Connectivism – A Learning Theory?

Those folks who were given the assignment to defend connectivism as a learning theory had a really tough job. You can read their position paper here. I assert that connectivism is a method that is taught to students or learned by students, but a learning theory? No way. The web allows us to access information quickly and puts the task of sifting through volumes of information squarely on the information seeker.

The defenders of connectivism assert that “Connectivism has a direct impact on education and teaching as it works as a learning theory. Connectivism asserts that learning in the 21st century has changed because of technology, and therefore, the way in which we learn has changed, too.” They are correct in that connectivism has an impact on education, but this impact is dependent upon the technology tools that the students and educator has available. Teachers are obligated to model safe, appropriate, and efficient techniques for researching the tens of thousands web pages on any given subject. When teachers do this, they are instructing their students. The learning takes place in a behavioristic or constructivistic model of learning.

With Web use, it is the instruction that has changed, not the actual learning process.


4 thoughts on “Connectivism – A Learning Theory?

  1. Connectivism asserts that learning occurs because of connections. It uses the model of the internet as an example of how learning occurs, and how it has changed because of this modern technology.

    You are correct Jami, in saying that the instruction has changed. It certainly has. But I think you are only partially correct when you say that the actual learning process has not changed. Here’s why.

    First, although it is an easy argument to say learning occurs without the internet, it is also an easy argument to say how much the use of the internet has changed our ways of learning as well. For example, how much did you learn about Connectivism without using the internet?

    But my real argument is that Connectivism is not about the internet. It is about connections. It asserts that we learn through making connections. Those connections can certainly occur without the internet. And that is why I believe it stands as a learning theory. -Jim

    • Great point in your last paragraph, Jim. Since the internet is emphasized in Connectivism, I hadn’t thought about the theory without this component. Very valid point!

  2. Jami,
    I agree with you 100% when you say the impact connectivism has on the classroom depends heavily on the amount of technology available to the teacher and students. With many districts lacking sufficient funds for technology, asking them to implement this theory into their instruction is like having students read a selection from a text book with zero access to the book itself. I also agree with you that with this theory there is a strong possibility that most learning will turn into teaching students how to act appropriately online, rather than teaching actual content.


  3. I would propose that Connectivism is not only NOT a learning theory, but it is more accurately a communication theory. Therefore the model presented in the original MOOC model is also only a communication model. Even in some of Siemens’ latest literature (, he blurs the terminology and concepts that firmly within the discipline of communication with related but disparate terms and concepts within the discipline of education.

    Although several have already pointed out the fallacy of basing connectivist tenets on the existence (or absence) of the Internet, Siemens has not yet realized this. The medium of information does not determine the shape, value or context of the information. I can drink milk through a straw, out of the jug, or directly from the teat. But the concept/theory/model of swallowing or digestion does not change based on the delivery method.

    Connectivism does explain how we learn today; it only describes how we share information via new medium opportunities.

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