Theory Name: Open Learning Environments (OLEs)

Authors (Last, First): Hannafin, Michael; Land, Susan; Oliver, Kevin

Associate Learning Theory:
Social learning: Open-ended learning focusing on self-inquiry, divergent thinking and heuristics-based learning in ill-defined, ill-structured domains.

Model Description:
This theory provides a wide variety of methods and tools to engage student in divergent thinking, heuristics-based learning, and exploring fuzzy, ill-defined, and ill-structured problems. The theory offers a huge model with respect to enabling contexts, resources, tools, and scaffolds. The designer needs to figure out when to use different methods and resources.

Specification of Theory
(a) Goals and preconditions
The theory is intended to foster critical thinking, and inquiry-oriented and heuristics-based learning in ill-defined, and ill-structured domains.

(b) Principles
1) OLEs are intended to promote divergent thinking and multiple perspectives
2) OLEs provide self-directed learning and learner autonomy with metacognitive support
3) OLEs offer hands-on, concrete experiences involving authentic problems
4) OLEs mediate learning through individual experience and personal theories
5) OLEs provide tools and resources to aid the learner's efforts at learning

(c) Condition of learning
Primary learning context is experience-based problem solving tasks involving realistic, relevant problem posed through OLEs. The model assumes extensive use of available resources and contextual manipulation for supporting learning.

(d) Required media
Electronic media (e.g., database, computer tutorial, video etc), Print media (textbook, journal articles), or Humans (experts, parents, teachers, peers)

(e) Role of facilitator
Facilitator can be electronic media (e.g., database, computer tutorial, video etc), print media (textbook, journal articles), or humans (experts, parents, teachers, peers). The facilitator should support the situated learning context, provide appropriate resources and tools, and scaffold learner’s cognitive processes such as conceptual, metacognitive, procedural, strategic learning efforts.

(f) Instructional strategies
1) Enabling context to establish the perspectives taken in the environment (externally-imposed, externally-induced, or individually-generated contexts);
2) Resources to provide the domain of available information sources (static and/or dynamic);
3) Tools to provide the basic means for manipulating information (processing, manipulation, and/or communication tools);
4) Scaffolds to guide and support learning efforts (conceptual, metacognitive, procedural, and/or strategic scaffolding)

(g) Assessment method
Provide authentic problem-solving tasks and monitor the learners’ inquiring and problem-solving process. For example, for solving the given authentic tasks in ERGOMOTION, the learners are prompted to evaluate alternative responses, identify their own position and collect evidence to support their position.

Formative Research & Application
(a) Tested context: K-12 (Oliver, & Hannafin, 2001)
(b) Research method: Qualitative case study
(c) Research description: Oliver and Hannafin (2001) conduct a case study focused on the nature of science learning through open-ended problem solving. Twelve eighth graders were asked to find, frame, and resolve subproblems associated with structural failures resulting from earthquakes. Coded interviews, artifacts, and observations from the four-week study suggested students only partially derived accurate mental models about earthquakes engineering problems.
(d) Resources
Hannafin M., Land, S., & Olver, K. (1999). Open learning environments: Foundations, methods, and models. In C. M. Reigeluth (Ed.), Instructional design theories and models: A new paradigm of instructional theory (pp. 115-140). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Oliver, K. & Hannafin, M. (2001). Developing and refining mental models in open-ended learning environments: A case study. Educational Technology, Research and Development, 49(4), 5-32.

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