Connectivism is a theory of learning proposed by George Siemens and Stephen Downes. It is associated with Vygotsky's 'zone of proximal development' (ZPD), and Engeström's 'Activity theory'. It also relates to Bandura's 'Social Learning Theory' that proposes that people learn through contact. Siemens wrote the add-on "a learning theory for the digital age", which emphasises how technology affects how people learn.

Connectivism is essentially about learning through participating in social networks and developing personal learning networks.

Siemens' 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.
  • Learning is more critical than knowing.
  • Maintaining and nurturing connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
  • Perceiving connections between fields, ideas and concepts is a core skill.
  • Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of 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.

Video Introduction

This 5 minute video goes through the principles listed above.

Connecting with George Siemens

This longer video features a 20 minute introduction to Connectivism, followed by an hour long interview with Dr Siemens.

  • 00:08:44 Assumptions / Principles for Instructional Design

    - providing the most diverse opportunities for learners to be able to connect with persons / ideas
    - building the learner's ability to navigate the information
    - adopting blogs, wikis and other open collaborative platforms as a two-way process
    - connecting to diverse, outside real-world conferences and experts
    - providing learners with a rich array of tools and information sources to use in creating their own learning pathways
    - using multiple forms of assessment

  • 00:09:08 Facilitating Learning - How does a connectivist teach? A connectivist nurtures and maintains connections for students by:

    - a brief introduction to weekly activities through short podcast / paper / video or online presentation
    - moderating weekly discussions centred around readings
    - short presentations from guests, followed by discussion
    - daily emails summarising key aspects of the existing conversation

Source materials

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More resources from George Siemens

Stephen Downes
  • Stephen Downes' websiteis a great source of information on connectivism. It has many of his own materials, links to presentations and other materials on other sites.
  • There is a fairly lengthy presentation which explains the theory of connectivism (the actual presentation starts at around 9:50 into the video. Although there are a number of slides which summarize the presentation, the video itself contains much more detail.

Connectivism: Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past? I found this article which has logical criticism about connectivism. According to the connectivism, the current educational theories such as behaviorism, cognitivism and constructivism are not enough to explain the learning process in technological era. Siemens (2004) suggests connectivism as a new educational theory to find out a possible explanation for the learning process in the information age. However, the article that I have found explains why connectivism is not an educational theory.