• As a result, Churchman developed five assumptions for a systems approach that systems thinkers should take into account when they consider and seek to understand a system (Churchman, 1968, p.29)
’’ 1. the total system objectives and, more specifically, the performance measures of the whole system;
2. the system’s environment: the fixed constraints;
3. the resources of the system;
4. the components of the system, their activities, goals and measures of performance;
5. the management of the system.’’
While Thorndike posited, “responses to stimuli are strengthened when followed by satisfying consequences” (p.114), his predecessor Pavlov established that “stimuli could be conditioned to elicit responses by being paired with other stimuli” (p.114). Guthrie suggested that a “contiguous relation between stimulus and response” (p.114) was created so that a behaviour was repeated whenever the associated situation occurred.
– According to Shuell (1986), cognitive theorists see learning as “an active, constructive, and goal-oriented process that is dependent upon the mental activities of the learner” (p.415), which contrasts to the behaviourist notion of the learner as a passive subject driven by environmental stimuli
– Hartley (1998) emphasised how “learning results from inferences, expectations and making connections” and that “instead of acquiring habits, learners acquire plans and strategies, and prior knowledge is important’ (p.18).
– Schunk (2012) notes that “constructivism does not propound that learning principles exist and are to be discovered and tested, but rather that learners create their own learning” (p.230).
– According to Powell and Kalina (2009), “Piaget’s cognitive constructivism theory incorporates the importance of understanding what each individual needs to get knowledge and learn at his or her own pace’’
– Dewey de?ned re?ection as “active, persistent and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it and the further conclusion to which it tends” (Dewey, 1933, p.9).
– This was evident in later descriptions of reflection, such as the one offered by Boud et al. (1985, p.19) who defined it as “A generic term for those intellectual and affective activities in which individual engage to explore their experiences in order to lead to new understandings and appreciation.”
– With the idea of reflection having become central to the notion of reflective learning, the latter came to be seen as “an intentional social process, where context and experience are acknowledged, in which learners are active individuals, wholly present, engaging with others, open to challenge, and the outcome involves transformation as well as improvement for both individuals and their environment” (Brockbank and McGill, p.36)
In addition, Maqsood, Finegan and Walker (2001) identified five case studies within the construction industry where managers and/or contractors could benefit from undertaking a SSM to ensure more was learned about the “structures, processes, perceptions and beliefs” (p. 4)
– For example, Fleming and Hiple (2004) pointed out that earlier conventional definitions of DE were applied to contexts where there was physical distance between the tutor and the student requiring them to use a method of communication that could bridge time and/or space. However, as communication technologies advanced, definitions became increasingly characterised by “additional criteria and more finely drawn distinctions” (Fleming and Hiple, 2004, p. 64).
– For a formal and more precise definition, an ODE can be defined as “an educational modality that mainly takes place mediated by interactions via the Internet and associated technologies” (Borba et al., 2010, p. 1).
To ensure clarity, terms commonly associated in the discourse within which ODE is embedded are explained in the table below:
Open Learning (OL) (Bates, 2005, p.5):
• “Open learning is primarily a goal, or an educational policy.
• “An essential characteristic of open learning is the removal of barriers to learning” (including prior qualifications and support for learners with disabilities)
• Ideally, it should be universally accessible. Thus it “must be scalable as well as flexible”
• Suitable technologies must be available to facilitate OL
DE (DE) (Tomei, 2010, p.82):
• “A generic term that includes the range of teaching/learning strategies used by correspondence colleges, open universities, distance departments of conventional colleges or universities, and distance training units of corporate providers.”
• “It is a term for the education of those who choose not to attend the schools, colleges and universities of the world but study at their home, or sometimes at their workplace.”
Flexible Learning (FL) (Bates, 2005, p.5):
• FL “is the provision of learning in a flexible manner, built around the geographical, social and time constraints of individual learners, rather than those of an educational institution”
• FL “may include DE, but it also may include delivering face-to-face training in the workplace or opening the campus longer hours or organizing weekend or summer schools’’.
Online Education (Tomei, 2010, p.166):
• “A web-based approach to education in which students access online resources and communicate with instructors and other students through computer- mediated communication.”
• “Online education can be part of DE, but online education does not encompass DE.”
E-learning (Tomei, 2010, p.86):
• “Allows for Internet-enabled learning or DE over communication networks. It involves the use of network or Internet technologies to create, deliver, and facilitate learning anytime and anywhere.”
• “E-learning allows delivery of individualized, comprehensive, complex, and dynamic learning content in real time, aiding the development of communities of knowledge and linking learners and practitioners with experts.”
– One particular source of confusion is the conflation of e-learning and DE, which encompasses ODE (Guri-Rosenbilt & Gros, 2011). E-learning, which is related to instructional technology (Larremendy-Joerns & Leinhardt, 2006) is not totally aimed at distance learners (Guri-Rosenbilt & Gros, 2011). Indeed, “most higher education institutions use the new technologies to enhance classroom encounters rather than to adopt a distance teaching pedagogy” (Guri-Rosenblit, 2009, p.108).
Perhaps, the critique of Moore and Kearsley’s model offered by Schaffer (2005, p.6) ‘’Although they clearly have a systems view in mind, diagrams of this structure cannot begin to capture the full complexity of the DE system’’
Due to the aim of this study that is to assess SSM-Mode 2 as a learning process to explore situation in ODE from the cultural perspective of China. SSM-Mode 2 has more emphasis on understanding a problematic situation from multiple stakeholders’ and cultural perspectives. So, the researcher classified ODE issues into themes that consider different stakeholders views and cultural context of ODE. These issues have enough thematic similarity to be attributable, with a degree of relevance, to institutional, technological, cultural and learners themes. Institutional issues represent problems face institutions’ stakeholders such as managers, designers and tutors. Technological issues can face multiple stakeholders involved in ODE and affect their activities. Cultural issues represent social and political problems encountered in ODE system while learners’ issues represent personal issues of ODE students.
Dimensions in E-Learning Issues
1. Institutional Issues affecting administrative affairs, academic affairs, and student services related to e-learning
2. Management Maintenance of learning environment and distribution of information
3.Technological Issues with technology infrastructure in e-learning environments, including infrastructure planning, hardware and software
4. Pedagogical Teaching and learning issues, such as content analysis, audience analysis, goal analysis, media analysis, design approach, organization and learning strategies
5. Ethical Social and political influence, cultural diversity, bias, geographical diversity, learner diversity, digital divide, etiquette, legal issues
6. Interface Design Overall appearance of e-learning programs, page and site design, content design, navigation, accessibility, usability testing
7. Resource Design Online support and resources for meaningful learning
8. Evaluation Learner assessment, evaluation of instruction and learning environment

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