Jul 272011


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 Connectivism is a theory of learning based on the premise that knowledge exists in the world rather than in the head of an individual. Connectivism proposes a perspective similar to the Activity theory of Vygotsky as it regards knowledge to exist within systems which are accessed through people participating in activities. It also bears some similarity with the Social Learning Theory of Bandura that proposes that people learn through contact. The add-on “a learning theory for the digital age”, that appears on Siemens paper [1] indicates the special importance that is given to the effect technology has on how people live, how they communicate, and how they learn.


  • 1 Aspects
    • 1.1 Principles of connectivism
  • 2 Connectivist teaching methods
  • 3 Criticisms
  • 4 See also
  • 5 References
  • 6 External links


One aspect of connectivism is the use of a network with nodes and connections as a central metaphor for learning. [2] In this metaphor, a node is anything that can be connected to another node within a network such as an organisation: information, data, feelings, images. Connectivism sees learning as the process of creating connections and developing a network. Not all connections are of equal strength in this metaphor; in fact, many connections may be quite weak. The idea of organisations being cognitive systems where knowledge is distributed across a network of nodes can be traced back to the work of March and Simon[3]. This metaphor is directly borrowed from Connectionism, a paradigm in cognitive sciences that sees mental or behavioral phenomena as the emergent processes of interconnected networks.

This network metaphor allows for a notion of “know-where” (the understanding of where to find the knowledge when it is needed) to supplement to the ones of “know-how” and “know-what” that make the cornerstones of many theories of learning.

Principles of connectivism

  • Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
  • Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
  • Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
  • Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known
  • Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
  • Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
  • Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
  • Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision.

Connectivist teaching methods

Summing up connectivist teaching and learning, Downes states: “to teach is to model and demonstrate, to learn is to practice and reflect.”[4]

In 2008, Siemens and Downes delivered an online course called “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge” [5]. It covered Connectivism as content while attempting to implement some of their ideas. The course was free and open to anyone who wished to participate, with over 2000 people worldwide signing up. The phrase “Massive Open Online Course” (MOOC) was coined to describe this open model.[6] All course content was available through RSS feeds, and learners could participate with their choice of tools: threaded discussions in Moodle, blog posts, Second Life, and synchronous online meetings. The course was repeated in 2009 and in 2011.


The idea that connectivism provides a new theory of learning has not received wide acceptance. Verhagen, for instance, has argued that connectivism is not a learning theory, but rather is a “pedagogical view.”[7].

Elaborations on Connectivism fail to include any review of the literature and no mention of prior work in this area. It is therefore quite difficult to evaluate how Connectivism, introduced in the mid-2005, relates to prior theories of social learning. In particular, the notion of Socially Distributed Cognition (Hutchins, 1995), which explored how connectionist ideas could be applied to social systems. But also other theories that adhere to more classical views of cognition. The Activity theory (Vygotsky, Leont’ev, Luria, and others starting in the 1920s) that proposed that people are socio-culturally embedded actors, with learning considered using three features – involving a subject (the learner), an object (the task or activity) and tool or mediating artefacts. The Social cognitive theory (Bandura, 1962) and the assumption that people learn by watching what others do which was elaborated further in the Social learning theory (Miller and Dollard). The notion of Situated cognition (Greeno & Moore, 1993), that all knowledge is situated in activity bound to social, cultural and physical contexts; knowledge and learning that requires thinking on the fly rather than the storage and retrieval of conceptual knowledge. The concept of Community of practice (Lave & Wenger 1991) – it is through the process of sharing information and experiences with the group that the members learn from each other, and have an opportunity to develop themselves personally and professionally. Or even the idea of Collective_intelligence (Lévy, 1994).

The absence of reference to prior works makes it difficult to evaluate what their unique contribution is (if any). Bill Kerr, for instance, believes that, although technology does affect learning environments, existing learning theories are sufficient.[8] The critique is further elucidated by Kop and Hill [9] who concludes that while it does not seem that connectivism is a separate learning theory, it “continues to play an important role in the development and emergence of new pedagogies, where control is shifting from the tutor to an increasingly more autonomous learner.”

Dr. Mohamed Ally at Athabasca University recognizes that world has changed and become more networked, so learning theories developed prior to these global changes are less relevant. However, he argues that, “What is needed is not a new stand-alone theory for the digital age, but a model that integrates the different theories to guide the design of online learning materials.”[10].

See also

Wikiversity has learning materials about Connectivism
  • Constructivism (learning theory)
  • Enactivism (psychology)
  • Socially Distributed Cognition (Hutchins, 1995)
  • Social development (Vygotsky) and Activity theory (Vygotsky, Leont’ev, Luria, and others starting in the 1920)
  • Social cognitive theory (Bandura, 1962) and the derived Social learning theory (Miller and Dollard)
  • Situated cognition (Greeno & Moore, 1993)
  • Community of practice (Lave & Wenger 1991)
  • George Siemens
  • Stephen Downes


  1. ^ http://www.itdl.org/Journal/Jan_05/article01.htm Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age], International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, Vol. 2 No. 1, Jan 2005
  2. ^ http://www.astd.org/LC/2005/1105_seimens.htm Connectivism: Learning as Network-Creation], Learning Circuits, November 2005
  3. ^ March, J., & Simon, H. (1958). Organizations. New York: Wiley.
  4. ^ Downes, Stephen. “What Connectivism Is”. http://halfanhour.blogspot.com/2007/02/what-connectivism-is.html. Retrieved 2009-01-28.
  5. ^ Siemens, George; Stephen Downes. “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge”. http://ltc.umanitoba.ca/connectivism/. Retrieved 2009-01-28.
  6. ^ Siemens, George. “MOOC or Mega-Connectivism Course”. http://ltc.umanitoba.ca/connectivism/?p=53. Retrieved 2009-01-28.
  7. ^ Connectivism: a new learning theory?, Pløn Verhagen (University of Twente), November 2006
  8. ^ which radical discontinuity?, Bill Kerr, February 2007
  9. ^ Connectivism: Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past? Rita Kop, Adrian Hill. In “The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, Vol 9, No 3 (2008), ISSN: 1492-3831”
  10. ^ Foundations of Educational Theory for Online Learning, Mohamed Ally. In The Theory and Practice of Online Learning, Terry Anderson, Ed., May 2008

External links

  • Connectivism: A learning theory for today’s learner
  • Web Presentation (Oral/Slide show) on Connectivism
  • Connectivism and Connective Knowledge Online Course support wiki facilitated by George Siemens and Stephen Downes
  • Connectivism: Learning Theory or Pastime for the Self-Amused?
  • What Connectivism Is
  • Spanish Translation of Knowing Knowledge


Related Connectivism Information:






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