What’s The Connectivism Learning Theory?
Collaboration has been one of the main focal points in education in recent years, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic when people had to isolate themselves and lose physical connection with their peers. A relatively recent learning theory called connectivism suggests that students should gather ideas, theories, and general knowledge from different sources but combine them correctly. The theory was created in 2005 by two theorists, George Siemens and Stephen Downes, who believe that technology has changed the way we receive information, thus changing learning as well. The connectivism learning theory encourages group interaction and conversation, allowing us to express various opinions and positions when making choices, solving problems, and understanding data. Connectivism also encourages education through online communities, blogs, and other public spaces. Let’s dive more into the theory and see how eLearning professionals can leverage it.
The Theory’s Principles
Learning Is A Social Process
According to the theory, one doesn’t learn individually but rather socially. This means that students learn more effectively when they interact with others, and they benefit from shared opinions, ideas, and experiences. They also feel freer to express their own thoughts. Therefore, the theory encourages students to actively participate in the learning process. As opposed to traditional learning, knowledge isn’t delivered to students by the teacher but instead is created by them through their collaboration with others.
Culture And Society Influence Learning
The theory takes as a given that humans are social beings and that our beliefs are shaped through our culture and the society we live in, and so is our learning. What and how we learn are affected by the traditions, values, and customs of our community. So, we have to consider everyone’s cultural and social environment when designing learning experiences.
Decisions Change Over Time
Our decisions change as our knowledge of everything around us changes. Especially in the digital world, where we receive large amounts of information at any given moment, our perspectives about things are altered the more we learn about them. In short, learning is powerful and shapes our opinions as we gain more knowledge.
Benefits Of The Connectivism Learning Theory
Since the goal is for students to enhance their knowledge with various opinions, they learn to collaborate with their peers. When they work together on projects, they benefit each other by sharing their ideas and offering solutions to a common problem. Additionally, with peer teaching, which involves students stepping into the teaching role, they develop important social skills that are useful in their future careers or academic pursuits.
Students feel more excited about their lessons when they know they have more control over the content. Also, they enjoy it even more when participating in group activities with their peers. They are motivated to give it their all and actively engage with the content since they feel responsible for their own learning.
Since the theory considers cultural and social backgrounds, it creates a learning environment where different experiences and beliefs are valued. Students have an equal opportunity to express their thoughts and opinions without biases based on their background. Most importantly, diverse perspectives enrich the lessons and cultivate a supportive environment.
How To Apply The Theory In eLearning
Online Discussion Forums
During online courses, learners may feel that they are disconnected from their peers or that they are not actively learning. To address this issue, you can incorporate online discussion forums and other communication tools for students to interact with each other and their instructors. Learners can use these tools to collaborate with their classmates, ask questions, and address challenges they may face.
Assign learners group projects and organize them into teams. Allow them to use any means of communication to work together, and highlight how important it is for everyone to contribute to the project. Even if every group member is in a different geographical location, they can bridge their distance thanks to modern technology, such as video conferencing platforms.
Service learning requires learners to apply their knowledge in real-world situations so that they understand the meaningfulness and importance of the lessons they attend. This process involves interactions between learners and organizations, aiming to solve common problems in their community. For example, instructors can contact local facilities and organizations to create programs where learners can work together to overcome challenges in their community, like traffic or safety.
Virtual Reality can create a virtual environment for learners to work together and apply their knowledge in situations that they might encounter in the real world. However, before implementing VR in your eLearning strategy, consider the potential barriers learners may have to deal with and train them on how to use the equipment.
Overall, the connectivism learning theory makes education learner-centered. It shifts the learning process’s control over to the students, while teachers and instructors act as facilitators. Since the theory recognizes technology’s important role in how we receive information and share knowledge, you can apply it in your online courses through collaborative strategies and meaningful material. If you want to discover other interesting Instructional Design models and theories, check out our list!