Curriculum and Technical Requirements

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How much does it cost to use this site?

The U.S.A. Learns Web site is free.

What level of learner can use U.S.A. Learns?

The First English Course covers NRS levels 2 through 3, generally considered Low Beginning to High Beginning ESL. The second English Course covers NRS levels 4 through 5, generally considered Low Intermediate to High Intermediate ESL. However, these levels are only general indicators. Some aspects of the First English Course cover NRS level 1 (ESL Literacy) and go through Level 4 (Low Intermediate). Likewise, some parts of the 2nd English Course may go to NRS Level 3, or up to Level 6 (Advanced ESL Literacy).

What types of learning activities are there?

U.S.A. Learns offers a wide range of activities and tasks so that boredom and frustration are not an issue. Many learning activities are video-based. Activity types include multiple choice, dictation, spelling, listen and speak, focused listening, reading with audio support, writing and a concentration game. To see how U.S.A. Learns looks to an independent learner, click the "Visit Learner Site" link on the homepage. Adults learn best when instruction reflects their interests and needs and is linked to the language and literacy tasks they must tackle in their day-to-day lives. U.S.A. Learns' online curriculum has been developed to extend and support two video series that were created for English language learners. Both video series, English For All (EFA) and Putting English to Work I (PETW), focus on English-language and literacy skills development anchored in the social contexts that are likely to be encountered by the immigrants and refugees for whom the materials were designed. The U.S.A. Learns online activities have been created to stimulate interaction using the language presented in the video. Students have the opportunity to read a preview summary of the video clip in order to build background knowledge, watch the video, listen to and read the script, make predictions about what is going to happen, engage in activities to demonstrate understanding of the video, practice speaking and writing skills related to the story, practice focused listening by listening to short segments of the video, and practice life skills that are modeled in the video series.

Vocabulary Development

Hundreds of words with images are used to show meaning in PETW, and hundreds of key words with definitions are included in EFA. The vocabulary words are practiced in more traditional drill fashion when introduced using multiple choice activities, spelling, and pronunciation practice. Later the words are heard in context of the videos, practiced with readings, comprehension questions and applied in writing and life skills activities.


Learning the structure of the language enables learners to use the basic knowledge of vocabulary to form meaningful speech. Grammar is not presented as boring facts to be memorized, but as patterns found in the context of the spoken language. "Listen for the Grammar" activities allows for focused listening of video clips to identify the targeted structure. Fill-in-the-blank, dictation, writing and speaking activities all reinforce the targeted grammar point.


Repeated listening to a video can enhance students’ listening comprehension skills. But few people will choose to listen to a passage repeatedly as this would become boring. Focused listening activities with a specific task give students the opportunity for multiple listening of the video without feeling they are simply repeating what they’ve already done.

Life Skills

Life Skill activities give students the opportunity to practice skills such as filling out forms, searching for information, interacting with an automated answering system, and following directions using a map. By having successfully completed these types of activities in the course, students gain the confidence they need to try their English in the “real world.”


Units offer both “life skills” readings and narrative reading. Each reading offers audio support and is followed by a comprehension activity.

Speaking and Writing

It is important that learners begin speaking and writing even at very low levels of proficiency. Simple spelling and “Say it” activities are standard and presented from the first unit. By using a microphone with their computers, learners can practice speaking and comparing their recorded speech with a native speaker’s model.

Learner Self-Management

Students see their scores, choose to repeat or move forward, and use a learning log to assess their success in attaining the stated learning goals. They can also choose to explore courses and activities outside the sequence in the class course.

How do my learners get started?

U.S.A. Learns can be used to supplement traditional classroom learning with a “virtual class,” or you can create a stand-alone “virtual class.” To create a “virtual class” you first create a class on U.S.A. learns and then provide each learner with your name, a class password and ready-made instructions so they can register themselves in the class on U.S.A. Learns. You will be able to monitor both class and individual student progress, see each student’s score on each activity, grade and comment on writing assignments, and leave messages on the students’ U.S.A. Learns homepages.

NOTE: U.S.A. Learns is not intended for use in a lab setting.

What computer skills do I and my students need?

You and your students should know how to use a:

It is better if your students know how to use a microphone, but it is not necessary.

What kind of hardware and software is needed to use U.S.A. Learns?

You and your students will need a computer with:

It is best if your students have a microphone connected to the computer, but it is not required.

NOTE: U.S.A. Learns is not intended for use in a lab setting.

Click here for more technical details.

How do I get more help?

Email help@usalearns.org