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How to Start a Learning Center

by Joanna Polisena

From schools to libraries to corporate training rooms, learning centers enable students to independently explore a topic using various tools. Because the audience for learning centers represents every age group, learning style and education level, each center will use a unique combination of available tools to achieve its learning goals. Learning centers that present multisensory information benefit all learners regardless of individual learning styles.

Types

Different organizations categorize learning centers according to the audience and purpose. Teachers can dedicate space in classrooms and businesses or universities can set aside conference rooms or Web space for adult audiences. Enrichment and skills centers supplement classes by offering hands-on activities, while interest centers act as standalone exploration stations. Online centers may be one-stop resource sites for information on a particular topic or for a particular audience.

Design

The most important skills or information your students need to obtain will determine how your center can provide the most effective learning. The elements to include in your center depend on its purpose; physical centers may need furniture, computers, books, easels or drawing instruments. If your center supplements lifecycle learning, you will need live specimens, such as bugs. Online centers may include video presentations, interactive exercises, links to resources and social tools such as chat rooms and messages boards. The center must clearly align with its learning objectives.

Setup

When you set up the learning center, it is best to choose a location with minimal distractions. For physical spaces, you will hang posters outlining instructions and learning objectives. For online environments, you will provide engaging presentations or home pages with this information. Decor and color schemes impact the kind of environment you are creating. You may need storage bins or folders for students to take away materials. Before opening for business, the center should include all materials necessary for learners to complete activities.

Participation

In addition to creating an attractive space with clear written instructions, a formal introduction to the learning center can boost participation. In this presentation, you can explain the purpose, provide a tour of materials, review instructions and define expectations. Offer a support mechanism so that learners can obtain extra help when needed. Continually evaluate the effectiveness of your learning center and add new activities on a regular basis. Solicit student feedback and implement changes to address weak points. You can assess your center by observing the way students use it, compare test results to stated objectives or discuss the center with students.

About the Author

Joanna Polisena has been writing professionally since obtaining a high school mentorship at her hometown's city newspaper. Her work has appeared in daily newspapers, an employment agency's monthly newsletter and various corporate multimedia productions. She earned an AA in letters, arts and sciences from Pennsylvania State University.

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