The Most Popular e-Learning in the World, But Is It Effective?


Like most people who do creative work, e-learning developers can have a hard time enjoying an experience in their field of expertise. When I retired from my 30-year music career, it took 10 years for me to learn to enjoy a concert without analyzing it. The analytical mind is always at work.

Working with tech experts and e-learning pros, I am always evaluating what I see to learn why it does or doesn’t work. But now and then I come across a learning experience that comes very close to turning off my inner critic.

The language learning app Duolingo meets that standard. This language learning environment appears to be an example of how to keep learners engaged. After four months of (almost) daily Spanish micro-learning, I am just as involved as on the first day.

Duolingo Design

Gamification elements in the app are nothing out of the ordinary, but they are designed well and integrated into the experience. Combining that with the personalized daily reminders (You’re on a 39-day Spanish streak!), it has a healthy mix of endorphin-inducing elements.

When Duolingo introduces a word, the user sees a photo or simple cartoon graphic of the object or action. As the learner progresses, those hints gradually disappear. Graphics are in context, and there are no gratuitous distractions.

In most cases, using audio and redundant text can hurt learning.Language learning appears to be an exception. It helps to see a sentence and hear it pronounced. Later in the lesson, the user must pronounce the sentence with audio cues only or type what the audio says without the assistance of text. Sometimes the male speaker is hard to understand.

Even when we are conversing with a computer voice, we unconsciously respond to social conventions. After some time listening to same speakers, I found myself responding to the visual image of personas I had created in my mind. That is not a mystery. Such social connections with computers have been shown to improve learning.

That’s my Level 1 evaluation. The app gets a nice smiley sheet. The question is whether it makes users proficient in the language. Am I wasting my time?

Is Duolingo Effective?

According to the company’s own effectiveness study, learners need 29 to 46 hours of study to achieve the proficiency level of a novice who has completed one semester of college study.[3] The short answer for me is that it requires about the same amount of time as a college course but none of the cost. One the other hand, have you ever met anyone who is fluent after four semesters of college work?

My conclusion is that Duolingo can improve your language skills, but to become fluent in your language of choice, it will take much more than the app can deliver. The company’s study shows that students who study language for travel or business do better than casual learners. Perhaps it can be a good starting point.


1. Clark, Ruth. "Six Principles of Effective e-Learning: What Works and Why by Ruth Clark." Learning Solutions Magazine. September 10, 2002

2. Clark.

3. Vesselinov, Roumen, PhD and John Grego, Duolingo Effectiveness Study Final Report. December 2012.

5 Rapid e-Learning Best Practices


We have all heard of e-learning and the many advantages that can be derived from it. But not a lot of us have heard of rapid learning. This new improved version of e-learning combines its best features with those of a crash course. Basically if you find yourself in a position where you want to learn but do not have a lot of time to spare then you can opt for any of the rapid e-learning courses.

  • Work with an SME Since the life span of a rapid course is considerably shorter than that of other courses special care should be taken to make the most of every moment. An SME (Subject Matter Expert) will of great help in picking out the courses that will be a welcome addition to your existing courses. They are familiar with all of the courses available through e-learning and so you can rely on them to pick out ones that you need most.
  • Improve efficiency If you want to take course planning to the next level and fine tune it then it would be advisable to get an instructional designer. They know how to organize and arrange all of the courses previously picked out by the SME. They find a perfect fit for each of them in your schedule so much so that you have enough time to study and learn. Their specialty lies in being able to improve your job efficiency while at the same time helping you retain as much as you can of what you learn.
  • Learn as you go The best way to invoke rapid e-learning is by creating a plan and following it through. In this case it would be a storyboard. These let you keep track of any content that comes online and also helps you create simplified content for better understanding. Any additional queries you may have about this technique can be brought up on the blogs and will be addressed right away.
  • Use all resources available Rapid e-learning courses offer a variety of online resources that are available to you at all times. You are free to choose between templates and colors and characters as much as you can. The purpose is to allow customization. Not only will your courses look professional but also you will be able to tailor it to your specific needs.
  • Be creative These techniques are not at all like any other. They use the latest technology to create a superior interaction channel for all of their students. No matter what the course subject is and what type of scenario the course is playing out you can be sure that there will be plenty of in depth engagement of participants.

Rapid e-learning courses take the shortest amount of time to set up and also don’t cost much. If the project in question is small and needs more attention to detail then this is definitely a good way to go about it.

Bridge the Skills Gap with e-Learning


Demand for skilled workers will be at least 20% more than the available workforce by 2030, according to BCG’s Rainer Strack, and the increased demand for even higher skills will exacerbate the problem.

The skills gap is real, and it is going to get worse.

Fifty years ago, we heard philosopher Eric Hoffer predict displacement of low-skilled workers as automation replaced people. His predictions have come true. While technology has created many more jobs than it eliminated, the new jobs require higher skills.

When the United States public school system was founded over 100 years ago, its purpose was to prepare workers for the American industrial machine. The process worked very well for a very long time. But it hasn’t kept pace with technology growth.

Even worse, education is declining. While it is harder for high school graduates to find work, fewer graduates are prepared for college. And a 2013 study by staffing firm Adecco found that 66% of hiring managers don’t believe college prepares graduates for the workplace.

In misguided attempts to focus on the basics, schools did away with programs that teach the reasoning skills that make good workers. Music and art have a profound effect on brain development. They teach students to think. Music teaches students to recognize complex patterns in real time, and now-defunct drafting and shop classes taught tactile learners how to plan and execute projects.

In our opinion, Government is not the answer. In the United States, fifty years of profligate spending on grants and student loan guarantees made higher education more available but much more expensive. The result is an entire generation saddled with enormous student loan debt which are not well prepared for future work.

Many businesses are aggravating the problem. Instead of growing talent, they are poaching it, relying on recruiting talent rather than developing it – or they are outsourcing to remote foreign workers – a stopgap measure.

Skilled foreign workers are helping to bridge the gap for now, but their home countries are facing problems. India is struggling to provide higher education to meet the demand, and many students are opting to study in the United States. China is facing skills gap, even with its vast workforce, and Mexico is beginning to experience the same pinch.

Leading companies are taking action. Spending on learning management systems is expected to grow at 25% yearly rate over the next few years, and these new systems are delivering new ways of learning.

E-learning is quickly replacing traditional methods of training. It is more effective, less costly, and gives quicker results.

  • e-learning improves retention by 25-60%.
  • Companies who use it can boost productivity by 50%.
  • Companies who offer best practice e-learning and on-the-job training generate around 26% more revenue per employee.
  • Self-directed instruction has a 60% faster learning curve than instructor-led training.

(“Top LMS Statistics and Facts For 2015.” e-learning Industry, May 26, 2015 (Retrieved November 25, 2015).

The growth of e-learning and social learning is leading to a revolution in how people gain skills and knowledge. The internet has become a vast learning machine, and people are taking advantage of it. They are using and sharing learning resources at an ever-increasing rate, and forward-thinking companies are using advanced LMS capabilities to curate the resources to make them available to everyone who needs them.

Even tiny startups can take part in the e-learning revolution. The cost of learning management systems starts at zero. For example, WordPress, the most popular website platform in the world, is free, and the LearnPress LMS plugin is also free. It requires minimal skill to operate and support is widely available. While it may not be robust enough for a medium to large enterprise, it can get you started.

There are other ways employers might bridge the skills gap with e-learning:

  • Hire attitude, not skills. People who are lifelong learners will outpace the traditionally educated who are not so motivated. Give them a chance to learn.
  • Make curated content available to the public. How delightful would it be to interview a job candidate who has completed your skills training program? Many people would love to gain technical skills, but they can’t put their families and mortgages aside to go to a technical college.
  • Partner with local colleges to offer apprenticeships and internships with class credit for your learning content.

If you need skilled workers, non-traditional learners may be your path to the future.

Engage your learners by going the extra mile in E-learning


Determined minds make a difference.Christina McMenemy, being a regular customer of Gaylord Opryland, was entranced by an alarm clock that played light music (a kind that gave a spa experience) in her room during her stays at the hotel.

She really loved the music but missed it so much at home that she was unable to sleep. She began to search for the same clock but in vain. She asked Opryland on Twitter where she could find it. She was disappointed to learn it was not for public sale.

The next  time she visited Opryland, she was surprised to find an extra alarm clock in her room with a note saying, “We hope you enjoy the spa sounds at home.”

This is one of the finest examples of how companies go on extra mile for their customers when they are determined to find a way to connect with them.Just as the empathy shown and the efforts made, met the need of the customer, empathizing with your learners and working towards meeting their real learning needs while building courses help learners overcome the gaps and improve performance.

You just need the determination to solve the real problem and time to map the most effective instructional strategy.

Visualize your Ideal learners and know their real challenges

Do not just transform the content into a series of interactions, but think about the impact, each element has on the learner.

Empathize with your learners. To do this mentally, walk in your learner’s moccasins. Rather than seeing your learners as a group of people, put yourself in the mindset of a single learner and what that learner experiences.

Some of the things you can do to improve your e-learning courses are-

  • Your learners care about design, so pick up a relevant design theme.
  • Categorise your course content into short bites. Let each focus on one learning objective with self assessment activity.
  • Include gamification, build a relevant story around the study area, create goals and motivate learners with rewards.
  • Plan branching scenarios that put learners in a real situation and help them understand how things actually work
  • Include a repository of valuable learning resources to reinforce their learning process

Going an Extra Mile is Simple

Going the extra mile is not as hard as you think but just a few things away. Set some time, be patient until you get all the details of your project, get serious in work and review to make things better.

This may be one of your best practices but now you might have withdrawn from it, because of hectic schedules. You can resume. To those who are new, the first time, it might be hard and long, but the next time you can fly.

And if we do go the extra mile in creating custom training that meets the learners needs, we can build high-performing workplaces.

Pixentia is a full-service technology company dedicated to helping clients solve business problems, improve the capability of their people, and achieve better results.

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