Green Decorative Wheat


Connectivism has its roots in the early twenty-first century when first George Siemens (2004) and then Stephen Downes (2005) published articles published articles addressing the role technology has to play in modern learning. If you are interested in further reading about Connectivism, I'd suggest you start with this special issue of the International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning from 2011 for more from Siemens and for Downes' point of view, this issue of The European Journal of Open, Distance, and E-Learning from 2019.

Because Connectivism is currently developing as a theory, it's not possible to give a full summary of it, and in fact Siemens and Downes each have different ways they focus their own thinking on the topic. But in general, Connectivism argues that:

  • Learning transcends individual knowledge construction. An individual learner can only ever be a part of a much larger story.
  • Learning takes place across a network where individual people as well as all other resources (like, say webpages, books, databases, etc.) are considered to be "nodes" and that as nodes are connected to each other through learning "links" are made.
  • Knowledge comes from the combination of the links that are made over time, yet while knowledge itself is important, it's not as important as the process of learning. That is: making connections is more important that amassing a total number of connections, especially once connections become outdated.
  • Decision-making is a learning process, and this includes the ability to sort through the appropriate "links" to find the best ones for a particular need.
  • Connections can continue to add to learning over time, if those connections are maintained and nurtured, and if they stay relevant to lived experience.
  • The more diversity there is in the nodes, the more learning that can take place. Knowledge relies on there being a rich diversity of opinion, viewpoint, and experience.
  • Accurate and timely knowledge is the goal of learning from a Connectivist point of view.

Because Connectivist theory is developing, it's not as tied to classroom pedagogy as many other learning theories are. Connectivism does have a place in the modern classroom, however. Take for example a classroom that leverages Twitter with the goal of drawing global experts into the classroom conversation. Rich simulations can also help support a Connectivist focus too, especially if students have the opportunity to learn from the decisions they make in the simulations and if they can work through simulations with other learners.

Connectivism is a "watch this space" theory because it's very likely to continue its development over the next few decades, and the world's response to the COVID crisis will provide a rich source of data for researchers.