8 Aug 2012

Distributed Connectivism in virtual learning environments

The infographic below represents a visual follow-up on Michelle's previous post about massive open online courses. Certainly, the question of financial viabilty of distributed, open online learning courses is one baffling aspect here.

At the same time, it's also interesting to look at the benefits-versus-issues juxstaposition of MOOCS by bringing Siemens' (2004) 'Connectivism' as a proposed learning theory for the digital age into play here.

The Web has fundamentally changed how information and knowledge is created and exchanged. Siemens (2004) argues that the traditional learning theories (Behaviourism, Cognitivism, and Constructivism) are no fit models anymore to account for networked virtual learning environments, as they "are concerned with the actual process of learning, not with the value of what is being learned" (Siemens, 2004).

Siemens' (2004) 'Connectivism' is built upon the following principles:
  • 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.
To my mind, the very modus operandi of MOOCS is clearly reflected in the idea of a distributed Connectivism.

The World of Massive Open Online Courses
Presented By: Online Colleges

elearnspace. 2004. Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm. [Accessed 07 August 12].


  1. An interesting insight offered by Jeff Haywood on the decision to go 'MOOC' at Univ Edinburgh:

    I think he hits the nail on the head with the belief that "MOOCs won’t suit everyone, any more than on-campus courses or distance education suits everyone but extending the menu of choices is valuable. They may not be suitable for all subjects."

  2. It seems that the most critical limitations of these efforts to democratize education are not so much their means of delivery, but the institutional systems and societal structures in place that largely invalidate them...for now.

    There's a lot of speculation about whether universities will begin to offer mooc degrees. But, in line with my point, why should that matter? Higher education degree progressions are such self-fulfilling prophecies that institutions are beginning to price themselves right out of the marketplace. That universities are playing with MOOCs in the first place is really only an exercise for them to test their technology in an effort to potentially soak up an untapped revenue stream.

    Perhaps these benefits, as an accidental by-product of university arrogance, stand mean more to the value of moocs than their effectiveness for learning. I believe in Connectivism as a learning theory, but I think you're missing a bigger point by narrowing on the mooc phenomena.

  3. Many thanks for your comment, Trevor. My post merely reflected upon the notion that distributed connectivism lends itself quite well to Web based/delivered learning environments. Surely, Connectivism as a learning theory spans much wider, and in that sense I follow your train of thought here and agree.

    Separately, I'm not so sure that I fully agree with your contention that education institutions merely (and I quote you here) play with technology in an effort to soak up untapped revenue streams.

  4. Also check out today's piece in The Observer, The End Of The University, which talks about the pros and cons of MOOCS and distributed connectivism, as well as anticipated future projections in this area. Check in particular the numerous comments from readers....http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/nov/11/online-free-learning-end-of-university