<b> Forum for material writers </b>

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Post by Nikita » Wed Jun 21, 2006 1:33 pm

I teach at a school in South Africa and run the self-access centre. I'm interested to hear about other self-access centres in the world - how they're run, timetabled, ideas that work etc.

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Post by emile » Thu Jun 22, 2006 12:42 am

Hi Nikita,

I helped set up the 'Aula Cervantes' (Spanish self-access center), at my last workplace, although I left the job just before it actually opened. You can check it out here:

What materials are you using for the students to access? I think that is probably the most important thing. Are you planning to have a range of books or is it mainly software?

Feel free to get recommend my grammar site:, and I know plenty other great sites if you'd like a list.

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Location: United Kingdom

Running a self access centre

Post by eslweb » Sat Jun 24, 2006 12:57 am

There seems to be two approaches to running a self access centre in places I've come across:

1. Let the kids play on the Internet and do what they like. Keeps people happy while, they're waiting but you have to have excellent virus checkers and occassionally reinstall.

2. Actually control what they can use on the PC, limit access to PCs and software.

A. Books

If you've got books, most people use a simple library system and you pay a deposit and borrow books as you want and most people divide the books by levels...

Also key grammar resources make reference only and allow students to copy relevant pages. Some centres even have key-handouts ready and laminated, because they are so popular...

These are the types of books I'd suggest:
Grammar books & course workbooks
Books with listening CDs
Exam practice books
English reading material, for lower levels buy simplified English and most students want to read books of films rather than anything else.

Sadly most self-study centres fill their shelves with classic literature, because it's the cheapest. You can do this, but don't choose complicated books, I'd choose books with short stories, such as The Three Musketeers, Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood etc.

B. PCs

When running the PC's I'd suggest the following:
(Sorry if this too technical, ask if it is....)

1. Get a good firewall, but allow MSN and other English based chat systems

2. Disable installation of new software on the PCs. (Windows XP allows you to this easily) But make sure you install:
MS Media player
Real Audio free edition

Most EFL Websites need these to work properly.

Also you can save money on MS Office by installing the free Open Office instead, it is plenty good enough for students to do word processing, make presentations etc. I'd spend it on good quality listening resources instead if you can....

3. If you know html, create a Webpage with bookmarks and put it on each PC locally and make it the homepage. (You can use MS Word, for this kind of page and save as html)

If you don't know what Websites to choose you can go to my Website, there's plenty of links to useful material and also there's a sticky thread around here somewhere with lots of links...

C. Create a self-study timetable

I'd also suggest that for each course you develop a self-study timetable so that dedicated students know what they could be doing in self-study.
I provide one for my classes at the beginning of each course, so that they know what they should be doing.

Most self study centres timetable self-study time at the beginning or end of the day, so that students have some flexibility when catching buses etc. I'd suggest 1-2 hours per day for each student is plenty for formal self-study time and the rest of the time they can come in as they want.


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