I agree with Gary about receiving most of today's instruction via the Internet. I teach ESL at UT- Brownsville's learning assistance center, and I like to supplement my instruction with the Internet. There is an invaluable amount of resources available that provides plenty of interactive multimedia experiences for language learners. (visit my homepage: http://unix.utb.edu/~jmendez). If you check out my "Go to exercises" page, you will see what I mean [my most popular sites are "Self-study quizzes for ESL Learners," "The English Language Center Study Zone," "Randall's Cyber Listening lab"]. My students use the Internet for listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
They say that "necessity is the mother of invention" and since my program is on a very tight budget, I've depended on the Internet 95% of the time. The other 5% is spent on demo software. Most companies are willing to send free software for review, and I've gotten plenty of it. It has worked wonderfully because it has allowed my students to sample different language programs and many have given me feedback on its effectiveness. Doing this has helped me generate a list of what works and what doesn't-- and when we do have enough money, I'll know exactly what I want.
CAI is wonderful, but I do caution on one thing: Make sure that you have a technician on board at all times, and I concur with Gary that you pay him well. Believe me, computers are not infallible, and I have had my share of headaches in dealing with them. Having a technician to handle these problems will make your CAI program run smoothly. For more information on setting up a CAI lab, you can read the article listed below ( you can find this article in the ERIC database). The article focuses more on CALL (computer assisted language learning) but it addresses several of the issues concerning implementation and planning the purchase of hardware and software. I'm sure you will find it useful.

Huss-Lederman S. (1995). Designing a multimedia ESL learning center.
Participant guide. Arlington, VA: Arlington Education and Employment Program
--Jacqueline Mendez/ ESL Learning Specialist
UT- Brownsville

"Gary K. Probst" wrote:

Gary Probst replied:

This has never been a problem for us since we hired a qualified person.
Most colleges I know of network all of their CAI.   A computer network
engineer, CNE,  starting salary usually is over 50k -60k.  The problem is
most colleges will not pay this salary for a learning lab.   In the future
you probably will receive all of your CAI over the Internet.  This has
already happened with some business software applications.

Allan Eller wrote:

> I wonder if the group could help me out.  My tutorial operation is rather
> small-scale, but relatively computer-rich.  I have been trying for some
> time now to make better use of the resources for computer-assisted
> instruction that are available.  One problem we (our academic computing
> guru and I) have run into is the difficulty of using a server-based
> operation for CAI.  Have others of you solved the problem?  Or is it just
> _my_ problem?  Or do you use stand-alone computers?  Will appreciate
> whatever help/advice you can provide.  Please feel free to send responses
> to me directly rather than to the group as a whole.  Many thanks.
> Allan
> Allan L. Eller
> Assistant Provost for Administration
> Director, Center for Academic Excellence
>  (607)777-2143
> Binghamton University (SUNY)
> Binghamton, NY  13902-6000