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U.S.A. Learns. A Web site to teach English to adult learners Leslie Petty Project IDEAL Support Center lpetty@umich.edu. U.S.A Learns. A free Website to teach English Created to test feasibility of web-based instruction Funded by OVAE Focused on ESL in response to President’s initiative

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u s a learns

U.S.A. Learns

A Web site to teach English to adult learners

Leslie Petty

Project IDEAL Support Center


u s a learns2
U.S.A Learns
  • A free Website to teach English
  • Created to test feasibility of web-based instruction
  • Funded by OVAE
  • Focused on ESL in response to President’s initiative
  • Designed primarily for independent learners, but teachers & tutors can set up online classes
  • Not intended for use in lab settings
need for new ways to reach adult esl learners
Need for New Ways to Reach Adult ESL Learners
  • ~ 12 millions adults need to learn English
  • ~1.1 million participate in ESL classes
    • Many programs have waiting lists
    • Barriers: child care, work schedules, transportation
does the web make sense
Does the Web Make Sense?
  • Clear need for innovative approaches
  • Internet access among target audience growing rapidly
  • Many adult learners engage in self-study activities
  • Supported distance learning is effective
    • Unsupported distance learning is as yet untested
target audience for u s a learns
Target Audience for U.S.A. Learns
  • Immigrants with less than 12 years of formal education
  • Older adolescents and adults
  • Learners not currently enrolled in formal programs
  • Learners functioning at NRS levels 2 (low beginning) though 5 (high intermediate)

Pedagogical Assumptions

  • Language learning needs to focus on listening, reading, speaking and writing
  • Instructional content should be reflective of social and linguistic contexts
  • Language acquisition occurs through meaningful use and interaction with the language
esl techniques applied
ESL Techniques Applied
  • Comprehensible Input and Early Production
    • Language is supported by visuals to make meaning clear.
    • Activities require one or two-word responses at early stages.
  • Focused Listening
    • Listening for specific information.
    • Helps learners build linguistic awareness and become better listeners.
esl techniques continued
ESL Techniques, Continued
  • Life Skills Reading
    • Classified ads, application forms, etc.
    • Practice extracting pertinent information.
  • Scaffolding
    • "Temporary structure" to aid construction of meaning.
  • Problem Solving
    • Develop critical thinking skills & communicative competence.

Content Focus

  • Survival English and life skills
  • Language necessary for success in the community and workplace

Required User Skills

  • Familiarity with a computer mouse
  • Ability to point and click
  • Basic keyboarding familiarity
  • Fundamental understanding of how a Web browser operates


  • Intuitive interface
  • Multiple types of “help” available
  • Extensive use of graphics, audio and video
  • Can be used as registered or unregistered learner. If registered, learner tracking and reporting is available.
  • Separate Web site for teachers or tutors to manage learner instruction




Thee Classes

Full “courses” for beginning

and intermediate ESL



teacher tutor side
Teacher/Tutor Side
  • With online management system, teachers can :
    • Create an online class
    • Monitor students’ progress & scores
    • Score & comment on writing assignments
    • Post messages to the online class
    • Print instructions to help learners sign into class
    • Teachers: www.usalearn.org/teacher
    • Students: www.usalearns.org/class
strategies for teaching distance learners
Strategies for Teaching Distance Learners
  • Individualized instruction to meet student’s needs
  • Provide prompt feedback to students
  • Ask questions that elicit critical thinking
  • Communicate through any means available
  • Encourage study w/friends or family

Use of U.S.A. Learns

  • Since launch on November 7th
  • Total visits: 642,089
  • Total page views: 38,596,187
  • Average page views per visit: 60
  • Average time per visit:25:46 minutes


An independent learner:

“Just I want to say thanks for this program.  Is very important for me to learn English, but for my job  I can’t to go to school.  Thanks again and God bless all of you.

Dra. Rossi Arguedas




An adult education teacher:

“Learners have become so motivated by the integration of language and technology learning that they arrive early and stay later than class times in order to use it.”

Theresa Pagano

Syracuse City School District

New York



A high school teacher:

“My high school students have been using USA Learns a couple of times a week since it "opened for business" and have found it very engaging and useful (as have I!).  Both they and I have particularly liked how easy it is for students to listen and then record (and subsequently listen) to their repeating words.

In fact, when I tell students during the last fifteen minutes of class that they can log-off and go to any of the other 9,000 links on my website, well over half the class typically chooses to stay on USA Learns.”

Larry Ferlazzo

Luther Burbank High School

Sacramento, CA