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U. S. A. Learns

USA Learns is a free website that teaches English skills to immigrants. 
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation: 
Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE)
Internet and Media Services Department
Project IDEAL Support Center at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research
US Dept. of Education
Office of Vocational and Adult Education
California Dept of Education Adult Education Dept.
Published: 
2008
Resource Type: 
Product
Number of Pages: 
0
Product Type: 
Target Audience: 
Skill Level: 
NRS EFL 4--ESL Low Intermediate ESL
NRS EFL 5--ESL High Intermediate ESL
Required Training: 

Tutorial offered on website is recommended

Abstract: 

USA Learns is a free website that teaches English skills to immigrants.  It consists of three levels First English Course (NRS Levels 2 and 3), Second English Course (NRS Levels 4 and 5) and Practice English and Reading skills (intermediate level).  The courses offer different topics (e.g., workplace, parenting, the classroom, shopping) that are further broken into learning units.  Each unit offers an introduction, a video that is central to the learning unit, listening, comprehension, vocabulary, spelling, speaking, and self-check exercises.  The Lessons and units are uniformly structured so that once a learner understands the process s/he can move with ease through the different lessons.  There are help buttons that further explain how to use particular technology of each lesson or what a learner must do in order to complete the task at hand.   USA Learns is a free website that teaches English skills to immigrants.  It consists of three levels First English Course (NRS Levels 2 and 3), Second English Course (NRS Levels 4 and 5) and Practice English and Reading skills (intermediate level).  The courses offer different topics (e.g., workplace, parenting, the classroom, shopping) that are further broken into learning units.  Each unit offers an introduction, a video that is central to the learning unit, listening, comprehension, vocabulary, spelling, speaking, and self-check exercises.  The Lessons and units are uniformly structured so that once a learner understands the process s/he can move with ease through the different lessons.  There are help buttons that further explain how to use particular technology of each lesson or what a learner must do in order to complete the task at hand.  

The website provides an Overview Guide, a Curriculum and Scope Guide that lists the vocabulary, main grammar, language functions, and life skills covered in the units. Teachers can register on the website and then set up a class site and monitor students’ progress.  Tips and directions for doing so are included.  Teachers can also register and follow individual learners.

There are technological requirements to be able to access the site:  fast broadband Internet connection (won't work with dial up), up-to-date Web browser with the Flash plug-in, sound card, and speakers or headphones. 

Please Note:  Only the Second English Course Topic Workers and the Workplace (Units 1-4) have been reviewed by LINCS.

What the Experts Say: 

Summary of English Language Acquisition:

This is an excellent resource for English Language Learners and their instructors.  The website offers optimal reinforcement of learning by using a step-by-step process of introducing, clarifying, practicing, and applying what is being taught. It is a comprehensive, easy to access distance learning tool with no videos or workbooks to purchase.  The material is contextualized and authentic; vocabulary items are real and well clarified in terms appropriate for learning levels.  There are many opportunities for practice and reinforcement.  And, immediate feedback is provided – always a plus for learners. This website can be used to supplement classroom work as well as a distance learning tool.  It is a great way to expand services to more learners. 

There is a management system allows for distance learning credit.  Lastly, it requires a minimum of computer savvy.  It provides an easy way to monitor student progress. 

Summary of Technology Review Comments:

Although the resource, funded by the US Department of Education, was designed as an online portal for learners to access directly, it is probably best used as an online tool by teachers and tutors who want to provide access to learning materials for additional instruction/practice for their students as well as for those students who may not be able to attend classes regularly.  Students also need to be able to access the online program using a high-speed Internet connection rather than a dial-up connection. Some videos did not load immediately for the reviewer which might be frustrating for independent learners.

The ongoing story set in a workplace is quite engaging with excellent actors.  Cultural competence is also taught through showing two choices of action, the first of which leads to unfortunate results while the second choice shows positive outcomes for the character with which students identify.  Therefore, students are learning not only workplace and everyday English but also positive workplace behavior.  Some sections of the materials also treat students’ legal rights as workers in the USA.

Students can do the activities multiple times as well as watch, listen and read the script as many times as they wish. Comprehension is assessed after each story video and print presentation.  Each unit includes assessments at the end as well as provides ongoing scores of correct answers on the exercises. 

The lessons integrate reading, writing, listening, and speaking.  The grammar lessons use vocabulary from the story. 

A couple of issues:  The exercises provide no explanation of why a particular choice is incorrect.  And, some assumptions about language knowledge are made, e.g., won’t equals will not

 

The following links are useful in learning about the USA Learns Curriculum:
http://www.usalearns.org/pdf/USA_Learns_Overview.pdf (overview and background of project)
http://www.usalearns.org/pdf/ScopeSequence.pdf (describes curriculum and methodology)

To register for the Teacher Site:
http://www.usalearns.org/teacher/

 

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