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ASLU: Frequently Asked Questions:


As a progressive instructor of American Sign Language, I frequently receive email asking all kinds of questions related to who I am and the courses I teach both online and in person. I am grateful that most of the questions are from polite individuals who are genuinely curious, open-minded, and/or actually interested in learning ASL. In the interest of time (both yours and mine) I've developed a "FAQ" (frequently answered questions) list. 

Is Lifeprint / ASLU free?
Is Lifeprint / ASLU credible?
Is ASLU accredited?
How do I register for a course?
Can I start any time?
What is required?
Where do I start?
How do I contact you?
How many levels are there?
Can I Instant Message you?
Where's the chatroom?
Can I really learn ASL online?
Can I get certified?
Will there be advanced courses offered?
What payment options are there?
What kind of hardware do I need?
Is there a required book?
Do I need broadband?
Is there a payment plan?
Permission to use your material?
Credit Equivalency?
License Reciprocity?

... additional questions and answers:   |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  | 


Question:  Is ASL University really free?

Answer: The website is free.  You can self-study for free. Some students buy additional materials from the bookstore so they can test their own progress, but you don't need to do that to benefit from the lessons.  If you want to track your grades and receive documentation, that requires registration and payment of tuition.

Is ASL University credible?

In a message dated 12/4/2006 8:04:52 PM Pacific Standard Time, writes:

Dear Bill,
    I'm sorry to be so frank about this, but how does one know that this university is a credible source for a college education? Do the courses that you offer give you a degree in ASL in the end? If one is not going to receive a degree in asl when the courses are finished with good grades why would one spend nearly $500 every six months on the program? This would be an awesome idea if one was able to obtain a degree after completion.
          Thank you for your time.
          Cassie Richardson

Actually I encourage people NOT to register for the ASLU program. 
Don't do it. 
If you don't need testing and documentation I recommend you save your money and study for free on your own using the lessons at the website.
But some people (such as home-schoolers, or college students at colleges that don't offer ASL as an option) need or want documentation of having participated in an organized continuing education experience, under responsible sponsorship, capable direction, and qualified instruction. 

Since it takes us a lot of extra work and extra time to document a student's progress and review their receptive final exam, video project, and research paper, we charge tuition.  The tuition is our payment for making sure that such individuals are serious students and have put forth the effort to complete the quizzes and assignments required for the registered program.

It takes about $90,000 and quite a few years of attendance at accredited undergraduate and graduate institutions of higher education to receive an advanced degree such as a doctorate. (Such as an "EdD" = Doctorate of Education -- which I have).

Participants registering for ASLU classes prearrange with their local school to accept my piece of paper (documentation) and grant college credit and/or satisfy credit or language requirements having to do with their local school or transcript.

For a college student, that generally means registering at their local college for an "independent study" class under a local instructor or advisor and then completing the Lifeprint course and then having the Lifeprint instructor send to student's local instructor documentation of the student's having completed the Lifeprint ASL course. At that point the local instructor is able to award the student "independent study" college credit for their participation in this program.

So those individuals are indeed getting a degree. They get it from their local school. If Lifeprint can help with that process, I'm glad. If not, then students should save their money and enjoy the self-study aspect of the lessons for free.
Dr. Bill
(William Vicars, EdD)
p.s. For more details see my bio.

How do I register for a course?
Answer: If you just want to "self-study" you don't need to register.  You don't want to register for this program unless you want to be able to document that you have "taken a class" (to meet continuing education requirements or for home schooling, etc.)   Registration costs money.  If you decide you want to have documentation of participation -- you can learn about the registration process by going to: 

So, the website is free unless I want documentation. 
What is required to receive documentation of my participation?

Answer: What  it boils down to is quizzes, a research paper, a proctored receptive final, and a video of you signing. 

Seat time means nothing. I have determined that successfully completing 15 quizzes, three unit tests, a research paper, a receptive final and an expressive final are worth four (4) semester-credit hours for college-transfer purposes. If a student can pass the quizzes, the finals and turns in a decent research paper I'll document that in my professional opinion that this student has earned the equivalent of four semester-hours of credit. This documentation may or may not be accepted by your "local university" as transfer credit or as independent study credit.  If "college credit" or "employer recognized continuing education units" are your goal, you should first make sure that your college or employer will accept your work at ASL University. (If I were you, I'd get it in writing.)

If a student can prove to me that he or she:
* Has developed an appropriate understanding of ASL grammar
* Knows approximately 300 (three hundred) ASL vocabulary concepts
* Is able to express those 300 concepts using ASL grammar (facial expressions / syntax)
* Has a basic understanding of the history of ASL
* Has a basic understanding of Deaf Culture
* Knows basic ASL fingerspelling and numbers
-- I'll document that the student has demonstrated knowledge, skills, and abilities equivalent to that of a Level-1 ASL course. This would be equal to a 4-semester-credit hour undergraduate-level college course or a "first-year" language high school course.

A student can demonstrate the above knowledge by completing:

1.  15 Lesson quizzes and 3 unit tests (cumulative)
2.  A 500-word research  paper.
3.  A test on Deaf Culture and related terminology. 
4.  A video project [to test expressive skills]
5. A cumulative proctored final exam [to test receptive skills]

Of the first 40 students to go through this program when it was offered for college credit at Lamar University as part of my dissertation:  Three failed it. Most got B's.  A couple got C's and D's and a fair number got A's.  Since then over 30 different colleges and/or high school districts have awarded students college or district credit based on participation in this program. I've also set up a requirement that you have to pass the final exam and video project with 70% or higher accuracy in order to pass the class.

Can I start any time?
Answer: Yes, you can start studying on your own any time. Registered students choose their own schedule to complete and have up to a year (if needed / by request) to complete each level.  Typically though most students finish it in a semester (for college) or 9-months (for High School).  Some high school students choose to complete each level in 16-weeks.  The time frame is flexible as long as the assignments are completed satisfactorily.

Where do I start?
Answer: If you are just self-studying I'd go to the lessons page. Start with lesson 1 and work your way through the lessons. Another great place to start is the first 100 signs page.

Or if you are seeking documentation, visit the registration and/or the catalog page and read through the information there.

How do I contact you?

See:  "Dr. Bill's Contact information"


In a message dated [a long, long time ago] Pacific Standard Time, Michelle from New York writes:

Hi Dr. Vicars,
I would like to speak with you regarding the online classes for accreditation. I am not one to just read something and sign up without verbally speaking with someone. I am a teacher who would like to become fluent in ASL so as to teach deaf kids or be an interpreter. I would rather take an online course than having to go back to the traditional classroom. I have absolutely no patience for that. Please email me your number so we can talk further, thanks.
- Michelle from NY

Hello Michelle,
I'd be happy to answer any questions you may have via email.  Due to my hearing loss I avoid talking on the phone.
I do understand that you are not the type of person who just signs up for something without talking to someone -- and I respect that.  Thus feel free to not take my class.
You might think, "Gosh! I guess he doesn't want my money."

Oh, sure, I like money and could always use a bit more of it, but I'm not doing the online classes for the money.
I'm doing these online classes as a way to make it possible for parents of Deaf children to conveniently learn ASL. 

A number of years ago I went back to school and got my Doctorate in Deaf Education / Deaf Studies and now teach ASL full-time at a university in Sacramento. I began offering online courses as a way to help out parents of Deaf children who live in rural areas and were physically unable to attend an in-person class. Sure, I've had other, better paying jobs but I'm much happier now being cash-poor but doing something I love--that fits my teaching and communication style.

Many people started wanting documentation for having participated in the online class. That meant I'd have to insure that they actually learned something.  To do so meant I'd have to create assignments, quizzes, a video project requirement, and a final exam for each level and then document all of that -thus requiring a substantial investment of my time. So I charge money for the "documented" version of the course to keep me interested and the student committed.

Now, from what you say, you want to learn ASL so you can teach Deaf children. If you don't need any documentation, I suggest you NOT register, NOT pay, and just self-study online for free (at, use resources from your local library and attend local Deaf events. Eventually I "do" recommend you find a college either online, hybrid, or in-person that offers a four-year degree in Deaf Education and then go on to pursue a Masters in Deaf Education.  I recommend that path even if it is not fun or comfortable for you.  Why? If you have no patience for completing a "serious" Deaf Education program will you have enough patience to succeed in a career teaching Deaf children at a rules-heavy Deaf day-program or Deaf School?

ASLU can help provide a good "signing" foundation.  If you feel you would like documentation of having participated in a "serious" ASL course and want to take the harder quizzes, have your video evaluated, and do a proctored final exam -- then the "paid" course is the way to go. If you have questions, (after reading the FAQ and relevant portions of the website) feel free to email your questions to me.

- Dr. Bill
William Vicars, Ed.D.

How many levels are there?

Answer:  Currently there are four.  As I add new courses I'll eventually post them to the catalog page.

In a message dated [many years ago in 2002] 2:23:08 PM Pacific Daylight Time, a speech therapist writes:

Does your on-line course go beyond [the first year credit]? If so, can a student obtain dual credit for both high school and college credit? I am trying to get one of my high school students high school credit for ASL as we can't meet his needs under our current foreign language curriculum.
Thank you for your reply.
Linda M____
Speech Therapist, Mansfield I.S.D., Mansfield, Tx.

The updated response is:
An individual high school or college /i> award credit based on the documentation I supply. It happens all the time. I simply provide documentation that the student took my course.  The documentation is a certificate of completion and a statement of performance (grade/explanation). At this time I offer ASL 1 through ASL 4 which count as high school first-year language through fourth-year language.


Can I text, IM (instant message), chat (online), Skype, or VP (video-phone) you?

Answer:  No, (sorry).

In the old days I used to do the instant messaging gig with students or potential students -- but it got to the point where I couldn't work more than a few minutes without someone interrupting me. So I had to limit my availability to "the public" to good old "email."

But hey, for what it is worth, below is an example of a typical IM conversation: 

KeenaGirl: hi, if i am not a registered student does that mean i shouldn't IM you?
Dr.Vicars: Well...I'll make an exception heh. Go ahead. :)

KeenaGirl: thanx

Dr.Vicars: What's on your mind?

KeenaGirl: well i sent you a e-mail with a question

Dr.Vicars: Yah...I see it: << Hi Bill, I have a question. I am in lesson 2 on vocabulary. Do i need to learn all of the words that are listed on the "GIRL" LITTLE GIRL, WOMEN, LADY. or do i just need to learn GIRL? Thanks a lot I am having a blast!>>

Dr.Vicars: Depends on your goal.

KeenaGirl: oh ok

Dr.Vicars: Why are you going through the lessons?

KeenaGirl: umm because i like ASL a lot and i wanted to learn more and i think that's it.

Dr.Vicars: Well then, I think it is totally up to you if you want to study deeply and understand it. If it were ME going through the lessons I'd do so very carefully.

KeenaGirl: what do u mean so very carefully?

Dr.Vicars: I mean learn all of the versions of signs associated with the main sign.

KeenaGirl: o ok i get it.

Dr.Vicars: Good. :)
Anything else?

KeenaGirl: umm

KeenaGirl: o what do u mean about the research paper, i don't think i have ever done one

Dr.Vicars: It is explained on the website. Just read more and it should be clear. As a self-study student you don't need to do one.

KeenaGirl: i don't?

Dr.Vicars: The research paper is for students who are studying for a class either at home or in an official school program.

KeenaGirl: oh but does that mean it wont go towards college if i don't do it?

Dr.Vicars: It won't go toward college even if you "do" do it -- unless you first contact your college and make sure they are willing to give you independent study credit or some other type of credit. Also, most colleges will want documentation of your involvement in the course. If you want me to document your participation in the course you will need to register and pay tuition.

KeenaGirl: ok i understand

KeenaGirl: thanx i think that is all for now

Dr.Vicars: You are welcome. Have a nice day.

[Now, multiply that by 30 and you'll see why I don't do "personal or instant messages" with random internet users. I would literally lose hours of every day. Instead, I recommend YOU click around for a while on the site till you get a feel for how it works. AFTER you have done so feel free to email me. "Dr. Bill's Contact information"]

Where's the chatroom?

Answer:  Ah, you must have stumbled across the old  archives. "For about three years I taught a "live" course via AOL using a chatroom and an early version of the Lifeprint website.  Many of the best moments of those chats were compiled into my (sold out / no longer available) book, "Sign Me Up!" Much of that book has been saved to the archives pages and/or posted throughout Lifeprint / ASLU. Eventually I may go back to doing live online sessions, but for now I'm focusing on developing the online lessons at "ASLUniversity."  To be clear though -- I don't currently do any online chatrooms. 

Can I really learn ASL online?

Answer:  That question was asked to me rather often back in early 2000's (and before).  In the "old" days most people thought the idea of learning sign language online was crazy.  Back then we didn't have "streaming video."

These days the question seems rather silly.  The answer is "Of course! Why would you even ask that question?" 
For what it is worth though, I'll share a response I used to give people (back then) they asked me about whether it was possible to learn sign language online:

There are many aspects to a decent introductory course in American Sign Language. Some, (but not necessarily all) of the components to consider in such a course might include:

Grammar, (including non-manual behavior or "body language")
Resources:  Bibliographies, Library access, videos, practice materials, etc.

There are many tools or methods a person can use as they go about the process of learning ASL. For example:

 One-on-one interaction with Deaf people
 Text books

Those of you who are in the process of learning ASL will no doubt become familiar with one or more ASL texts for sale at your local bookstore. It is not wrong to call such a book an "ASL" text--even though it is limited by the medium, (words on paper). The book is not able to "give feedback." It is not able to provide interactive practice for the self-learner. But, still the book does describe facial expressions and body language. It discusses ASL grammar. It presents ASL lexicon, syntax, and usage guidelines. It would NOT be appropriate to label such a text as a PSE (Pidgin Signed English) or SEE (Signing Exact English) text -- just because it is not interactive.

Video recorded onto portable media and/or streaming video provide a vastly improved medium for presenting ASL lessons, yet the instruction is still one-directional.

Of course, small group face-to-face interactive instruction from a native ASL signer is certainly to be preferred over textbooks and video. I'm sure most of us would also prefer such instruction to take place in a natural environment. For example, if I were learning how to discuss "FOOD" in ASL, I would like to do it in a restaurant, while being served by a Deaf waiter, and surrounded by Deaf friends!

Even though personal instruction and interaction with Deaf people is arguably the "best" method for learning ASL, certainly nobody in his or her right mind would condemn the value of ASL videos and textbooks--especially considering the fact that not everyone has access to a "d/Deaf" person. People tend though to do the best they can with what they have.

Technology now makes it possible to actually provide a live video ASL course on the web.
That technology will eventually become commonplace.

On an old 56Kbps line the video quality just wasn't good enough for point to multipoint use.  If everybody involved has broadband -- then certainly online full-motion video is a great resource. It all takes time and money, but any worthwhile effort has to start somewhere.

It is my hope that in my own small way I am benefiting my community.  I try my best to be tolerant and respectful of everyone.

Can I get certified?

Answer: Registered students can receive a certificate of completion. That is different from being "certified." If you want to become "certified" you should talk to your State's division of occupational licensing, a local school program advisor, or look up the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf using your favorite internet search engine. If you want to receive college credit for this course you will need to speak with the academic advisor at your college regarding transferability. A good approach is to have your local college or school award you THEIR "special project" credit and then use my documentation to justify their credit.

Credit and/or "Continuing Education Units, (CEUs)" can be granted a number of different ways.

Some organizations (including ASLU / Lifeprint) follow the principle that one Continuing Education Unit is equal to ten contact hours of participation in an organized continuing education experience under responsible sponsorship, capable direction, and qualified instruction.

You can receive "CEUs" from Lifeprint Institute (  CEU's are just a form of "documentation of participation in a program." If you want college credit, ask your advisor to let you enroll in an "independent study class" (or special topics class) and use the ASLU course as your "topic" and my documentation as proof that you did the work.  Then your local instructor or advisor can see your percentage and letter grade earned in my course and use them to assign you a grade in your local college course for which you would receive college credit toward your degree. 

The same goes for nurses, police officers, public school teachers, and others who may need "school district lane change credit," continuing education units, employment training, community service hours, and so forth.  The best way to approach the situation of "getting credit" is to get pre-approval from your local organization to accept this course as filling their requirements for College credit or Continuing Education Units credits (CEUs).

Will there be advanced courses offered?
Yes, as of this writing ASLU has an ASL 4 course available.

What payment options are there?
You can pay with a credit card or PayPal by visiting the "Tuition" page.
You can pay via check or money order by sending it to the name and address on the "CONTACT" page. 
In any case, before paying I please read the "REGISTRATION" page.

What kind of hardware do I need?
Answer: If your computer or device is capable of viewing streaming videos you should do fine. I'm working on converting the lessons to work on phones but for now I encourage students to have access to a traditional desktop or laptop computer with broadband internet access.  If you are doing the "register and pay" version of the course you will need to be able to create a decent video of yourself (where I can clearly see your hands and face) and be able to upload that to Youtube (you can make it 'unlisted' if you are shy).

Is there a required book?

Answer:  No. You do not need to buy a book nor spend money on any other material in order to take the ASLU courses.

However, if you plan on becoming fluent in ASL, I strongly recommend you get yourself an old-fashioned ASL dictionary or two. If money is a problem, go to your local library and check out a few. You may notice differences in signs between authors. That's okay. There is a lot of variety out there.  It is GOOD for you to learn lots of variations of signs so you can be a powerful communicator.

Is there a payment plan?
No. Sorry.  I prefer that you pay with a credit card via the Paypal links on the tuition page.  If you pay via a credit card that can function as a payment plan. Tip: Pay back your credit card as quickly as you can.

May I have permission to use your material?

Answer:  Many people write in asking for permission to use ASL University material. For a discussion of my copyright policies, see the PERMISSION page.  If you just want to teach your IN-PERSON class using as your textbook -- go ahead.
However if you plan on trying to create an app that uses my material.  No, you do not have permission.

Joyce writes:
I was wondering if i could use the information on this site for a research project i am working on it is for my high school, it is called i search it is where i pick a topic and i do the research on that topic and i think your site provides quite a bit of information for my project and i would really appreciate t if you would give me the okay to just your information in my project so that way my teacher doesn't think that i stole the information from you. i would really appreciate if you would reply to this email.
thank you,

You are welcome to use information from my site in your research paper.
Actually you are welcome to use information from ANY website in your research paper. You just have to state it in your own words and give it proper credit.

You give proper credit by putting the author's last name and the year he or she wrote the information in parentheses at the end of the sentence or paragraph you wrote that contains his or her ideas. Like this, (Vicars, 2003). Then at the end you your paper you put a reference list. For references like one of my web pages you use this format:

Vicars, William. (2000, Jan.). Comparatives and Superlatives. ASL University Library. Lifeprint Institute. Retrieved 3, April. 2003: <>.

You include the following information--or as much of it as you can find:
Author's last name, first name. (Year, Mo. day). Title of the article or web page goes here, underline it and only capitalize the first letter and words that are always capitalized.  Title of the journal, general website, or book goes here . Name of the publisher or the sponsoring organization goes here. Retrieved day Mo. Year: <full web address>.

For examples of other references, check out:

Credit Equivalency?

  Does taking both ASL 1 and ASL 2 from ASLU meet the national standard requirement of 2 credits in a foreign language?

Response:  The ASLU Level 1 and Level 2 courses are each equivalent to 4 semester units of college for a total of 8 semester units.

That is equivalent to both Public School K-12: First-Year Language and Second-Year Language.  Thus the two ASLU courses combined have been used by students to fill the "2 high school credits in a foreign language" requirement.  Look at the details listed in the national requirements to see how many contact hours they require or any other details. Each ASLU course requires approximately 75 contact hours. (150 total for both courses). 

One of the best explanations of "college semester" = "high school year" equivalency I've seen is at the Regent University website where they explain:

1 Carnegie Unit = 1 hour of instruction or 2 hours of practice (Instruction = guided learning).
120 Carnegie Units = a regular high school class. 150 Carnegie Units = advanced or college prep high school classes.
If you define a high school class as 120 Carnegie Units then a 3 credit hour college course can be counted as 1 high school credit. (ENG 101 = 3 college credits = 1 high school unit, Spanish 101 = 4 college credits = 1.25 high school units)
If you define a high school class as 150 Carnegie units, then a 4 credit hour college course can be counted as 1 high school unit. (ENG 101 = 3 college credits = .75 high school units, Spanish 101 = 4 college credits = 1 high school unit)


License Reciprocity?
 We want to use used the ASLU online course for our charter school. Our state requires that our local school use only certified teachers for our courses. If we signed up for the ASLU courses while using a local proctor for our students (for example; a CODA that wasn't certified in ASL and who doesn't possess a teacher's certificate) would that meet the requirement for a teacher's certification?

Response: (from Dr. Vicars)  Most states allow for something called "Professional Educator License Reciprocity." 
A while back a high school (Utah Electronic High School) invited me to teach an online ASL course for them (which I did). I asked the principal if I was allowed to teach at the High School level in regard to "teacher certification" rules. He replied, (and I quote) "Since you teach at the university -- reciprocity agreements take care of it."  I graduated with an EdD (Doctorate of Education / Deaf Studies) from an accredited university (Lamar University, Beaumont TX) in 2003 and have taught full-time at an accredited university (California State University - Sacramento) since August of 2003.  To be certain that the ASLU course and my credentials would satisfy your needs you should get acceptance in writing from whomever makes the decision regarding course acceptability / transferability / articulation in your district prior to registering for any ASLU courses.

Question: Who usually studies ASL?

- Future interpreters
- Future Educators of the Deaf
- People who like studying new and interesting things for the fun of it.
- People who find themselves losing their hearing
- People who plan on working in a profession wherein they will encounter the public
- Students who want to have an edge over others in their field
- People who are have a relationship of some kind with an individual who is Deaf
- People who think Dr. Bill is handsome and like staring at his face for hours on end. (Ahahahaha.)

Question: Is there an ongoing and steady demand for individuals with signing skills?
Answer: Certified interpreters are in relatively high demand, especially if you are willing to relocate. The same goes for certified Teachers of the Deaf (again, relocation is a strong likelihood.) Knowing sign language is a general "plus" on most resumes.

Question: Does ASL continue to work well with lip reading and new technologies (whatever they may be, email, texting etc)? Is there a need for members of the Hearing community to act as an interface/interpreter for the Deaf community? Do you know where this need is most likely to exist?

Answer: For the foreseeable future skilled ASL interpreters will still be "in demand." Technology influences things yes, but it doesn't replace interpreters. Actually, in the case of video relay interpreting technology provides the opportunity for "remote interpreting" for communication events for which traditional in-person interpreting might not have been feasible. Interpreters mainly gravitate to large metropolitan areas where they can find steady freelance work. Other than that they scan the online "Want Ads" for full-time positions with schools or agencies and then move to where they can find such a position.

Question: What are your student population demographics like? What do most students do after ASL 1 and 2?

Answer: Most of my students (at my day job at Sacramento State) are taking ASL 1 and ASL 2 to fulfill the foreign language credit requirement. Most go away and never really use it again. About 4 out of 100 go on to become interpreters or Educators of the Deaf or work in Deaf-related fields (Vocational Rehabilitation, Speech Pathology, Audiology, etc.).

Question: Do you know of any summer ASL immersion programs?
Answer: I used to run such a program. But these days I am focusing on Web Development. Your best bet is to "google around" using keywords such as: "ASL immersion register registration deadline" (without the quotes). For three-thousand dollars I do private "ASL Hyper Immersions" where you are immersed 24/7 (with a signing coach) and also get to hang out with me frequently for a week. If you've got $3,00 feel free to send me a $100 donation to convince me you are legit and then email me for details on the "ASL hyper-immersion."

More questions and answers:   |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  | 





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