Why do schools need an Open Learning Environment?
Educational institutions always try to find out ways that help in improving the quality of education. Whilst it is very important that learners understand and grasp information in an effective manner, the emphasis is majorly laid on developing ways for providing student-centred learning. The concept of student-centred learning revolves around putting the interests of learners first, thus promoting lifelong learning, and making them independent problem-solvers.
An open learning environment is one such approach based on student-centred learning that aims to create an environment where students can take the responsibility of learning. And here, we’ll be discussing how an open learning environment is defined, where did the idea of an open learning environment come from, what are its benefits in school education, and what are the challenges faced in setting it up.
Where did the idea of Open Learning Environment come from?
The idea of an open learning environment dates back to the year 1965, in the United States, where an experimental elementary open-school was set up to promote movement. Another important objective of such open schools was to let students learn at their own pace, thus helping them become more self-regulated, strategic, and reflective.
By the end of the 20th Century, the term ‘open learning’ started being referred to as ‘flexible learning’ which defines as a technique that lets students take charge of their own learning. The ultimate goal of flexible learning is to help individuals become expert learners.
What is an Open Learning Environment?
Based on the student-centred learning space approach, an open learning environment or an open classroom is a design format where there are no physical walls present to separate the classrooms, with the idea of letting teachers move from one area to another. An open classroom entails a large group of students with a diverse range of skills with many teachers overseeing them. Since there are flexible areas in an open classroom, learners get more opportunities to learn at their own pace and as per their needs and abilities.
An open learning environment is beneficial for students as well as teachers. While students experience better collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity, teachers can benefit from increased productivity and efficiency.
Benefits of Open Learning Environment in Schools
The concept of an open learning environment looks really advantageous but how exactly does it benefit schools? Let’s find out through the pointers below!
- It gives freedom to students: As there are no walls in an open learning environment, students are free to move from one area to another. The idea is to let the environment adapt according to the students and not the other way around. Since an open learning environment runs completely different from a traditional classroom, students are free to learn at their own pace and whenever they want.
- A quieter school: In the first place, it might seem that an open learning environment may cause a lot of chaos and noise but this isn’t actually the case. In fact, it has been found that schools with open learning environments are even quieter than schools with traditional classrooms. The only and the most important physical condition that open learning classrooms need to have is good acoustics. Without acoustics, an open learning classroom might end up with unfavourable consequences.
- A better sense of community: Since traditional classrooms keep you restricted within the walls of a classroom, an open learning environment lets pupils move freely from one area to another allowing them to interact with as many people, thus promoting the feeling of togetherness. As collaboration improves, people are there to help each other out thus develop a better sense of community.
- Increased Teacher Effectiveness: It is a human tendency that when we have a partner, we can make better decisions. Just like the way students benefit from working collaboratively in an open learning environment, teachers benefit from increased efficiency.
Open Learning Environment: The Challenges
Although open learning environments can change the process of teaching and learning, there are some challenges that such spaces face, below are some of the major ones.
- The problem of noise: As stated in the above section, if proper acoustics are not present in an open learning environment, it may make learning chaotic instead of brining fruitful outcomes. Since open learning spaces are usually bigger, institutes need to make sure that proper sound systems are available so that they might not suffer from problems of noise and that students can learn in a conducive environment.
- Lack of Financial and Organisational Support: Remodelling and redesigning a traditional school requires a lot of financial and organisational support and planning. It has been recorded that most of the times schools with open learning environments cannot be set up because they don’t have adequate funds and organisational support to make these spaces work.
- Inadequate Teacher Training: One of the most common problems faced in setting up an open learning environment is not providing teachers with proper training and skills. Teachers need to be prepared and trained in advance so that they can perform well in such learning spaces.
- Change might terrify people: Despite the fact that change is the only constant in this world, not everyone is ready to accept it, especially when it comes to adapting to an entirely new type of a learning environment. While the objective of an open learning environment is to bring out the best in students, the results might not turn out to be very beneficial if learners do not respond well to these spaces.
Setting up an open learning environment at schools is definitely not an easy process as there are many challenges, but with proper planning and support, it can be done and thus utilised to render many benefits to schools and learners.