USA Learns - Beginning and Intermediate ESL Courses

USA Learns is a free website that teaches English to immigrants and other new Americans.

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
U.S. Dept. of Education - Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education
California Dept of Education Adult Education Dept.
Publication Year
Resource Type
Instructional Material
Target Audience

USA Learns is a free website that teaches English to immigrants.  It consists of three levels: First English Course (NRS Levels 2 and 3), English 1 Plus (NRS Level 4), Second English Course (NRS Levels 4 and 5), and Practice English and Reading skills (intermediate level).  The courses offer various 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. 

The website provides a Teacher’s 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 USA Learns for Teachers website (, create classes based on USA Learns’ content, and easily monitor students’ progress and time spent.  Tips and directions for doing so are included.  Teachers can also register as a student using a unique email address ( to preview the course content as a learner would see it.

There are technological requirements to be able to access the site:  The site has been optimized for use on computers, tablets, and smartphones. It requires a reasonably fast broadband Internet connection, Web browser, and the equipment needed to play audio, watch videos, and record one’s voice.

Benefits and Uses

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.  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, originally funded by the US Department of Education but now owned by the Sacramento County Office 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.   

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 to teachers:

USA Learns homepage:

Teacher homepage / registration: 

Resources for teachers:
Instructions for teachers:


Required Training

Teacher instructions are available on the teacher site.

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