Duolingo Staff -- Missed Opportunity
Let’s face it, most clubs were not wonderful. But a few clubs were great. Why the difference?
Duolingo Clubs had certain challenges:
- Beginners and even experienced speakers feel intimidated when trying to make a post. Many club members never even made any posts at all.
- Some groups were dominated by people having discussions unrelated to language learning or cultural growth.
- Most clubs were language growth stagnant. Often groups had zero entries in a week. Even people who wanted to participate were locked into arbitrary 50 member groups of non-participants.
So, on the surface it appeared to make sense for Duolingo to move on to something else…
In fact, Duolingo missed a tremendous opportunity –
• With a massive customer base, Duolingo could have done something no other language community has the customer base to do. They just had to see it. Instead events got in the way and groups were perceived as a management liability. • Duolingo took some steps to resolve the issues, but they fell short.
So how can groups be turned into a positive experience?
• The concept of administrators was a good one. In fact, I did not happen into a good group by accident. I saw the potential and joined and quit well over a hundred groups until I found one that was being actively managed in a way that I thought made sense. My first clue was the participation. People were actually typing in Japanese. Experienced members where helping less experienced members in a very positive way and encouraging them despite mistakes. In fact, the fear experienced in a group as an anonymous member is not likely to exceed what would be felt speaking in person to a native in speaker. This should not be understated, and it makes a great case for having groups.
• Then the Administrator would tell everyone that he was going to eject people from the group if they did not make a post. It was a little hard and a lot good at the same time! But I don’t think that was necessary for an administrator to do. That is something that should have been understood when coming into the group. The software should have done it automatically. Fairness wouldn’t even be a consideration.
• Administrators can benefit groups most by being supportive, and by finding imaginative and encouraging ways to keep things going. Of course, they need to keep an eye out for inappropriate or disruptive comments and take appropriate steps.
• Being a member of a group should be a privilege, and you should continually earn it. The true reward is the interaction and opportunity to share learning with others. So, a rule of participation in a couple weeks or a month doesn’t seem to be too much of a burden. And maybe, it shouldn’t be so easy to get into a group. Maybe you earn it. You could even have rewards for participation. There are so many things that could make groups flourish. I just hope that Duolingo sees it. How can they not? After all they created the most interactive language site in the world!
”こんにちは” to all you "Clubies" out there!