has promising quality within EdTech applications. AR developments has been robust and well developed for entertainment use, with Pokemon Go as a successful example.

2. Sustainability: If the results demonstrates a high user retention rate, the AR integrated programs will continue to be sustained within DuoLingo's product ecosystem.

3. Spread: Within the corporate function, if competitors of DuoLingo see successful results from DuoLingo's AR integrated curriculums, they will naturally attempt to adopt this new approach.

4. Shift: In this context, the concept of integrating AR for a more immersive learning experience is not an innovation with centralized ownership. The resources and tools are readily available to build such programs, the essence lies upon how they're pieced together in an effective way. This makes all players in the field "adopters".

5. Evolution: since all players within the edtech field are involved as adopters, they have a lot of freedom to innovate and customize their approaches with no pre-existing defined structures.

AR technology is compatible with most smart phones, so as for scaling purposes, it is highly adoptable with current DuoLingo's products.

5.4 How Information Flows Between Stakeholders

The bulk of the materials that will be developed for the "cultural context" program would derive from the user-generated content. The system will adopt both Horizontal and Diagonal Communication Flows. Horizontal communication involves the exchange of information across departments at the same level in an organization (i.e., peer-to-peer communication); while Diagonal communication is cross-functional communication between employees at different levels of the organization.

5.5 Stakeholder Feedback

Interviewed Stakeholder in similar context: Education Program Manager at Facebook (HGSE TIE alum 2013).

The general feedback revolved around how AR technology is suitable for the intended audience, what the usage is for, as well as the value proposition of the program. Overall, the proposed program would require multiple rounds of iteration and testing in order to measure the effectiveness and adoptability of its function.