Connectivism – A learning theory for the digital age – H817 Activity 11

ConnectivesThese are my rough notes and thoughts for this paper by George Simmons


Core learning theories (Behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism) were developed when learning was not impacted by technology. Knowledge creation has accelerated and the “half life” or period of usefulness has drastically reduced.

Learning trends include

  • Role/Career changes common
  • Increase of informal learning
  • Learning as a lifetime process
  • Greater connection to org and individual learning
  • Know-where becoming as important as know-how and know-why


Learning is difficult to define. Facets:

  • Sources of knowledge
  • Content of knowledge
  • Impact of epistemological traditions: Objectivism, Pragmatism, Interpretivism

Behaviorism: Observation is important, focus on simple elements (stimulus / repsonse), learning is about behaviour change

Cognitivism: Learning is the way symbolic mental constructs are retained.

Constructivism: Learning created as people attempt to understand experiences. Learning is messy and complex

Limitations of core theories

  • Learning happens “inside” the person.
  • Learning happens in social context i.e. organisations
  • Technology has changed way we learn
  • Meta skill – worthiness of learning or knowing what is worth learning are new
  • Learning skills are also new: pattern recognition, synthesising and recognising connections

Alternative theory

Karen Stephenson states: “Experience has long been considered the best teacher of knowledge. Since we cannot experience everything, other people’s experiences, and hence other people, become the surrogate for knowledge. ‘I store my knowledge in my friends’ is an axiom for collecting knowledge through collecting people (undated).”

Knowledge workers – live in chaos (breakdown of predictability)

Self organisation is crucial, from a personal level through to organisation / institutional level.

Networks, small worlds, weak ties

Networks are connections between entities. Alterations ripple across the whole network.

Nodes become hubs of cross pollination.

Weak ties are links with short connections. Connections across fields is good for innovation


“Integrates principles explored by chaos, network, and complexity and self-organisation theories. he ability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information is vital. The ability to recognize when new information alters the landscape based on decisions made yesterday is also critical.”

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.


  • Management and leadership are fundamentally impacted
  • Knowledge management becomes even more important
  • Information exchange and creation is informalises (away from media)
  • Learning environments need to be developed


  • The pipe is more important than the content
  • Knowing when to apply knowledge is crucial
  • Learning is social


This makes sense really. In the generation of Copy and Paste, people need to know how to search, select and use information appropriately. Being connected to others has become more important than ever as people mobility has increased. One of the challenges is not the things that you have to learn, but rather the pace of learning and the ability to speed up filtering, selection and decision making.


[Image Credit: Bartek Ambrozik]

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