Understanding Duolingo Discussion Boards as Social-Emotional Support During the COVID-19 Pandemic 

Tom Neuschafer, Foreign Languages, Jersey Shore Area School District


Language learning programs had been affected by declining school budgets and state support well before COVID-19, but the pandemic exacerbated the already declining learning outcomes of students. Duolingo, a free language-learning app, provides a platform for users to learn language skills using activities and exercises for over 38 languages. Duolingo users are not limited to language-related topics and can often venture into topics that explore these socio-emotional spaces. This study examined how Duolingo discussion board users have been affected by factors related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This study used a netnography methodology within a qualitative study design to examine how the COVID-19 pandemic might be associated with perceptions about foreign language learning on Duolingo. The sample size of the current study was 20 discussion boards out of a total of 3,464 across a sample of 38 language courses available on the Duolingo platform. Examining Duolingo’s asynchronous discussion boards, findings presented three themes among users, including community, generosity, and gratitude, as well as information-seeking about COVID-19-related vocabulary and phrases. The pandemic has affected language learners’ emotional conditions, which motivates further research to examine ways in which learners can share their experiences, vent about their difficulties, and build community connections in a safe, virtual setting. 

Keywords: Online language learning, COVID-19, discussion boards, user experiences 

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