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Self Organized Learning Environments

Want students to learn for themselves without any direct instruction?

In Self Organized Learning Environments (SOLEs), small groups of children are given a big question as a provocation and left to use the internet to work together to answer it.

HundrED 2018


HundrED has selected this innovation to

HundrED 2018

Web presence






Target group
September 2017
As teachers we tend to put a lid on learning, but with a big question there are no limits.

About the innovation

What are Self Organized Learning Environments?

SOLEs grew from Sugata Mitra’s “Hole in the Wall” experiment in New Delhi which recognised the potential for self-organised learning. This developed into the understanding that with access to the internet groups of children can learn almost anything by themselves. From India, the idea spread to the UK, then to the US and beyond. Today 100s of schools across the world are engaged in this global experiment ofself-organised learning.

In a SOLE, the educator poses a ‘Big Question’ to fire up the children’s curiosity and imagination. Without an easy answer, Big Questions reach across many disciplines and subjects to provide a deep, meaningful context for exploration. The students organise themselves into small groups and work collaboratively to find an answer using the Internet.

Developing 21st-century skills such as digital literacy and critical thinking is a key element of SOLE. As students search the Internet, they begin to distinguish the information that is valid and useful from the information that isn’t. Through debate and discussion, students synthesise the information they’ve gathered and present their findings to their peers.

Impact & scalability

Impact & Scalability


All you need is broadband, collaboration and encouragement. It’s then fascinating to see how much children can learn themselves without any direct instruction. There are no limits to this approach which makes it very exciting!


The impact has been wide-ranging. Teachers have been inspired to find new enquiry-based ways to encourage students to work together, solve problems and become more engaged in learning with minimal intervention from the teachers themselves. SOLEs have also resulted in changing the attitudes and practices of teachers, head teachers, education policy makers, education experts and private companies. This impact culminated in the 2013 award to Mitra of the annual TED prize ($1million).


Hundreds of schools across the world are taking part in a global experiment in self-organised learning. Countries known to be running their own SOLE projects include: USA, Spain, Argentina, Colombia, Greece, South Africa, Bulgaria & Japan.

Implementation steps

Big Question
In the Question Phase, the educator introduces the Big Question and shares some background or a short story around the question.

It’s important to remember not to lead students to an answer or in any way reveal what they should learn. Big questions should lead to more questions, and don’t have a single right answer.

A SOLE can be fragile because a lot depends on the initial big question. If this question is not big enough or if students do not find it interesting or relevant in any way, they will use google to find the answer within the first 5 minutes and then disengage! This is perhaps the greatest challenge to address. How the question is introduced and the nature of the question is therefore critical. Some of the best big questions can often come from the students themselves.

From this moment, the educator simply let’s the adventure begin!

Students should self- organize into groups.

Students begin exploring the big question, jumping on computers and searching for answers. In some cases, open and supportive questions may help, and very important, offer encouragement.

Each group now presents their discoveries.

This is one of the most important elements of the session as it gives them a chance to think more deeply about what they’ve found out, and how they discovered it. Ask the groups how they found their answers and what they think went well - as well as what they could do differently next time.

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