Mobile learning (mLearning) is the learning activity that provides learners with a flexible learning format, which means they can decide when and where to learn via portable digital devices (Wexler et al., 2008; Ally, 2009). mLearning is to free learners from the limitation of traditional learning settings. It creates a customized learning environment, which enables learners to learn actively instead of passively accepting.

Using CSAM strategies to design and evaluate effective mLearning guidance, we should pay attention to three aspects from Kuler’s (2009) Mobile Education Rational Analysis (FRAME) model: characteristics of learner’ audience, interaction types, and features of mobile devices.

Critical Analysis of a Mobile Learning App Duolingo (Student Version)

Duolingo is a language-learning platform. It provides users with Android and the iOS version and provides a website with extra functions for network users. I will use the CSAM Framework (Power, 2013) to analyze its free French courses in the iOS version.

To get started: 

When I first opened the Duolingo Application on the Welcome page, it asked me to choose the language I wanted to learn. After I decided to learn French, it shows me how many words and sentences are there for me to explore. Then I need to choose why I wanted to learn French (my goal) and which way of learning (how many minutes per day). Finally, there is a pre-test to let them know my French level. If you have never studied it before, they will skip the exam.

Generally speaking, they have several parts for a learner to explore: practice, story, personal profile, and leadership board. Each section has a learning activity that you can attend. The learning process and activities mainly include listening, listening, repeating, finishing a sentence, and translating or arranging sentences correctly. If your answer is incorrect, you will lose one heart. Conversely, if you do well, there will be a bonus. This feature makes learning look like playing a game.

CSAM Framework:

Collaborative: for the collaborative aspect, learners are actively interacting with the learning content (the targeted learning language) and peers. During the process of learning, when you make a mistake, you will give immediate feedback. The learner can find more information in the hints they provide. Besides, in the last part of the study, more exercises will be provided, which you have trouble understanding the first time. In the profile section, you can invite friends from other social media or add other Duolingo users as friends, and then you can study together.

Situated: the situated aspect is well adapted to users’ learning preferences and learning goals on the welcome page. As I chose to learn French for the job opportunity, they will have learning topics about an interview, working, and communication. Some themes are classified into common daily issues to connect students’ knowledge with their daily activities quickly.

Active: the active aspect is supported in various ways to learn. Learners can learn some short conversations or narrative stories in the story section. Each practice has audio and subtitles, which learners can read while listening. The learner is invited to take part in the dialogue. For example, with the story’s development, some questions will be posted for learners to answer. These questions are relating to the learning content that matches the user’s goal and interests.

Mobile: for the mobile aspect, Duolingo allows learners to learn anywhere and anytime. They can learn the language elastically, instead of attending class according to a fixed schedule. They can study at their own pace and earn points to unlock achievements. Consequently, this design increases the learner’s participation. It is also easy for learners to obtain learning opportunities. The notification setting will remind learners to learn and help them achieve their goals continuously.

To sum up, Duolingo is a well-designed language learning application. They help learners learn a language scientifically and engagingly. Also, the learner can learn not only through the application but also from websites. They have more functions on websites like podcasting and forum. They also have Duolingo for school for teachers. Teachers can create their courses on the application and send them to students. This technology help teachers extend their class and enhance students learning experience.

Have you ever used Duolingo (student version or teacher version) or other language-learning platforms? What’s your experience?



Ally, M. (2009). Mobile learning. Canada’s first open access scholarly press | Athabasca University Press.

Koole, M. L., (2009). A model for framing mobile learning. In M. Ally (Ed.), Mobile learning: Transforming the delivery of education and training, 25-­‐47. Edmonton, AB: AU Press. Retrieved from

Power, R. (2013). Collaborative Situated Active Mobile (CSAM) learning strategies: a new perspective on effective mobile learning. Learning and Teaching in Higher Education: Gulf Perspectives, 10(2). https://

Wexler, S., Brown, J., Metcalf, D., Rogers, D. & Wagner, E. (2008). Mobile learning: what it is, why it matters, and how to incorporate it into your learning strategy. Available from: (Subscription required).