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Connectivism: In Favor Of


According to Wikipedia, Connectivism is a hypothesis of learning which emphasizes the role of social and cultural context. The main idea of Connectivism is a network with nodes and connections. Connectivism sees learning as the process where connections are created and the network increases in complexity ("Connectivism-Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia," n.d.).

The following is a great video about networked learning in the twenty-first century:

A Learning Theory

Many of the learning theories that we know today (behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism) were developed during a time when education was not impacted by technology. Technology is now in the forefront of how we communicate, how we learn, and how we live. With this, learning theories need to reflect the social environments that exist today (Siemens, 2014). According to the Siemens, the author of Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age , there are limitations to behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism. These learning theories are concerned with the process of learning, rather than what is being learned. These theories do not address learning that occurs outside of students. There are many questions that arise when looking at these established learning theories through technology. For example, what adjustments need to be made with learning theories when technology performs many of the cognitive operations that used to be performed by the learner? Or what is the impact of networks and complexity theories on learning (Siemens, 2014). However, it seems too early to consider Connectivism a theory on its own and more research needs to be done because there are many questions that still remain. Gredler (2005) identifies four elements in order for a theory to be considered well-constructed:
  • Clear assumptions and beliefs about the object of the theory should be highlighted; key terms should be clearly defined; there should be a developmental process, where principles are derived from assumptions; and it should entail an explanation of “underlying psychological dynamics of events related to learning.” (Siemens 2006b, p. 28)

Kop and Hill bring many questions up about current learning theories and if they meet the needs of students today and if they will in the future. Connectivism: Learning Theory of the Future or Vestige of the Past?The authors raise the question of if a new learning theory is needed to encompass technology and to teach in the 21st century. They conclude that a shift is needed in education today, but Connectivism should not yet be treated as a learning theory, but it does play an important role of new pedagogy where "control is shifting from the tutor to an increasingly more autonomous learner" (Kop, & Hill, n.d.).

Learning in groups is much like working in groups, as teams working to accomplish one goal, in the work place it might be to create, design, or manufacture a product. In the classroom the goal is to work together to learn something and gain knowledge from each other. This idea or theory of this in education become wide know some time in the early 2000's but in the business world this has been done for years. Working on teams and having one common goal is new ideas that are changing the way we work and learn. Being self-directed as a working team to manage the production of products or being a self-directed learning team to manage the education of the group as a whole. Learning to take responsibility for one’s own work, for one’s own education is a new concept to some.

Much like Verhagen theory of machines learn processes, so do people who are working and learning together as a team or a group, they too are learning and remembering the processes. It is a good way to learn or remember things by have a regular routine. A routine is a sequence of tasks or events that are done in the same order or way over and over again which will lead to a learn process and this happens in the work place just as it does in a learning class room.

Connectivism is Relevant to Teaching Practices

Although the phase Connectivism was coined for the digital age of computers I can see these concepts did apply in the work place long before the computers took over, because as I can see learning in the production world was changing almost daily. In the 1990’s TV glass was in high demand, but the start of the 2000’s Plasma TV’s and Flat Screen LED TV’s became the first runners.

I have been teaching in the manufacturing world since the start of the 1980’s and I watch the changes within the production floors happen every year. We once learned how to collect statistical data on paper charts and calculated data using calculators to procedure charts to track the progress, within a few years this was entered into a computer by a person taking the measurements. Then the process soon had machines to take the measurement for you and all the person did was monitored the systems.

Connectivism is relevant because as we all learn we grow, and as we grow, we learn new things. This all goes back to you change with the times or the times will leave you behind in the dusk.

Connectivism Supports Students

I think teaching has to change as we go through the years just like other things have to change in life. I know it does not make sense today to teach students just like students where taught in schools the 1950’s or 1960’s, over the years teachers have to change to incorporate new ideas, new methods, new technologies and new lesson plans. As teachers are learning in colleges and universities the new ideas, new methods, etc., the teachers already in the classrooms need to learn these new ideas and methods as well. Connectivism does support all students because students want to learn and grow with the ideas, new methods, new technologies and new lesson plans.

Additionally, Connectivism provides opportunities for teachers and students to explore different subjects and units such as those in the STEM programs with a heavy focus on Inquiry - an important part of learning for students. On his blog, George Siemens suggests that there are 6 key elements that teachers need and to foster the same in their students, "A competent educator in any era will be proficient with these skills. ...Technical Competenence, Experimentation, Autonmony, Creation, Play, and Developing a Capacity for Complexity," (Siemens, 2010). In using Blogs or Social Media, students are exploring a world outside of their own while creating opportunities to learn and grow - and they are doing this in a way that is exciting, engaging, and in line with their interests and immediate feedback needs (Faculty, 2016). Moreover, educators are stepping outside of their comfort zones and working with new tools to help inspire students.

Compelling & Relevant Parts of the Theory

There are many principals of the theory that are relevant to educators today. The principal that the ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill. In education, we are always trying to make connections to our students to help them with their understanding. If students make connections, they are more likely to understand and remember the content. According to Marquis, as information expands and students need to incorporate new data and knowledge into their existing view of the world. In a connectivist world, students are always learning and there will always be something new to grasp (Marquis, 2012).

Another principal that is compelling is learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions. This is important, especially today, that students learn from others. Not all students will have the same learning experiences or opinions on all topics, and students can gain knowledge from other students by listening to their opinions. Marquis explains this as learners are able to utilize the internet and social networking websites to expand discussions that are occurring in the classroom, school, community, etc. This allows for opinions from a variety of human experiences that are available and can contribute in different ways (Marquis, 2012).

Confusing Parts of the Theory

There are still a few parts of the theory that are confusing, broad, and unfinished. One of the principals of Connectivism according to Siemens is learning may reside in non-human appliances (Siemens, 2014). It is unclear what "non-human" appliances are. Does it mean books, a computer, library, videos? It is also unclear if Connectivism needs to be its own theory, or if can be incorporated or added into an already existing learning theory to accommodate for the digital age. For example, one theory closely related to Connectivism is Constructivism. In it, "students are already empowered to construct their own knowledge from their own networks," (Criticisms). As such, authors like as Plon Verhagen are consistently trying to refute Siemens' claims.

Useful Links on Connectivism
Learning Theory or Pastime for the Self-Amused
Lev Vygotsky and Social Learning Theories
Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age
Wikipedia: Connectivism
Connectivism: Learning Theory of the Future or Vestige of the Past?
Video: Overview of Connectivism By Dr. George Siemens
What does Connectivism Mean for Education?
Blog on Connectivism


Connectivism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (n.d.). Retrieved April 9, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Connectivism

Criticisms of Connectivism. (n.d.). Criticisms of Connectivism. Retried from

Drexler, W. (n.d.). Networked Student [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XwM4ieFOotA

Faculty e-Commons. (2016). Rethinking your Online Classroom with Connectivism. Retrieved from

Kop, R., & Hill, A. (n.d.). Connectivism: learning theory of the future or vestige of the past? Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/523/1103

Marquis, J. (2012, January 3). What Does Connectivism Mean for Education? - OnlineUniversities.com. Retrieved from http://www.onlineuniversities.com/blog/2012/01/what-does-connectivism-mean-for-education/

Siemens, G. (2006b, November 12). Connectivism: Learning theory or pastime of the self-amused? Elearnspace blog. Retrieved from

Siemens, G. (2010, November 8). ELearn Space: It's New! It's New! Retrieved from

Siemens, G. (2014, February 10). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Retrieved from http://er.dut.ac.za/handle/123456789/69