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https://www.duolingo.com/profile/LeeStMartin

The Current State of Duolingo for Schools (Jan. 2020)

I am currently an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) in Japan teaching ESL. I've been looking into incorporating Duolingo for Schools into (and even more so outside of) my classrooms but have run into several issues during my Alpha testing (tests I've done on my own). I want to try this system out with an additional Beta test with one of my smaller classes before adopting use for my entire school. I've perused the forum (which has a litany of issues on its own) and most of the things I've found are months if not years old.

I'm curious what other users have to say about the current state of "Duolingo for Schools"?

Here is a summary of initial problems I've run into:

Note: These "tests" were done for the "Learn English for Speakers of Japanese" experience

  1. The experience is not consistent across various devices -
  2. Assignments are not available in the App version of Duolingo (Both iOS and Android)
  3. Assignments are not available in Android Mobile browsers, "desktop site" is required to see assignments (Both Chrome and Firefox confirmed via my Google Pixel 2)
  4. Assignments ARE available through Safari on an iPad
  5. The heart system is not present in the browser (Safari, Chrome, Firefox) and Android App versions
  6. The heart system IS present in the iOS App version (And the heart system is TERRIBLE.)
  7. Edit: Another MAJOR issue I've just run into, is that Duolingo remembers the previous user on iOS even if the user specifically signs out. If I have students who need to use school provided devices and share them with other classes, there's potential for students to access other students information / change passwords / etc. That's a pretty significant security issue with regards to sharing devices in the classroom and is another significant deterrent for adopting Duolingo into the classroom.

Solutions: Make assignments visible in the App versions and get rid of the heart system in the iOS version.

Assignments in the App have been requested for a long time, and the heart system has been criticized for just as long, if not longer. I should be able to give ALL of my students, regardless of device, ONE set of instructions for absolute clarity. I don't want to make them have to download a browser onto their phone or make them check a separate website so that they can see all of the information.

  1. Assignments are still broken / buggy -
  2. "Level Up A Skill" assignments punish students who work ahead / review consistently. Lvl. 0 -> 1 is much less work than Lvl. 4 -> 5
  3. "Level Up A Skill" assignments cannot be completed by students who have maxed out (Turned Gold) that skill (not confirmed personally, but according to this forum post: https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/34178989/Assignment-missed-students-on-level-5-in-Intro-skill-won-t-show-as-being-completed )
  4. "Points" assignments are completed in reverse chronological order from when they were assigned / created, NOT based on which is due first. (A potential workaround is to specifically set the start / end dates, but students can't go back and finish assignments they missed without completing the current one first. This can lead to a bottle-neck that could seem overwhelming if a student gets behind. I understand that the point (no pun intended) is to get the assigned amount of points within the specific time-frame, but if a student is ill / etc. and gets behind, there should be options for them.)
  5. Only one "Points" assignment can be completed at once (TBH I don't really mind this, but if we wanted to set a long-term goal in addition to short-term goals they can't overlap)
  6. "Points" assignments lack flexibility in the goals that can be assigned

Solutions: Change "Level Up A Skill" to "Take X Lessons in A Skill" or "Reach X Level in A Skill" assignments and check the "Points" assignments for bugs.

I, personally, prefer the "Take X Lessons in A Skill" variant as it can be used for review too, even if students work ahead. "Points" assignments need to be looked at as the reverse chronology bug is breaking in its own right. More flexibility is required for "Points" assignments; there is currently not even an option for a 7 Day Challenge. Students should be able to select which "Points" assignment they want to work towards if multiple are available to them. The option to overlap certain "Points" assignments should also be available. I hesitate to mention it, but the option to mark a students assignment as "Complete" manually could potentially solve some of the issues above.

These are tests that I've done on my own, and I am still planning to do a Beta test with a real classroom and will post the issues that we run into after a few weeks of use. Even so, I don't know if I see this as being something I would introduce into all of my classes given its current state.

I will also submit this to the bug report page ( https://support.duolingo.com/hc/en-us/requests/new ) and to teachers@duolingo.com after a few days depending on the response to this post.

Again, I'm curious what other users have to say about the current state of "Duolingo for Schools"?

January 17, 2020

6 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MadameSensei

Thank you for your detailed post, LeeStMartin!

I would add that many of us are missing the "Weekly Update" e-mails that we find easier to read instead of scrolling through the names. Also, some of us are finding occasionally that students have completed assignments, but for some reason it is not showing up in the Classroom.

There is a bug in registering students in the classroom. Currently most students have to click on progress sharing and enter the code that way.

Finally, the feature that we all want to see is the ability to assign a Duolingo Story or a deck of Tinycards.

That being said, because I use Duolingo for Schools as a low-stakes "Show me that you are looking at the target language for five minutes outside of class time," I appreciate the platform.

Thanks for starting this thread!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/LeeStMartin

These are some great details to add in! Thank you!

I'm only aware of some of the limitations to this side of the platform because I've been doing all of my experimenting solo. IF I do decide to include Duolingo in my classrooms, I'm anticipating that it's going to be pretty low-stakes too.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Thomas.Heiss

Hi,

very interesting things you are writing about!

Honestly, I think you have already given yourself the answer, don't you?

How do you want to use a system with so many limitations?

Quote: I don't want to make them have to download a browser onto their phone or make them check a separate website so that they can see all of the information.

I had tried a friend's old Android V4.4 tablet.

The V3.106.5 Duolingo mobile app (last version which supports V4.4, newers require Android V5.x+) had a pretty bad (very small) font size for the tapping word banks which was barely readable.

If this has changed with the later Duolingo V3.4x app versions: Try it out.

Yes, first we installed Google Chrome V77+ to make use of the free typing (or voice dictation) and to be able to turn the "childish app-mode" OFF which obviously more directed to very young kids and not adult learners.

The website also should allow to rotate a mobile device into landscape mode which the mobile app does not (you have to use 3rd party app tools).

Maybe the website is a bit too small on a smaller 6 inch smartphone too? I have not tried this yet.
Tablets normally have 10".

Be aware: To fully use Duolingo you actually have to rely on the 3rd party www.Duome.eu/USERNAME and www.duome.eu/USERNAME/progress pages.

So only using the mobile app which does not give any of those informations to learners is not really advisable anyway.

Staff removed way too much useful stuff in 2018 and 2019 on their web UI (full desktop mode) either with the "crowns overlay web UI" or with the "words-based progress update" which is independent from the schools classroom sub domain for students.

Quote: The heart system is not present in the browser (Safari, Chrome, Firefox)

Yes, correct!

https://support.duolingo.com/hc/en-us/articles/115002887326-What-is-Health-

Be aware that the Duolingo web UI only works with up-to-date computer operating systems and installing Google Chrome (V77-78) or Mozilla Firefox (V68esr, V69-70) versions.

You are out of luck with older OSes and older browser versions.

Thread "No access to Home": https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/34183811

There currently is a poll (first ideas what to test) if the web UI is still compatible with the 1-2 very latest browser versions from Google or Firefox which were both rolled out in December 2019 and January 2010....a lot of people seem to have getting more and more problems like the empty page on Home/Learn or audio issues.

Quote: The heart system is not present on the Android App versions

Sorry, but this is (completely) wrong information since a longer time.

Since April 2019 staff has launched beta health tests on the Android mobile app as well (especially for new users).

This is the official announcement thread: https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/31849174

If YOU have not got health/gems on Android, you are a lucky user in the right A/B test group.
But do not make the wrong assumptions!
Other users will not have such luck and be launched health A/B experiments on!!

Quote: Solutions: Make assignments visible in the App versions

Well, it is up to staff to decide if they have free developer resources for this or not.

As this is not implemented right now, the usage for your teacher and student group is IMHO already clear:

Use a computer/Laptop with a hardware keyboard to install Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox browsers (or Microsoft Edge) on and use the https://schools.duolingo.com web portal (full desktop mode).

and get rid of the heart system in the iOS version.

If you ask me as a normal users (3 years of DL experience), this won't happen any time soon.

Staff (=admin with the blue circle around the avatar) has confirmed in another thread that health/buying gems will "keep the lights on".

So this actually generates INCOME like users who buy a "Duolingo Plus subscription".

So use the "health shield" on IOS (is it also available on the Android mobile app? Introduced in what version?) you need to have a Plus membership:

https://support.duolingo.com/hc/en-us/articles/360016054151-How-do-I-enable-the-Health-Hearts-Shield-

Quote: I should be able to give ALL of my students, regardless of device, ONE set of instructions for absolute clarity.

This is relatively easy.

Use the https://www.duolingo.com Home/Learn page (to access the tree, start new lessons) and https://schools.duolingo.com subdomain (accounts registered as students should be able to login there) to see assignments.

Tell them to use a computer/Laptop with any of the three web browsers in full desktop mode.

Inform them about the possibility how see their concrete lesson progress by using the unofficial www.duome.eu/USERNAME/progress page where they can also start new lessons from (+xx lessons missing is shown in red text).

It is up to your school to provide your class with the proper hardware (like Chromebooks, Windows or Linux Laptops, Tablets with a docking hardware keyboard, etc.).

Quote: Note: These "tests" were done for the "Learn English for Speakers of Japanese" experience
The experience is not consistent across various devices

What I do not understand to this point is, that you - as an ALT teacher - believe that someone can learn a language with tapping around on word banks?!?

Is this because of the lower age of your pupils?

Are they overwhelmed with (free) typing and having to construct their own sentences?

I am a native German speaker, but I do think that it is VERY important that someone learns to construct his/her own sentences, tests different "answer alternatives" as soon as possible; the sooner the better.

This is based on my 25+ English experience (not counting in primary and secondary schooly years) which 2nd language I practice (grammar, writing, verb tense stuff which is still difficult for more for more advanced tenses or when to use this past or the other past tense with keywords like since / for...., had had,...) etc. on a regular basis including reading technical (quite) advanced stuff and listening to native speakers.

And if I have some grammar and vocabulary problems with English here and there (this won't get better with having all grammar books resting on the shelf with the door closed), then Japanese pupils/students will probably have the same issues based on a very different language which has nothing in common like my German native language.
Don't they also need to practice all this stuff and not only with translating back onto Japanese and only reading in English??

I have gained 3+ years experience in learning my first Romance language on Duolingo and 2-3 other learning platform: Portuguese

You know, the first step for your pupils will be to read English.
This is what a Duolingo course will focus heavily on.

This means: Reading English on the left side, translating back into Japanese on the right side...or offering word banks to complete the first English words / sentences.

But IMHO it takes way too long that Duolingo allows mobile app users to make use of typing.
The www.duolingo.com web portal is more flexible with the "toggle keyboard" button; a user told me in another thread that the typing is back for the mobile app on crown level 3 (the A/B test for "toggle keyboard" and lower crown levels was somehow discontinued after an app update or stopped).

I have been heavily using Memrise as a spaced repetition software tool -- in PARALLEL to Duolingo - on a daily basis to practice RECALLING tests with classic web reviews so I can see if I actually know (and be able to correctly spell) the learned Portuguese words and sentences or not.

Do you have any plans to use it or a similar software in your school?

Have you tried AnkiSRS or SuperMemo?


The only reason for me would be having to rely on smaller mobile devices (and the Duolingo mobile app), if your school finds no way to properly offer 14.1" / 15.6" computer Laptops.

But as there are no family/school discounts for Plus in the Apple store or Google Play store (it is explained that this does not work for subscriptions), you are back with the "Health problem"...besides only tapping around on lower crowns.

Other suggestion

You may want to ask staff how your students/pupils can gain a sponsored "Plus member status" if they have to rely on the *"health shield" to workaround health; AFAIK you as a teacher benefit from it?

It will be IMHO ridiculous frustrating if someone gets penalized for making (typing) errors in trying to put his/her own sentences together in new lessons.
Honestly, I could not put up with this on my two Portuguese reverse trees (PT->EN CEFR, PT->DE classic) as I were not free anymore to test "alternative answers" and see which ones are still missing and need to be reported.

The fun really starts when you can freely experiment with grammar, constructing sentences on your own and test your knowledge against all those pesky verb tense stuff and if you can map them correctly depending on the required usage situation.

..(...)..

For me it somehow worked to use the tablet from my friend for limited time (to save my streak in the evening) on the Google Chrome (V77+) browser.

But a hardware (Laptop) keyboard which I am always using almost exclusively vs tablet on-screen keyboard (one finger method in portrait mode) this time was a very different experience for me.

It really makes not that much sense, at least to me.

How about you and your teacher team?

My 2cents

With best regards from Germany / Viele Grüße


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/LeeStMartin

Wow, thank you for the detailed reply!

Incorporating Duolingo into my classes would be a VERY low stakes addition. A way to encourage (and hopefully assign) them to practice English a few minutes every day, even if they don't have English class. Duolingo is not going to replace me, their JTE, or our lessons.

The "gamified" aspect of Duolingo is exactly the reason I like Duolingo as supplemental material for my students. It disguises learning in a fun way.

The point would be for my High School level students to be able to use their own devices in (and as I said before, more so outside of) the classroom. So using the school provided iPads (which is how I tested things on multiple devices) is not ideal. Even IF I were to use those school provided devices, I mentioned in an edit the security risk I'd discovered: Even if a student logs out of duolingo, the app remembers them which would allow another student to access their information. So there are issues with sharing school provided devices.

Your explanation about their being various beta groups with varying features is ANOTHER issue to add to my list then. Students should all be having a uniform experience, and potential for some of them to be using different versions of Duolingo is not really acceptable.

I know how to download the instructions to give to students so they can join a classroom. The issue is that I shouldn't have to make students download a separate browser / app and use workarounds to experience what should be available with a simple download of JUST the Duolingo app.

I would even accept (begrudgingly) hearts across ALL mobile experiences. I just want consistency (and full features.)

I'm sure I could keep going, but this reply is already getting pretty lengthy so I'll wrap it up here.

Thanks for your input, there was a lot of good information in there.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/OlivierDhe

Students are still hacking the system and do a whole skill in less than a minute. Anyone found a way to detect it?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MadameSensei

OlivierDhe, maybe have a follow-up short answer question to your students, using the vocabulary from the skill? I'm thinking that if your students were assigned the restaurant skill, you would have them turn in a paragraph describing their favorite food to order, why it is their favorite food, and how they would order it.

You don't even have to grade it, just check to see that students do it.

I also wonder why they are hacking the skill to begin with. The larger question: How to get them engaged?

My brain is fried from twenty million staff meetings today, so I will think more deeply about this tonight.

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