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High school (?) language students using Duolingo.

Dear Duo staff,

As you are well aware, there is a regular influx of students that use Duolingo. Unfortunately, they regularly pollute the discussions with garbage like:

  • yolo swag
  • ❤❤❤❤ french
  • this is stupid
  • I like cows
  • this is hard
  • so boring
  • wtf
  • my friend said that it was your face so i typed in it
  • etc...

If you're wondering "How do you know they're students?", it's pretty easy to deduce when they all join the same day, they all follow/friend one another, and they all send messages to one another about class and how things suck.

Would there be any way to have a "student section" or a "teacher section" in which the instructor signs the kids up, and they get a "student account", thereby limiting their ability to post in streams? If they're taking Duo in class, then why do they need the capability of asking questions in the discussion threads? Isn't that what their teacher is for? Perhaps after reaching a certain level (showing that the student is serious about Duo, and not just doing it because they have to), the "student account" can then be moved to a regular account so that they can keep all their points etc... but now have the ability to post in threads.

Just a selfish and grumpy thought to reduce the amount of garbage posts I have to see (and delete). Alternatively, if you want to look at it for a non-Hohenems-being-selfish-and-grumpy-point-of-view, the majority of the inane student posts are made in the introductory lessons. If a new, serious user joins Duo and the first discussion threads they see include the comments posted above (among others), they may be less inclined to stick around as their impression of the community would be a negative one.

September 24, 2013



In the meantime, can I kindly ask teachers to have a word with their students and monitor their activities? Simply sending your students to Duolingo without any regard for the mess they leave behind is not fair on those who have to clean it up.


I think that this problem -- and other abuses of the discussion forums -- could be alleviated by adding a "flag this post for moderator attention" button. Then a moderator gets emailed when enough people have reported the same post. This might have to be combined with a larger number of moderators, though; I get the feeling that the existing team is a little stretched.

I think that this would, in the longer term, reduce the amount of vandalism: at present, these threads can stay up for hours before getting deleted by a moderator, providing great entertainment for all involved in them, and encouraging them to repeat the exercise. If little Jimmy's YOLO thread gets nuked three minutes after he posts it, he probably won't bother trying it again.


Yes, I agree with you. Especially since it's not always a group of students making a random chat board. For example, recently a troll decided to post a couple really rude comments and topics in the Portuguese discussion section of the site, and despite getting multiple downvotes, no moderator has done anything about it. So it just sits there...looking really ugly and unpleasant. I'd rather have better tools to inform moderators as well as more of them rather than making these separate accounts specifically for students. (Especially since if I was a 15 year old, mischevious school-goer, I'd just chuckle and go and make a normal account that wouldn't have all these restrictions like not being able to post anything anywhere.) Anyway, it's probably a more pratical method to try and control what can be controlled (like more moderators, and better methods to inform them of something as I stated earlier) rather than try to control the chaotic variable that is young students/users.


It's really is sad how many people my age like to do that kind of thing. This is definitely something the Duo staff should take into consideration. It would be better for everybody without all of the trashy discussions.


I agree. I'm a high schooler, and I'd never do something like that. Though, I'm not sure if limiting who can sign up is the way to go on this. I'm thinking more along the lines of a "Report User" function(?) And then moderators could take the necessary actions to either delete the comment, or ban the user/email address completely.


The point isn't to limit who can sign up on their own, but rather whether classrooms of students being forced to use DL should be able to comment with the rest of us. For the record, I'm also a (homeschooled) high schooler.


I'm a middle school student and my class is not allowed to post anything. :)


@NatLaPlant24: Just to clarify: Not allowed by your teacher or not allowed by the system?


Not allowed by my teacher. We can still post things, but we get in lots of trouble if we do.


So is this your personal account then?


Please thank your teacher, and good for you for being interested enough to sign up with a personal account. :-)


This exchange just shows how putting restrictions on "student accounts" is just missing the point.

Duolingo is a public website and registration is free and open to anyone. A high school student that want to vandalize but can't make a discussion post because their account is a "student account" will simply create a personal account and you'll be in no better situation trying to clean their mess.

On the other hand, the honest students who actually wants to learn something, which from my experience is generally the majority, will be restricted for no good reason.

It is clear that Duo needs better moderation tools; and it is also clear that there is a shortage of moderators. What is not clear is how restricted student accounts could help with this situation. Better moderation tools, more moderators, and encouraging teachers to teach online ettiquetes helps everyone, while non-posting student accounts solves the wrong problem.


You can't do much about people who go out of their way to vandalise the site. However, I'd say that the vast majority of students would not create a separate account just to leave the odd "YOLO" comment. Student accounts are necessary anyway as most teachers would not feel comfortable letting their students interact with strangers.


I think this is a great suggestion.


Sounds like a great idea to me. I frequently seek enlightenment from the discussions, only to get hit with a tsunami of whining and other nonsense.


As a non moderator I agree as well ;D


Yep. Keep it a language discussion forum, not a chat room.


There is chat and then there is rubbish. Some of the comments are informative, funny, in languages other than English and add to my experience and learning on DL. Not all of the items in the discussion are directly related to the exercise, but not all of these need to be controlled or deleted. It's a bit of a balancing act IMO.


Yes. A school-friendly version should be designed, which could also allow teachers to easily track their students' progress. I think that this would be the best supplement to most introductory language supplements if designed properly, and could even be used prior to language courses, say in elementary school. Also, agreed with pont on the flag button. Very useful. But I'm not that concerned with the forum - I'm more concerned about teachers just sending their kids to this website and allowing them to do god knows what without accurately checking their progress and keeping tabs on their activities.


Here is an example of a "forced to be here" student that joined today, friended all his/her buddies, and polluted discussions. http://www.duolingo.com/soulpancake


I'd perhaps suggest that teachers should be able to create a group for their students and have a moderator-like privilege only for those in their own group. The requirements for getting this group moderator privilege should be lower than a general moderator.

Also I'd suggest allowing users to flag for mod attention; and also automatic deletion without mod interventions when a certain number higher level users voted for a post to be deleted. Duo might want to take a note or two from "A Theory of Moderation" (http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2009/05/a-theory-of-moderation/); in StackOverflow (http://stackoverflow.com/), high rep users earns most moderator privileges and can vote to delete posts; high rep users also gain a review queue which detects possible low quality posts for speedy removal; IMO it's one of the best self-moderating community. For Duolingo, the most appropriate metric is probably the number of discussion upvotes other users have given.

If they're taking Duo in class, then why do they need the capability of asking questions in the discussion threads?

If a Duo user in a classroom have difficulty on a particular exercise, there's no reason to believe that another Duo users that are learning outside the classroom wouldn't also having the same difficulty. If a teacher provides an answer to their student's questions in the public thread, that would benefit everyone.


Yes, as spoted by Pont, there is a discussion (and a Duolingo's answer) about (quite) this idea : http://www.duolingo.com/comment/603171.

For the access to discussions:
I'm afraid that the possible gain of having a good question by a student into the discussion answered by his/her teacher in the same discussion (that I evaluate as very low...) doesn't worth the number of numerous crapy messages some of the students (that are bored by the class/don't want to work or any other reason) will post into the discussions... But it's just my opinion.


i'm a high school student and i'm using duolingo!!!!!


Good. I'm retired and I'm using DL. It's nice to have young people around. I make silly comments sometimes & probably annoy people occasionally. So, please don't get too upset at me. It must be my age :)


thanks :) and i make silly comments to by the way i'm fat i wieght 110 pounds omg


These old people and fat people that makes stupid comments. Duolingo should have "old people account" and "fat people account" and make these accounts unable to participate in discussions. It's justifiable because old people and fat people always post the stupidest things. The possible gain of having a good question by old people and fat people into the discussion doesn't worth the number of numerous crapy messages some of these old and fat people does.

And we don't need to build a better moderation tools and obviously no need to recruit more moderators. Restricting these people from posting would significantly improve the quality of discussion section.

Just a selfish and grumpy thought to reduce the amount of garbage logic I have to see.


I'm a high school student as well. The point is not to ban high schoolers but rather to separate the high schoolers who are being forced to be here.


This main point of my post seems to be completely lost on some. Thanks for clarifying.


Absolutely. I think we are all agreeing here that "teacher and students" accounts are needed. DL also needs a mechanism to censure or ban individual posters who create problems. The "report abuse" button as suggested.


Using duo lingo for the first time and love it . Our French teacher set us up and I personally think that its better than Rosetta stone


I have a suggestion. How about you make a Lingot reward system? Like if you make a comment, and you get 5 likes, you get a lingot, but if you get a lingot and you get 5 dislikes, then you lose a lingot. I feel that this would be a simple but effective way of getting rid of bad comments. What do y'all think?


That's why I suggest limiting discussion to users who have actually completed at least 2 levels of a language. Or at least something along those lines, just to reduce the 9am spam session.


The problem with that approach is that complete beginners are precisely the Duolingo demographic who are most likely to need advice from other users in the forums. If I joined up, got confused about something in the first lesson, and discovered that I can't even ask about it till I've completed another x lessons... well, I'm not sure if I'd stick around. But on the other hand, all the solutions I do like probably require more human intervention -- and, as we all know, staffers and mods are in short supply around here.


Maybe to create a "teacher account" then the teachers have to create all their students accounts which, in this case, don't have access to the forum (since they don't need it because they have their teacher there to answer their questions), neither to the store maybe nor the Immersion.

The only thing is that I don't really see Duolingo developing it since their business model is to teach you by (at the end) translating thing so they'll sell and not helping teachers making their classes... The only reason I see Duo doing it is exactly to avoid pollution in forums, but they could also choose to close accounts that polluate...


If does seem that Duolingo is working on special provision for teachers and students: http://www.duolingo.com/comment/603171

Interestingly, there are also teachers who seem to be as concerned about protecting their students from the public as we are about protecting the public from their students :-) -- e.g. http://www.duolingo.com/comment/845170 . With luck, DL's efforts in this direction will serve both goals.


Thanks for the link. Well it seems CannedTomatoSoup proposed the idea (and more) two month before me. And that Duo made me wrong. ;)

I would (re-)add to his/her proposal: (4)Allow Duolingo to desactivate some part for them (Discussion, Immersion, ...), may be until they reach a certain level/ended a tree.


Thanks for the research and links Pont. Glad to see that something (possibly/hopefully) is in the works.


Of course I don't want to deprive legitimate beginners from having access to the forums, maybe provide them with access to a "beginners only" forum. That way all the spam is kept away from actual discussion pages. Or something like jrikhal suggested with the 'teacher/student supervision"


Why not do the obvious spam-filter stuff - remove ALL-CAPS, filter out words like 'yolo' and 'swag', get rid of traaaaaaaaaillllling lettttterrrrrs... half the problems could be fixed overnight.


I don't think I have seen any posts like that anywhere on Duolingo. If you think about it, aren't we all students if we are on here learning?


@ SamHansen You've been fortunate then. It certainly happens and these "students" aren't interested in learning which is what causes the problem.


I was actually thinking... "ah... this is where all of the moderators have been. They've been using all of their volunteered time to remove inane discussions."

..... Glad to see Moderators are still around. ....Sad to hear that they have to deal with this mess.


Im quite jealous of these hooligans... Im a senior in highschool and my school doesn't offer germna so I have to take it online and I sneak in Duolingo to supplement my actual course. I would seriously consider killing for duo to actually be a class lol


Our schools German program was cut right before I reached my Freshman year... So like you, I'm using Duolingo to both teach myself German and supplement my French that I had to take :) Duo would be awesome as a class!


Im doing the exact same thing with French! its like were twins or something


Most of these comments I have never seen. I, personally think it's not a big deal. If you don't like a comment they make, then just "thumbs down" it, and it will appear at the bottom of the page. But, yeah, if you're a student that makes messes, just don't leave any comments.


You haven't seen them because moderators delete them when they find them.


I am echoing someone elses thought, but it does seem like Duolingo could use some more moderators. How does one become one?


I can't speak for the others, but I was asked by Duo staff.


yes we are and it is hard but fun


I am a primary school student and i came on here to learn spanish. As for the bullies: We came here to have fun and learn stuff, not to be continuously stalked by you mean and annoying comments. As for the nice people: Thank you for being so nice :)


As a teacher who wants my students to use DuoLingo, I would absolutely love a teacher/student section. I don't want my students polluting forums, but I do think DuoLingo is awesome and a way to get them more exposure. I learned very basic Portuguese through DuoLingo and I think it would really help them. I also know they won't do it if I don't require it of them [because of some lax changes to our district grading practices, I'm not allowed to offer extra credit and just "recommending" something doesn't always work.]


I hope they do not restrict signup because I do this on my own. I learn spanish in school but I have an interest in German and Portuguese.


(late to the party)

They wouldn't be restricting signups, so all students would be able to make personal accounts, it's just that certain class-required accounts could be walled off.

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