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Pearson partners with Duolingo

Education publishing giant Pearson has announced it is partnering with leading mobile language app Duolingo to develop mobile language learning content for students in higher education.

Eric Stano, vice president portfolio management with Luis von Ahn, CEO of Duolingo. Photo: Pearson.

Duolingo is used in 300,000 classrooms around the world

The partnership will see the launch of new language learning materials designed specifically to complement Pearsons’s existing class curricula.

Available in four languages – Spanish (elementary and intermediate), French, German and Italian – the content will work alongside Pearson textbooks but in the bitesized, gamified, mobile style of Duolingo.

“We hope this partnership will set a new standard for the future of higher education”

The product will launch in autumn this year, and 125,000 access codes are to be distributed among students in the US and Canada.

This partnership will help to enable Pearson to become increasingly present on mobile, and enhance engagement with students, according to Eric Stano, vice president portfolio management at Pearson.

“It engages them in the out ­of­ class practice that is necessary to efficiently acquire that language,” he said in a video alongside Duolingo’s CEO, Luis von Ahn. “And also it helps us make that pivot towards a next generation step.”

While having a long history in the field of higher education language learning, “it’s clear that there are things we need to do newly and differently and in a more engaging fashion that will appeal to students, millennials, as well as more advanced learners,” Stano continued.

Despite already reaching 200 million users, Duolingo said this partnership expands its reach, particularly at the university level.

“By combining the curriculum expertise of Pearson with Duolingo’s gamified teaching methods, we hope this partnership will set a new standard for the future of higher education,” a spokesperson told The PIE News.

Luis von Ahn, co-founder and CEO of Duolingo, said that there is also a gap in the app’s language teaching that this partnership with Pearson could fill.

“We have a really good way of getting people engaged in practicing the language, but our app does not teach you a lot of the theory for the language,” he said.

“We also don’t spend a lot of effort teaching you about the different cultures, etc. And I think the different offerings that Pearson has do that and they do that very well.”

In addition to being used by millions of on-the-go language learners, Duolingo is also used in 300,000 classrooms around the world and recently rolled out an English language proficiency exam adopted by a growing number of higher education institutions.

“Part of our mission is to be teaching languages to everybody, and a significant fraction of people learning a language are doing so inside of schools,” said von Ahn.

Duolingo has also recently announced an additional injection of funds totaling $25m.

“We have a really good way of getting people engaged in practicing the language”

Alongside the deal, Pearson has also announced the sale of its Global Education division, which offers English language training and test preparation to Chinese students.

At the start of 2017, the company said it had intentions to sell off this division and this month it unveiled the deal with China-based private education company Puxin Education for a sale expected to generate $80m.

This move came as part of Pearson’s plans to shift away from “large-scale direct delivery services” towards more “scalable online, virtual, and blended services”.

The shift in focus follows the company’s substantial losses totaling £2.6bn in its financial statements in February. This record loss was attributed to the impact of digital learning on US textbook sales.

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