by Andrea Willis, USA Learns Director

Award winning USA Learns offers new features, upgrades, and now operates on computers, tablets, and smartphones.

The Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE) is pleased to announce a major rebuild of the USA Learns website, now completely redesigned to also operate on mobile phones. 

USA Learns is a free website that teaches English as a second language and helps adults learn English online and prepare to become US citizens. 

According to Andrea Willis, Director of USA Learns at SCOE, “This major website rebuild project has been a dream of ours for many years. We know that many adult learners only have a phone to access the internet, so this project is a big leap forward in increasing learners’ access to free, high quality online instruction. Now, thanks to a generous grant from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation, learners can study anytime and anywhere.”

The upgraded website offers new features, including:

  • Convenient and easy access using computers, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones
  • Activities that automatically resize, depending on the user’s device
  • More accessibility features, including closed captioning of all videos and alt text
  • Navigation that is customized for mobile delivery (bigger buttons, larger fonts, etc.)

The always free USA Learns website was first launched in 2008 with funding made available from the U.S. Department of Education. The site has been used by more than 16 million visitors worldwide and has had over 2 billion pageviews with nearly 70% of the users coming from the United States, Mexico, Colombia, India and Brazil. In fact, USA Learns has been used by English learners in every country throughout the world.

USA Learns is helping people around the globe to improve their English language skills,” said Sacramento County Superintendent of Schools David W. Gordon. “People realize that learning English will improve their job prospects and increase their standard of living.”

Designed for Adult Learners

USA Learns was developed primarily for immigrant adults with limited English language skills who cannot attend traditional classroom programs because of difficulty with schedules, transportation, or other barriers. USA Learns is most often used independently, but it can also be used under the auspices of a teacher or tutor. 

Students are currently using the program to learn English in classrooms, from their homes, at public libraries, and now they can study English when waiting in lines, during work breaks, or on public transportation.

About the Courses

The site offers practice activities in listening, reading, writing and speaking skills as well as life skills necessary for success at work and in the community. The language learning in every lesson takes place within the context of authentic situations of life in America, including finding a job, workplace issues, family life, civic participation, health care and more.  

Learning activities have been created to stimulate interaction using the language presented in videos and animations.  While the videos provide context, sequence and language, the site’s online activities provide the opportunity for learner interaction and practice far beyond the viewing of a video. The activities allow learners to read and listen to the script multiple times, complete activities to demonstrate understanding and listening comprehension, and practice speaking, writing and life skills using new vocabulary and structures in the context of the topics. 

All instructional materials are online; there are no separate workbooks or other materials for printing. In recent years, the number of USA Learns courses has been expanded to include citizenship and focused workplace English. 

The 1st English Course is intended for beginning-level learners. The English 1 Plus course is designed for high-beginning learners, while the 2nd English Course is intended for learners generally considered low-intermediate to high-intermediate ESL.  The USA Learns Citizenship course prepares learners for all aspects of the citizenship or naturalization interview. The Practice English and Reading activities are designed for intermediate-level readers, with content structured to build vocabulary and comprehension skills.  And the Skills for the Nursing Assistant learning activities offer instruction in the language and literacy skills needed to successfully communicate on the job in the healthcare field.

Upcoming Offerings & More

Set to be launched this coming spring, Access America is a new course designed for students with an intermediate level of English who want to improve their language skills while learning about how to succeed in the United States. With Access America, learners will follow the progress of an immigrant family as they learn about life in their new country. The course will include more than 100 new videos, along with vocabulary, speaking, and grammar instruction. 

USA Learns was recognized in the 2010 National Education Technology Plan as an exemplary pioneering program, harnessing technology to bring critically needed learning opportunities to working adults. In September 2011 USA Learns earned a Literacy Leadership Award from the National Coalition for Literacy.  The site received the Golden Bell Award from the California School Boards Association in 2012. And in March of 2013, the state of New York launched its Office of New Americans and USA Learns was selected as its instructional product for use in its twenty-seven Opportunity Centers.  

Learn more about the updates to USA Learns and how teachers use it by viewing the lightning talk from the November 12th Distance Education Strategy Session below!

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT USA LEARNS CONTACT:

Andrea Willis, Director
Internet & Media Services
Sacramento County Office of Education
Telephone: 916-228-2760
Email: awillis@scoe.net 

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