Open-Ended Learning Environments (OELE's)

What is Open-ended Learning Environments?

What are the underlying assumptions in Open-ended Learning? (Hannafin, Hall, Land, & Hill, 1994)

  1. Context and experience are critical to understanding: Learning is most effective when it evolves from rich, concrete experience, through which learners encounter, shape, and revise en-route theories in action
  2. Understanding is individually mediated: The students judges what, when and how learning will occur
  3. Cultivating cognitive process is often more critical than generating learning products
  1. Understanding is more vital than knowing: Open-ended learning environments immerse learners in experiences that foster understanding through extended exploration, manipulation, and opportunities to "get to know" an idea, rather than simply being told about it.
  2. Qualitatively different learning processes require qualitatively different methods: OELEs focus on problem-solving skills in authentic contexts, affording opportunities for exploration and theory building.

What are the major components of OELEs?

Enabling Contexts
  • Externally imposed
  • Externally induced
  • Individually generated
  • Static
  • Dynamic
  • Processing
  • Seeking
  • Collecting
  • Organizing
  • Generating
  • Conceptual
  • Metacognitive procedural
  • Strategic

Grounded Learning System of OELEs
Grounded-learning systems design is defined as the systematic implementation of processes and procedures that are rooted in established theory and research in human learning, which include psychological, pedagogical, technological, cultural, and pragmatic areas.


Hannafin, M. J., Hall, C., Land, S., & Hill, J. (1994). Learning in Open-ended Environments: Assumptions, Methods, and Implications. Educational Technology, 34 (8), 48-55.

Hannafin, M. J., Hannafin, K., Land, S. M. & Oliver, K. (1997). Grounded Practice and the Design of Constructivist Learning Environments. Educational Technology Research and Development, 45 (3), 101-117.

Hannifin, M. J., Land, S. M., & Oliver, K. (1999). Open learning environments. In C. M. Reigeluth (ed.). Instructional-design theories and models: A new paradigm of instructional theory. Volume II, pp.115-140. Mahwah, N.J: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Land, S. M., & Hannafin, M. J. (1997). Patterns of understanding with open-ended learning environments: A qualitative study. Educational Technology Research and Development, 45 (2), 47-73.