T. Wikström

Laurea University of Applied Sciences (FINLAND)
Interest in client-orientedness and student-centeredness has steadily increased during the past decades in different fields of service production and education. Open learning environments (OLEs) are part of this development. They are characterized by open-endedness that allows greater creativity and flexibility in terms of the learning goals and learning means. This has manifested in endless numbers of online and technologically advanced learning environments, tailored IT (information technology) based courses to suit different learners’ needs and personalized study plans to allow the individual learning paths.

In addition to online environments, OLEs can also be realized, for example, by multisensory means, in real, physical surroundings. In Finland, at Laurea University of Applied Sciences, a special method called the Multisensory Space has been developed and applied since 2007. In 2009-2010, the method was further developed in a project called Encounters in multisensory space, receiving partial funding from The European Fund for the Integration of Third-country Nationals, and in September 2011, the next project With All Senses – Developing Open Learning Environments (Aistien – Avoimia oppimisympäristöjä kehittämässä) was launched to continue the development and promotion of the method, together with different operators, such as museums, adult education centers, city representatives and other Universities of Applied Sciences, lasting till December 2014.

As on open learning environment, the Multisensory Space is an easily modified space where different more permanent and temporary multisensory landscapes can be created for the purpose of creative and interactive learning, sharing and processing knowledge, memories, feelings and thoughts. The Multisensory Space also focuses on promoting multiculturalism by encouraging the immigrants to work together with natives, thus making their culture, history and stories visible. By activating the local communities, it allows the learners to get shared realizations and insights about both time and space by making it possible to travel both to the past and future, to reminisce and also to plan, visualize and dream together for a better, shared future. The Space encourages the learners to visit another reality – to become “the other” for a while, when entering, for example, a space created by an immigrant family or by members of any kind of minority.

This presentation focuses on analyzing the open learning environment possibilities offered by the Multisensory Space in terms of the foundations, values and such components as enabling contexts, resources, tools and scaffolds. It wishes to see these traditionally often IT related OLE elements in the context of a physical open learning environment – how they can be translated in terms of the Multisensory Space and the multisensory learning possibilities provided by the shared Space creating process.