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ABSTRACT. Self-access follows two fundamental principles of second language acquisition theory: 1. As every student is an individual, then no single style of teaching can provide relevant learning activities for all, but self-access can provide opportunities for students to meet their own individual needs with support from a teacher, if required (Brandon 2003). 2. As we are all natural learners (Corder 1981) we can activate our own internal acquisition capacity in a wider educational context by developing autonomous learning skills to study independently of a teacher. Since the establishment of the first Self-Access Centre (SAC) at the University of Nancy in France the trend has spread around the globe, although there has been much debate over the definition of full autonomy. SACs are educational facilities that may vary in levels of self-direction e.g. the student-run SAC English Department, University of Munster, Germany (1993). Self-access centers can be as simple as a classroom set aside with dictionaries and shelves of paper-based exercises to state-of-the-art digital centers with various types of computer- and Internet-based resources. What resources are available and how students are guided to use them depend on the financial resources available and how much learner autonomy an institution decides to give students (Wikipedia). This paper will examine the setting up of a SAC from a business perspective by emphasizing the planning required to assess viability and the likelihood of success. It will therefore focus on 4 key areas - management, users, resources and facilities. INTRODUCTION. There is no universal model for setting up a self-access centre, since parameters vary and each institution must find an appropriate format that works for their own particular needs and purposes. However a variety of carefully chosen, well-presented and easily accessible resources will allow learners to work according to their individual interests, needs and learning styles in a rich learning environment. It will provide a context in which learners can develop a range of language and transferable skills to complement classroom-based teaching. It is essential to establish a common philosophy if the SAC vision is to be translated into an actual structure, even before encountering logistical problems of incorporation with students and teachers. If you have no funding issues then organizations such as the prestigious British Centre (Monterrey, Mexico) can take care of the whole process needed to develop a SAC in your school or teaching institution. This

encompasses design to the completed installation, recommended suppliers for the construction work, decorations, fixtures and fittings and suitable study materials. They will also provide necessary staff training and an academic infrastructure to assist in the launch. If required, on-going consultancy will assist you in tailoring your centre to meet you and your students needs. The above example may sound very effective, but often money alone is not the answer as indicated in the following example. A STUDY OF TERTIARY LEVEL SELF-ACCESS FACILITIES IN HONG KONG (Gardner and Miller). This study revealed inherent flaws in the 5 centres at universities in the project, because managers and those in positions of authority did not describe the rationale behind the establishment of fund-driven SACs, or communicate this to tutors, colleagues or users. The SACs were directionless and incoherent in their policies. Human resources were inadequately utilized, as job descriptions did not define managers areas of responsibility and nor were they circulated to avoid confusion. Trainers did not hone their skills in a systematic way, but rather by trial and error. The SAC managers did not conduct thorough needs analyses, train their tutors sufficiently in material writing, or provide materials to meet users needs or wants. There were insufficient connections between self-access learning and the classroom, thereby conveying negative perceptions of the SACs as places for remedial catch-up or entertainment usage. Study plans were infrequent and monitoring of progress was largely ignored. The writers recommended the creation of a culture of self-access learning to raise their profile for non-users; allowing student input regarding materials and their organization to make the SACs more user-friendly; full-time posts with suitable job specifications to create stronger staff commitment/ employment continuity thus enhancing status within the university communities. This study revealed classic examples of abdication of responsibility, as the learners were merely supplied with a quantity of high-level resources and left to their own devices. Although the funders recognized the need for language enhancement, the educational goals were not set and the SACs occupied a very low status amongst teachers and users, thus providing little justification for their establishment to anyone.

The reason for the development of any SAC should normally be in response to user demand/requirements and in order to respond effectively and offer quality self-access, provide educational value and cost-effectiveness we need to have control. The key to any organization's long-term success and achievement of its objectives is good management. The SAC must perform a vital role if independent language learning is to be integrated successfully with the language curriculum. THE 4 KEY AREAS OF PLANNING A SAC. 1. MANAGEMENT. After conducting a needs analysis to determine the services to be offered and identifying the users, the Mission statement should clearly define such targets. (Socrates Programme 2003). A) Themission statement as indicated, must be succinct but are both your staff and users aware of it? This may involve planning for short-term and long-term projects; including designing, piloting, budgeting and implementing. In order to keep pace with advancements in our highly technological society the projects may change in keeping with the times and the SAC needs to evolve accordingly. For example, the aim of the University of Bristol Language Centre is to respond to changing educational and commercial environments and enhance the Universitys reputation as a major provider of high quality language education and training (See appendix 1). This is a good and clear indicator of their mission and objectives. In addition Management needs to address certain questions at the outset:1) Why should the SAC exist what is its purpose/role? The stimulus may be student centred or teacher influenced e.g. students desiring to be more skilled for the competitive job market, or instructors wishing to enhance learning beyond the classroom. 2) What is the educational methodology behind the operation of the SAC? This invariably will be the conviction that autonomous learning is essential and it is more achievable through a suitable conducive study/learning environment. 3) Have you clearly identified the intended users? Are they motivational students, course required attendants, or external users, etc?

4) Are your plans for setting up/development/expansion based on a thorough needs analysis? This may require curriculum development to take into account the existence of the SAC e.g. required attendance/class scheduling. Once needs are diagnosed, then learning goals need to be formulated; learning strategies have to be selected; the content and progression of the learning process defined and monitoring and evaluation procedures installed. B) Decision making, reporting and liaison. What level of autonomy has the SAC within your school or institution? This will be very important vis--vis management/financial policy if referral or approval is required from others. The teachers vision of a SAC and that of the funder/provider may be entirely different resulting in significant compromises along the way i.e. space, equipment, materials, staffing etc. C) Planning. 1. In setting up a SAC you have to project from the current situation the immediate, short/medium/long term operational and strategic objectives, as in business planning. Are your plans for future development realistic? This may involve the need to conduct a feasibility study. The action needed has to be determined and appropriate timescales for implementation set. 2. Who are the stakeholders involved in your planning process? This may include students (users), staff (facilitators) and other members of your organization (providers). D) Budgeting and Finance. 1. Considerable amounts of funding are required for the acquisition of computer equipment and software, audio and video materials, printed sources and the provision of technical support staff. So too the training of teaching staff and materials development is costly and often overlooked. Administrators and teachers have very different perspectives and so it is very important how a budget is determined and then allocated. 2. There are no economies of scale and the more sophisticated the technology becomes the more it costs to maintain and the more users to be dealt with the more complex the process becomes. 3. Are there any hidden costs such as software licences you need to anticipate?

E) Promotion and marketing. 1. Are you promoting the centre sufficiently to reach your target users? 2. Is information disseminated for SAC users advising on opening hours, services, access for special needs students, etc? F) Staffing. You will have to plan your staffing needs:1. Full-time, part-time, student placements, volunteers etc. 2. Job descriptions/responsibilities and any unsociable hours to be worked. I am including an example of a real job vacancy as it clearly summarizes all the tasks that may need to be performed at an SAC, but may not be anticipated at the planning stage (See appendix 2). Employing such staff would shift the responsibility of arranging source materials and labeling etc (Alex Case) to a responsible designated person and is preferable, unless you are operating on a tight budget (Michael Rodden). 3. Legal requirements for recruitment/advertising/equal opportunities etc. 4. Professional development/workers rights. G) Monitoring and assessment. This is essential in contingency planning and for monitoring the use of the SAC by way of user numbers; as a management tool for cost-effectiveness and evaluation of the usefulness of the facilities and the materials therein. Various methods can be used such as class discussion, feedback forms, questionnaires, suggestion boxes etc. (Methods of objectively assessing the effectiveness of SACs per se and measuring their learning-gain validity are unfortunately beyond the scope of this essay).

H) Keeping an inventory of equipment and learning materials - the necessity to record this information, including all acquisitions, must not be overlooked. It is essential for processing insurance claims, or if anything needs to be repaired or replaced.

I) Copyright issues- this is a potential minefield and requires clarity in instructions to be given about possible infringements by staff and users too (Davies).

J) Health and Safety - the working environment. This includes safe working practices, drills, first aid kits, security etc. K) Insurance - this covers the safety of users and their belongings; data protection and the appropriate measures needed to have open but secure access for everyone involved. 2. THE USERS. A) INDIVIDUAL LEARNER NEEDS AND STAFF SUPPORT. The appropriate level of staffing, support materials and training/induction for students and advisors alike must be thoroughly examined. It may be necessary to convince reluctant learners and teachers and ensure that they have the requisite motivation and skills to progress. Effective autonomous learning and class learning should complement and not rival each other, but reorientation may be needed to ensure compatible and supportive input by staff. Students should be encouraged to start thinking like teachers during their independent learning and question themselves about the skills they need to develop, the activities they should choose and the optimum way to study in a varied yet enjoyable manner. This will necessitate ongoing training and teacher support. B) THE LEARNERS. It is essential to build a good profile of actual and potential users based on a thorough needs analysis. This should encompass the purposes of the language study so that appropriate materials can be provided; the status of students i.e. full or part-time, mature, special needs, home or overseas, registered or 'drop-in' learners; the range of language levels to be catered for etc. At the University of Auckland they even developed a computer programme to help students identify their language needs and set their own goals (Reinders 2004). C) LEARNING THEORIES. Autonomy is central and must be encouraged. Success will largely be determined by the models of teaching /learning held and implemented by the students and teachers/facilitators alike. A fostering of awareness of the language learning process is vital.

D) THE CURRICULUM. Independent language learning must be integrated into the curriculum or at least be valued if it is to retain its prioritization and impetus with students and language staff too. The main focus of the curriculum will largely determine the need for relevant learning resources.

E) COMMUNICATION AND ACCESS IN THE SAC. Management needs to consider the induction of users (development of a user guide); the levels of communication between staff and users; special need users and attracting new users e.g. to generate income. 3. RESOURCES. This will involve many factors:A) Design - presentation has a significant appeal in attracting learners and careful storage is necessary. In the case of in-house developed materials they should be as professional looking as possible, or may be ignored. B) Purchase - as materials will often be used without direct support it is important to carefully evaluate them before buying and it is useful to have a checklist for guidance. Some useful selection questions are (Ciel 2000):What is the learning focus of a resource and are the learning objectives and language level clearly stated for the learner? Is the material appropriate in terms of topics; ages and interests of the learners and the language curriculum design? Is the resource specifically for self-access use or will the student need input or support? Does the material encourage reflection and how will the learner receive feedback on activities? Is the expenditure on materials justified - by the number of students and the demand? Can the material be used with the existing technical infrastructure in the SAC? It must be decided whether the learning is to be print-based, audio based, based on videos or TV programmes, or involve multimedia. Gardner and Miller (1999) suggest that published language learning materials are useful because of availability, low cost, speed they can be obtained, assurance of quality etc. However electronic resources have become more popular in recent years due to digital advances in this sector, but human resources remain the most authentic source if they can be exploited. C) Maintenance and organization of equipment and materials. D) Classification, cataloguing and retrieval. It is important to plan a system of categorization from the outset and anticipate how students will gain access to what exactly they need.

E) Copyright adherence. F) The optimum mix of media and materials to cater for a variety of needs and interests. G)) New technologies together with inherent complications e.g. technophobes and traditional teaching resistance. H) Planning and review of all the above on an ongoing basis. 4. THE FACILITIES AND THEIR LOCATION. This will certainly be dictated by funding, but should take account of:A) The usage patterns by which students will have an influence on the design and layout of the SAC e.g. group collaboration will require appropriate working space. B) The proximity and environment of the location, together with accessibility will either encourage or discourage repeated/continued learning i.e. an unattractive basement would not be conducive to study. C) The size of the SAC is important in coping with peak demands and yet not being too huge and uninviting during quiet periods. D) Comfort and security for enticing conditions. Designing ones space and planning resources inevitably leads to looking at ones intended language provision and anticipating the kind of activities that one wishes the new facilities to be able to promote. . CHARACTERISTICS OF WELL-USED SACs. Research from SACs at Universities in Ireland, France and Hong Kong revealed the following:1. Learner support Learners need to be supported before, during and after each visit to the centre in a variety of ways. This may involve persuading learners to try selfinstruction, changing attitudes about language learning and building their self-confidence in their ability to work independently of the teacher. Support during SAC visits includes the provision of staffing (listening, interpreting and responding to users' requests or inquiries; documentation ('user-friendly' catalogues, needs analysis and suggested pathways), guides to possible ways of using materials and ongoing learner training. The quality of the support SAC users receive will have a significant impact on their learning and on the perceived value and relevance of the centre.

2. Materials A major contributing factor to the effective functioning of centres is a wide range of interesting, up-to-date language learning materials and activity types. Too many materials can proved intimidating and it is advisable to familiarize learners with some of the centre's materials by introducing them in a non-threatening manner. Where materials are accompanied by appropriate learner support, there is a much greater chance that they will be used in a way that enhances learning of the target language and awareness of the learning process. 3. Technology An excellent range of high caliber technology can be provided, but it is only as useful as the learner support mechanisms in place in an institution and this should be borne in mind when making decisions about the purchase of new hardware/software. The contribution to language learning must initially be evaluated e.g. individual satellite television viewing facilities, individual video viewing booths, individual audio listening booths, group video viewing (or seminar) rooms, group audio listening facilities. Institutions must endeavour to create an atmosphere in which language learning is clearly valued and encouraged e.g. dividing the total space into more than one area to give users a sense of privacy, as well as emphasizing the existence of multiple configurations for SAC study. 4. Management Staff must be guided and supported by others devoted to the management and planning of language-related issues within the institution. Ongoing communication between staff at ground level and faculty staff involved in the teaching and administration of language courses brings an essential perspective to the discussion of matters relating to SAC developments. 5. Research activity Active research into all aspects of self-access learning is required. This can involve projects by language teaching and SAC staff and in some cases by graduate students at the request of management to define learning problems and diagnose learning needs (Cotterall 1996).


CONCLUSION. Harmer (2007) states that the characteristics of a good SAC are:- having clear classification systems for resources of skill, activity and level; appropriately directed pathways for students to follow; training in usage; reflecting different learning styles; keeping users motivated and involved. Location, staffing, hardware and materials are just as vital as considering the potential benefits for students and their predisposition to learning. In the end the response to student goals and needs must be thoroughly planned. The type of SAC chosen, the successful delivery of services and the smooth operation of the enterprise will demand committed time and money.


APPENDIX 1. MISSION STATEMENT - THE UNIVERSITY OF BRISTOL LANGUAGE CENTRE. In achieving this aim, the objectives of the Centre are as follows: to provide a high quality learning experience which enables students to develop intellectually and individually; to ensure that all University of Bristol students are given the opportunity to equip themselves with the language skills to function effectively in a global labour market; to work with colleagues from disciplines across the university to develop innovative and relevant programmes; to be at the forefront of developments in e-learning and in the application of new technologies for language learning; to build on and further develop the existing range of programmes in English for Academic Purposes for international students.(University of Bristol). The Centre has a designated multi-media Self-Access Facility, which is located in the basement of 30/32 Tyndalls Park Road. It includes a computer room with networked stations, satellite TV facilities, digital viewing stations, and a reading room equipped with text books and a comprehensive selection of general and subject specific foreign language and English materials. Language Centre students from all faculties are encouraged to use this facility on a drop-in basis to support their language learning. There is a Language Services Co-ordinator and a Multi-media Technical Advisor on site.


APPENDIX 2. VACANCY - SAC ASSISTANT AT UCL. Purpose of the role To assist the SAC Coordinator with the running of the busy Self-Access Centre that serves UCL staff, students and external Language Centre clients, with direct responsibility for being the first port of call for all SAC enquiries. This position will be based primarily in the Self-Access Centre. The post will involve work in the following areas: To maintain effective communication between the SAC and LC staff, students and external clients; To be the first contact dealing with any SAC enquiry, and to pass enquiries to the SAC Coordinator, as and when necessary; To assist all users of the SAC regarding use of facilities and materials in liaison with the SAC Coordinator and to conduct SAC inductions to all customers; To be responsible for the general SAC maintenance (including the SAC database, EAP learner database, materials processing and helping with materials creation, SAC PCs etc.); To be responsible for the implementation and running of a customer feedback system Main responsibilities Maintaining the SAC notice board and general SAC messages; Provide information on all SAC services to UCL staff and students and external clients; Conduct SAC tours/inductions to all clients (course unit students, evening classes students, English for Academic Purposes international students and external clients; Create a SAC manual and do regular updates under the supervision of and in liaison with the SAC Coordinator; To be responsible for essential maintenance of the SAC (e.g. straighten chairs, tidy newspapers, books check that material is in the correct place and rearrange if necessary, enforce SAC guidelines like not eating and drinking, no mobile phones no taking out/borrowing any material); Inputting/updating and maintaining of SAC, resources room and EAP


materials details on the databases (e.g. write descriptions), adding new video/audio recordings as required; Conduct annual inventory of materials databases; Assist students/clients from English for Academic Purposes (EAP)/foreign language areas (e.g. showing them the facilities, handing out material like DVDs, IELTS books, the DELTA cupboard key and log students internal borrowing, helps with technical problems of the computers or the satellite TV); Process materials (book-covering service for SAC and resources room materials, copy audio cassettes, CDs, DVDs; digitise video files from DVD/VHS copies; process digital videos i. e. remove adverts, start and end point assists with descriptions, labelling etc.); Help with materials creation (record audio material for websites, checks TV channel listings to look for new recordings); Assist with PC maintenance in the SAC (check that they are all working, install Windows updates, reinstall Window Media Player as required) reports any problems to line manager (SAC Coordinator) responsible for loading new software onto SAC PCs in liaison with the SAC Coordinator, first contact to deal with any software related problems; Assist with maintenance of the teachers resources room (database, covering books, and to make recordings for staff as required via the line manager); Update the EAP learner database Input and help with general distance language learning materials creation; Responsible for the set-up of the Language Lab for teaching; Member of the LC SAC resources committee; Assist the SAC Coordinator with issuing the SAC newsletter; Develop and manage a customer feedback system and summarise relevant trends to discuss and act upon with SAC Coordinator; Liaise with the Academic Resources Coordinator for EAP and Modern Foreign Languages. (UCL Language Centre).


BIBLIOGRAPHY. Brandon, K. 2000 Best Practice in Guided Individual Learning: A Reality Corder, S. 1981. Error Analysis and Interlanguage. Gabal, S & Legenhausen, L. 1993 Experiences with a student-run SAC English Department, University of Munster Germany. http:/ / Wikipedia - Self access language learning centers Self-Access Centres Gardner, D and Miller, Lindsay. 1997. A Study of Tertiary Level Self-Access Facilities in Hong Kong. Socrates Programme. 2003. Language Resource Centre handbook University of Bristol Language Centre UCL Language Centre Vacancy for a Self-Access Centre (SAC) Assistant. Case, A. SAC Shock! Tips for self access centres. http:/ / Rodden, M. Self-access on a budget/ Self-access: a framework for diversity. http:/ / http:/ / frameworkdiversity Davies,G. 1993. Managing a multimedia language centre. http:/ / Reinders, H. 2004. Self-access centres: Teaching language and teaching learning.


http:/ / Ciel Language Support Network. 2000. Resources for independent language learning: design and use. http:/ / Gardner, G and Miller, L. 1999. Establishing Self-Access: from theory to practice. Cotterall, S. 1996.Towards an effective self access centre: a report for the English Language Institute, Victoria University of Harmer, J. 2007 The Practice of English Language Teaching.