A Mexican project towards autonomy in language learning
(Published in Learner Autonomy in Language Learning, October 2006)
RedICAA UAEM: A Mexican project towards autonomy in
language learning–the largest network of self-access centres
in the world?
Maria Estela Estrada Cortés, Coordinator of the RedICAA Project, & Elsa Martínez Olmedo, Academic Assistant of PIEI Online and Self-Learning Projects, Autonomous University of the State of Mexico
Project RedICAA, standing for Institutional Network of Self-Access Centres (Red Institucional de Centros de Autoacceso in Spanish), is based at the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico. It is a key element of the Institutional English Teaching Program (Programa Institucional de Enseñanza del Inglés) which is concerned with promoting and developing autonomy in language learning among the more than 32,500 university students who have English as a foreign language as part of their program of studies in order to attain international proficiency standards.
The first steps in the project were the installation of the centres, the provision of technology, and the search for the ideal profile for staff to coordinate them. At the beginning 11 centres were established in
different academic units belonging to the university. The number is increasing fast and by the end of 2006 there will be 31 of them, and by the middle of 2007 there will around 35. However, the implementation and setting up of such a project does not ensure that the project will succeed in
reaching its goals. A lot of effective strategies were designed and are in the process to be implemented. These strategies are explained in detail below, but here I should mention that they involve training staff and students, installing technology, and purchasing materials. The RedICAA centres offer students opportunities to develop English language proficiency through the use of technological resources, the development of autonomous learning skills, and the promotion of materials.
As its main and broad aim, the project envisioned to lead learners of English towards international standards of English, the implementation and strengthening of a network of self-access centres with more than 30 self-access centres where human resources, technology, didactic materials, theoretical foundations on autonomy in language learning, and Internet resources can join in leading staff and students towards the development of autonomy and self-directed learning programs. The strategies employed to help RedICAA reach this goal are diverse: staff training on autonomy, material design, and use of technology; learner training on strategy use and the development of autonomous learning skills; and the design, creation, and implementation of a professional program which will join all aspects and lead to success.