Many educators are looking for ways to include things such as wikis, interest groups, blogs, and second life as part of their curriculum. Does including the latest social networking fad or web 2.0 technologies really help students learn? By applying the practice of course design with a defined learning theory, course designers are more likely to achieve a desired outcome. By viewing course design through the lens of Connectivism, course designers are able to develop course content that capitalizes on today’s networked student regardless of how technology may change.
Because of the ubiquitous use of the Internet in today’s world, applying the theory of Connectivism to achieve learning outcomes may be more relevant than ever before. Let’s begin by discussing some of the foundations and applications of Connectivism that seem most applicable to course designers.
For educators that are interested in designing courses based on a learning theory, taxonomy can provide a great deal of guidance and inspiration. George Siemens has a website devoted to Connectivism that provides a taxonomy that can be used to guide the designer as they progressively move students through the process of learning a new subject (Siemens, G.).
In Connectivism, the starting point for learning occurs when knowledge is actuated through the process of a learner connecting to and feeding information into a learning community (Kop, R. 2008). Educators should consider moving students beyond passive observers to contributors. Opportunities for involvement in learning communities are prevalent on the internet and many educators are already incorporating them as part of their courses.
Connectivism also stresses two important skills that contribute to learning, they are: the ability to seek out current information, and the ability to filter secondary and extraneous information (Kop, R. 2008). For example, think of an RSS feed of a particular political issue. In this scenario a student finds the information and filters it either cognitively or technically.
When designing a course with Connectivism in mind, an assumption is made that subject knowledge will change or evolve over time. Therefore it is important to provide students with the ability to know where to seek answers beyond the confines of the class. Learning should not end when the teacher quits talking. Plugging students into the flow of information is more important than the information itself.
Connectivism as a learning theory is not without its critics, but an examination of Connectivism brings about some interesting and useful ideas for course designers. Exploration of the following web links and works cited should help readers develop a better understanding of how to use Connectivism as a guideline for developing courses with networked learners in mind.
Siemens, G. (n.d.). Connectivism taxonomy. Retrieved from http://www.connectivism.ca/?p=53
Kop, R. (2008). Web 2.0 technologies: Disruptive or liberating for adult education? In Gateway
To the Future of Learning, Proceedings 49th Adult Education Research Conference, June
15-17. St. Louis, Mo.
Explore Connectivism for Yourself
The following links are to information that I think is particularly useful in gaining an understanding of the connections between learning theory, course design, and Connectivism. Reviewing the links in the order they are presented may be the best way to develop an understanding of course design through the lens of Connectivism.
What is learning theory?
Learning Theory Overviews
Detailed Analysis of Learning Theories
TIP is a tool intended to make learning and instructional theory more accessible to educators. The database contains brief summaries of 50 major theories of learning and instruction. These theories can also be accessed by learning domains and concepts.