Product Index
Post-Secondary

Improve English through online courses

Overview

Goals: U.S.A. Learns is a free website that was developed to support adult learners (particularly immigrants) as they improve their English language and literacy skills. It is a distance learning program that aims to help adult learners overcome barriers to learning such as work schedules and transportation.

Approach: U.S.A. Learns offers three courses that support adult English language learners at the beginner and intermediate levels. The First English Course is for beginners, the Second English Course is for intermediate-level English language learners and the Practice English and Reading course is extended practice for intermediate-level learners. The courses use media such as video, audio, animation, text and images. Activities include reading, listening, comprehension questions and writing prompts.

Implementation: The website was designed for distance learning so that adult learners could access the content from home or a public computer lab. It can be used independently, or can be facilitated by a teacher or tutor. When used by a teacher or tutor, there is a dashboard where they can view student progress including activity, completion and scores on activities. More recently the team has launched USA Learns English apps for Android, iPhone and iPad, to supplement the courses. There are four levels available (English 1, 2, 3, 4). 

Pricing: The U.S.A. Learns website is free for all users. This is made possible by funding from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE). The supplementary apps are 99 cents apiece.  

Who is Using It: As of August 2014, U.S.A. Learns has 13,822 accounts for students with a teacher/tutor, and 164,583 accounts for independent learners. More than 5 million people have used the site.  

Product Brief

Goals

U.S.A. Learns is a free website that was developed to support adult learners (particularly immigrants) as they improve their English language and literacy skills. It is a distance learning program that aims to help adult learners overcome barriers to learning such as work schedules and transportation. Designed to be used by independent learners, U.S.A. Learns has also come to be used by teachers and tutors of adult learners to support their students. A secondary goal has become to support teachers and tutors of adult English language learners. It has also now introduced four apps for studying English via mobile devices (both Android and iOS). There are four English levels available for mobile devices; these are supplementary to the First English Course. 

Approach

The Program

U.S.A. Learns is a free website that supports adult learners (particularly immigrants) as they improve their English language and literacy skills. It offers three courses that support English language learners at the beginner and intermediate levels. The courses were designed to be used in progression: First English Course (beginner), Second English Course (intermediate) and Practice English and Reading (extended practice for intermediate-level English language learners).

The courses uses media such as video, images, text, animation and audio. There are 800 vocabulary words covered throughout the courses and there is automated scoring of most activities (not including open writing tasks). Additionally, there are four U.S.A. Learns English apps that are supplementary to the First English Course. They are available for purchase ($0.99 each) for iPhone, iPad and Android.

First English Course

The First English Course is a video-based course designed for beginner-level English language learners. The course provides a sequence of 20 thematic lessons designed around the first video in the series Putting English to Work, designed by the Los Angeles Unified School District. Short clips of the video (approximately three minutes) are presented with activities. These video clips and activities follow a sequence that builds in difficulty. Topics cover basic life skills such as introducing yourself, asking for an address/phone number, telling someone about an illness and reporting a 911 emergency.

Second English Course

The Second English Course is designed to meet the needs of intermediate-level English language learners. The content was developed using the English for All video series, developed by the Division of Adult Career Education (DACE) of the Los Angeles Unified School District. This course provides a sequence of 20 lessons on five topics, which are presented through a series of stories about different characters.

  • Workers and Workplaces
  • Housing and Family Life
  • Taxes, Law and Community Issues
  • Parenting and Workplace Roles
  • Education and Information

Although the topics appear in a sequence, a learner can choose to engage with the topics in any order.

Practice English and Reading

The Practice English and Reading section offers a series of stories with activities (Ex: comprehension questions, writing prompts) that help intermediate-level English language learners practice listening, reading, writing, and speaking. The stories, most of which were taken from news reports from News10 ABC Sacramento, are modified to meet the needs of English language learners. Some stories are “Full Stories,” which are closer to the original versions, and others are “Basic Stories,” which are tailored to meet the needs of lower-level English language learners. There are 44 stories with accompanying activities in total and they can be completed in any order that the learner wishes. The stories are available in text and audio.

U.S.A. Learns does not prescribe a schedule or amount of time for use. However, units in the First and Second Courses typically take about three hours to complete, while units in the Practice English and Reading Section typically take about one hour.

Implementation

U.S.A. Learns was originally designed as a distance learning program for independent learners. During beta testing there was a lot of interest in the program from teachers and tutors. Currently, there are two types of implementations for U.S.A. Learns: independent learners and students.

Independent learners can go to the website and create a user ID (email address) and password. They can choose a course to start with or can take a pre-assessment. The pre-assessment was designed by U.S.A. Learns and uses content from the program to provide recommendations for where in the program to begin. An independent learner can take each course as many times as they want.

A student must wait for their teacher/tutor to create a class with a name and password. The teacher/tutor must give students the information (class name, password, and teacher’s last name) so that each student can create an account. A teacher/tutor can give a pre-assessment to students so that the system can make a suggestion to each student about where to begin; or a teacher can assign a particular course to the whole class so that the course appears when each student first logs in. When a student first logs in, their information shows up on the class roster. The teacher/tutor can view each student’s last login, course progress (like completed activities and videos watched) and scores on activities. Teachers and tutors can also grade writing activities through the website.

Business Model and Pricing

U.S.A. Learns is free for all users. This is made possible by funding from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE).

Who is Using It

As of August 2014, U.S.A. Learns has 13,822 accounts for students with a teacher/tutor, and 164,583 accounts for independent learners. Students, teachers and tutors are from community colleges, high schools, community-based organizations, workplaces, and more.

Since its launch in 2008, the website has had over one billion views, over 18 million visits, and an average of 26 minutes spent on the site. The website has been used by learners in every country.

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PRODUCT VIDEOS

USA Learns English overview
USA Learns English overview

PRODUCT ATTRIBUTES

Audience

Adult Learning Adult Learning

Subject Matter

Language Arts Language Arts