Tag Archives: social

Interview with busuu Languages Education Director, Oula Akiki

I recently had an interview with a Oula Akiki, Education Director at a busuu, a company that offers an array of digital language learning curricula and applications.




Here are some questions and her answers.

How did you get started in the language learning field?

I majored in modern languages, linguistics and translation at university. I’ve always been interested in languages. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t learning a second or third language. I went to the same business school as Bernhard amp; Adrian the busuu co-founders. I met them at an event and we immediately shared a common interest in languages. They were talking about their ideas for busuu, and I was immediately interested in the product. From my interest in linguistics, I wanted to move away from the traditional way of doing things and become more involved in product innovation. I joined busuu in January 2011 after graduating from business school in Madrid. I moved with the company from Madrid to London a year ago.

How did busuu start?

Bernhard Niesner and Adrian Hilti founded busuu in Madrid, where it was an official UNESCO International Year of Languages project in 2008. The company is named after the endangered Busuu language of Cameroon. According to an ethnological study from the 1980’s, Busuu is spoken by only 8 people. We went to Cameroon to track down those 8 people and made a video about our experience here!

Language learning technology is a saturated field. What makes busuu unique? How does it compare to other offerings in the market like Rosetta Stone, Livemocha, Duolingo…?

We create a good learning experience where we are trying to offer everything you need to complete your learning. We combine the content with a cross-platform solution so you can learn on mobile or on the web – the program is flexible to your needs. We complement that with our unique community -  it’s a friendly, helpful community where you can speak to native lanugage speakers. So you can learn anywhere on any device. You can practice with the commmunity who bring the conversational element that is so important when learning language. Language is about interacting with others and learning about other cultures is a part of that.  Learning the language is one thing, putting it into practice is another. We offer one solution that is practical, adaptable and fun to use. busuu has a gamified environment that makes the learning fun and engaging. It has nothing to do with your language book or your language class. The people in the community are more relevant as they live in the country whose language your learning. It’s an opportunity to learn and engage in a way you’d never learn with a book.

What’s the busuu approach?

We teach you relevant vocabulary, that you need in every day life. We break down the course content into smaller contexts that are easier to assimilate when you’re learning language. Then, put it into sentences. You’re going to find that conversation to be useful in every day life. We take useful vocabulary and useful conversation modes that are bundled into topics based on your needs and the situations when you need to use them.

Learning a language is a rewarding yet arduous process. What is your advice for those learning a language now or considering it?

It can be challenging, like anything new that you learn, but having regular conversations with people makes it more fun and less stressful. We’ve built a useful process to learn and remember language as well as to practice it. You have the cultural exchange happening as well. Even if you are in the early stages, you can still practice by talking to native speakers. People find out that they know more than they think they do, and that then inspires their confidence to continue learning. Keep practicing your language exercises. Like any exercise, a bit of training here and a bit of training there is still very helpful.

Is there anything you can reveal to us about the future of busuu?

Stay tuned, we have some exciting things coming in early 2014.

What about language learning and acquisition in general?

People are learning on different devices, and we find language learning is suited to a multi-device lifestyle.  We base our content creation on user behaviour and what we know is more important to them. People learning want stats, dashboard. It’s more personalized and need-driven. In general, it’s more intelligent and data-driven. What we learn from learning habits and how people interact wtih content, so we can refine and make it better.

Rosetta Stone, for instance, backs the Endangered Languages project, is busuu involved in any causes our readers should know about and get involved with?

Given we are named after an endangered language, we do support this issue as a company. We run an annual program called Learn2Help, to help educate children in Cameroon with the ultimate goal of building a classroom to support a local school. In December, the 35 million strong busuu community will help others to learn through its own language learning. As busuu users achieve completed lessons, the company will contribute to the Cameroon Association for the Protection and Education of the Child (CAPEC) to buy school supplies and furniture. With enough language learning activity on the website and on busuu’s mobile apps, busuu will reach our ultimate goal  of building an entire classroom for children in Cameroon.

Cite this article:
Silva E (2013-12-13 15:51:43). Interview with busuu Languages Education Director, Oula Akiki. Enzo Silva blog. Retrieved: Apr 19, 2014, from http://enzosilva.com/blog/2013/12/13/interview-with-busuu-languages-education-director-oula-akiki/

Reusable and Shareable Learning Objects

When we normally think of reusable learning objects we think of reusing them in other traditional learning settings, be it a chapter of a student manual or a video used in a different e-learning course (yes, e-learning is traditional, isn’t it?).
When we think of modular, reusable learning objects we have to think of them as not just reusable in a traditional sense, but imagine them as shareable learning objects. Media elements to be spread in different social media sites by us (designers/developers) and learners themselves. For instance, when creating a job aid about a process or concept, make it attractive, publish it on different social media sites like Pinterest (the new fad now) so others can also share it. Or perhaps you design a video that can not only be used in a course, but also shared via YouTube. Those are simple examples, but we have to think of learning as a continuum, not just self-contained experiences.
Don’t just design self-contained experiences, design pieces of a whole that can also function separately. Pieces that can be reused, shared in different social networks.
Don’t just design learning media, design potentially social media.

Social Networks Around the World – Trends in Social Media

This map published on TechCrunch recently just makes me wonder if we are doing the right thing when using social networking to reach our customers, learners, partners.

It seems to me most of our “campaigns” in social media tend to focus on Twitter, Facebook and social networks that are popular here in the U.S. With an increasingly global audience, should we start to reconsider where and how we offer our content out there?

Map of Social Networks in the Worlds

Map of Social Networks in the Worlds

GlobalWebIndex.net’s Survey:

View more presentations from Tom Smith.

A visual representation of how Internet users actually use the social media can be found here.

Watch Le Web Live December 10 2009

About Le Web:

“The real time web is taking the world by storm! Twitter has grown exponentially in one year with an extremely simple service that does only one thing: keep you in touch with what your friends are doing, in real time. Facebook entirely redesigned its most important assets, its home page and opened its feed to third parties. Given the growth of the Twitter and Facebook ecosystems with thousands of applications and new uses, startups as well all major players are adapting their services to compete in this environment. There was the static web, the social web and now here comes a new web: the real-time web.”

Broadcasting Live with Ustream.TV

Social Media Revolution – Evolution

Let’s think about the impact these emerging technologies can have on Education, on learning, on other fields (not just marketing)… not sure “revolution” is the term, but definitely an “evolution” of the way people communicate. Technology is more than ever shortening distances, including the distance between learners and content, subject matter experts AND, maybe more importantly: other learners, creating best practice communities in a matter of clicks…

Ma.gnolia and The Backup Lesson

Social bookmarking site and community Ma.gnolia‘s recent backup crisis serves as a sour reminder of the importance of backing up data being it one’s local computer’s documents or website databases.
Backup resources are now cheaper than ever (it is possible to get terabytes of storage on external hat drives for less than $200) and more mobile (with the recent wave of online backup services like iBackup,  iDrive, Mozy, CarboniteDropbox, and these are just a few) …

Having lost my hard drives in the past (not a pleasant experience) I now see no excuse not to have a backup plan and maybe a backup pan B for your precious data…

Ma.Gnolia’s situation got so bad that they even started to recommend other social bookmarking services (Diigo):

If you’re looking for a place to start a new collection, I think Diigo is a good option to check out for its groups, cross-service posting features and attentive staff.


Learner vs Participant

The term learner bears a sense of a passive individual that is merely a receptacle for Instruction and information. In light of this assumption, one would presume that another word or another view of the “learning as a process” to take place. Most everyone has some to contribute to this process and, aside from situations in which individuals need instruction for imediate information, for more long-term knowledge retention learning needs to be views not only as a process but as a participatory process. Even if an individual will go through “instruction” alone, ideally, the learning process starts then and continues as this individual partakes in conversations, formal and informal situations in which that knowledge is applied, learners new nuances to that information from others, funds new applications for that information as s/he collaborated with other “learners” (please read all you can about Constructivist epistemology and some applied theories such as social learning).
Therfore, if learning is an ongoing participatory process, maybe those in the field of Education should see the learners as “participants” in learning constantly together. Not that this is a call for a different word, bit for the view that consructivists have had for a while and that now social media makes it easier to achieve by creating participatory environments.

Facebook is the Fastest-Growing Social Network

Very interesting post on TechCrunch based on Comscore data that show the growth rate of Facebook and other social networks. Facebook being the winner in this race.

What about Learning? If we want to reach learners where they are we need to, of course, know where they are and also start developing to these platforms.  Real learning in social media goes beyond delivering learning content on Facebook, it is about promoting user-generated content and sharing. Interaction amongst learners is a key factor in how learning takes place and these social networks offer great tools to mediate this interaction and make it easy. Netgeners or “Millenials” grow used to this type of technology (although I think the research on Millenials is debatable because I think the characteristics attributed have to do more with attitude and opportunity of exposure to technology than a matter of age and the year an individual is born) I do think we need to consider a shift in eLearning based on the new expectations people have regarding receiving, processing, creating and sharing content. Social networks offer a great insight into how people expect to interact with one another, providing a great approach to Constructivist learning…


Metcalf’s Law and Semantic Web?

Interesting post trying to adapt Metcalf’s Law to the Semantic Web context. They are looking for feedback.


Social Games Even on Consoles – Learning Opportunities?

I’ve realized that I add questions as titles to my posts very often. Maybe because I am not sure exactly what I am saying is like what everyone else is saying, perhaps because I want this blog to be more of a dialog. A social interaction…

This is what has occurred to me lately: game developers want their gaming experiences to be social ones. More and more you see game website like MiniClip, one of my favorites, creating social networks around their already fun products. 

What does adding social networking features around games offer? Well, first of all, it is my belief and some of my findings that the Net Generation (yes I have been reading a lot about this subject lately) … well, the Net Generation is a generation that enjoys social interaction, doing things in groups. So, adding features that let them network with friends and play with people they know allows them to “share the joy” of playing the game, challenging their friends. Yahoo, for instance, has been offering online multiplayer games for a long time on their games pages (I love the pool game, by the way). The difference here is that many developers are improving the networking capabilities, allowing the players to, for example, have customized avatars, email friends, challenge friends to certain games, share those games on Facebook, embed them on blogs, etc., all from the main website once they log in.

Something intriguing is that  having “amazing” graphics doesn’t really matter that much because players enjoy the games and the social interaction. It is an era in which people value more the social the the actual “lone wolf” immersion of the first generations Playstation games.

The interesting thing is that this idea of social gaming is spreading to game consoles too. The Nintendo Wii is a great example of that. Players can add their friends’ Wiis to their and actual email addresses to their address books and message them from the Wii console itself (no need for a CD or anything, this is built into the Console itself). Users can share their Wii numbers and Miis (Wii avatars) with people they know and play games together. They can also share their Wii information with people they don’t know through an unnofficial website called ShareMiis (this exemplifies how much people want to connect with one another). Players can also play “guessing” the most popular answers to polls on the “Everyone Votes” channel (players can also submit their own ideas for questions to be asked on a regional or world level).

Why am I going on and on about social games? Because this trend has to tell us something about learning also. Knowing how people want to interact should also tell us a lot about how people want to learn. In the end, learning is a game (with scores, motivation, outcomes, rules, and all those items Marc Prensky always mentions as defining a game), the difference is how fun and motivating we want to make that game. 

People want to socialize, they want to interact. That is how learning should be. We (educators, instructional designers) have a lot to learn from the gaming industry… a lot to learn.


from TechCrunch:

“Social games are not just multiplayer games. In social games, existing social relationships add context and motivation to the gameplay. Social games are more fun to play with people you know than with anonymous strangers. Examples of social games include Friends for Sale*, where you had better buy your girlfriend back from that guy who has been hitting on her at the gym,(fluff) Friends, where if your BFF feeds your pet, you are compelled to reciprocate, and Power Challenge, where you can’t let your team’s loss to your fraternity brother’s team go unavenged.

Even single player games can become social when the right infrastructure for community and social interaction are built around them, including high score leaderboards, achievement badges, challenges and simple message boards, as KongregateAddicting GamesMiniClip andMindJolt are demonstrating.”

Update: Come2Play released for white label casual gaming networks.

%d bloggers like this: