Listen for the
Blank Exercise

TLDR; We created an approachable listening activity for learners at earlier levels.


July 2021 — August 2021


PM, Learning Specialist, Engineer (x2), and Designer (me!)






  • 1.5% Increase in time spent learning

  • New UI element introduced to design system

  • Prototyping fun with Protopie!

From ideation, to leading brainstorms, to designing and testing various ideas, all the way to final implementation — I was apart of a team on a journey to expand Duolingo's offering of bite-sized listening exercises.



Above are various views of this exercise.


Duolingo's current listening exercises take off the training wheels a little too soon...

The current line up of listening exercises ramp up the difficulty very quickly. As seen in the digram below, the jump expects a learner to move from listening and tapping to listening and writing.


Such a jump not only affects our learners, but also the product. 

For learners, such an increase causes frustration (and eventually temptation to skip these exercises). On the other side, with little variety, the product suffers from not being able to effectively teach an important skill. Combined, these issues lead to a drop in time spent learning and a drop in overall completion within our listening exercises (which is no bueno).

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Above is the current offering of listening exercises. Note the gap between our "Tap what you hear" and "Type what you hear" exercises.


How might we set learners up for success before taking on harder listening exercises?


Listen for the
Blank Exercise

A new exercise that tasks learners with finding the missing word by listening out for the correct match.

How it works (Scientifically)

This exercise uses sound discrimination and sentence segmentation to help build up a learner's listening ability.


Sound Discrimination: recognizing different sounds. Notice the two audio waveforms


Sentence Segmentation: the ability to break up sentences into its parts (nouns, verbs, etc). Notice the gap in the sentence.

Learn More

How it Works (Designer-ly)

1. The Prompt - instructs how to complete the exercise

2. Target Sentence - the key phrase that is read by the text to speech software (tts). 

3. Tap Tokens: user taps to select a response. On tap, the TTS recites a word. Each token uses a different audio waveform to differentiate the two sounds.

4. Grading: once a tap token is selected, the user can tap on the CHECK button to their response. This button is disabled until a learner selects a response.

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Hero Flow

Learners encounter this exercise early on in their language endeavor. When a learner first lands on this exercise, they'll hear our text to speech (TTS) system recite the target phrase.

From there the learner can tap on either tap token. When tapped, the token recites a phrase. When the learner is satisfied with their response, they tap the CHECK button to initiate grading of their response.

Full project coming soon...
I Promise.

There was soooo much I learned with this one right here! Promise, it'll be great. I'm still working on adding this piece to my portfolio. But rest assured, it is coming.


Take a look at some other stuff while ya wait.


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