Connectivism as a Learning Theory and Its Relation to Open Distance Education
Keywords:learning theories; connectivism; networks; Web 2.0
This paper focuses on connectivism as a learning theory and its relation to open distance education. Connectivism is presently challenging existing learning theories and is unlike behaviourism, cognitivism and constructivism, which place learning at the centre of the cognitive development of the learner. Connectivism stresses that learning is located in different networks and the social construction of knowledge makes the learner key in the knowledge creation process. Connectivism is the thesis that knowledge is distributed across a network of connections, and therefore that learning consists of the ability to construct and traverse those networks. This is a learning environment where students simply plug into the network and create their own learning. Unlike traditional learning methods and theories like cognitivism (where learning is an active, constructive process), behaviourism (a theory of learning based on the idea that all behaviours are acquired through conditioning) or constructivism (the theory that humans construct knowledge and meaning from their experiences), with connectivism, learning is defined by connections to a network of knowledge that can include any form of interaction. Siemens’ theory of connectivism is based on Web 2.0 technologies. This raises key questions as to whether it can be seen as a learning theory in the context of open distance learning (a delivery mode and teaching and learning approach that focuses on increased access to education and training where barriers caused by time, place and pace of learning are eliminated). Web 2.0 learning in the last decade has impacted on the way we teach in traditional classroom settings and how knowledge is disseminated in an online learning environment. Siemens’ theory of connnectivism is a paradigmatic shift from traditional learning theories to new ways of learning through networks, databases, and Web learning on different virtual learning platforms. This raises questions about the radical discontinuity of traditional knowledge systems as the learner becomes part of the social creation and social construction of knowledge in a virtual learning environment.
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