Tag Archives: network

The limitations of connectivism

The Connectivism & Connective Knowledge online course (CCK08) is now underway with close to 2,000 participants. I’ve wondered for some time about the usefulness and applicability of connectivism as a theory of learning, and enrolling in CCK08 seemed like a good opportunity to explore this issue in depth.

My first post is a response to one of the initial readings on connectivism, which states:

1. Connectivism is the application of network principles to define both knowledge and the process of learning. Knowledge is defined as a particular pattern of relationships and learning is defined as the creation of new connections and patterns as well as the ability to maneuver around existing networks/patterns.

This appears to suggest that learning involves ‘creating new patterns of knowledge’ and ‘developing skills in navigating knowledge’. This seems to me to be a very knowledge-focused model of learning, and the skills it does incorporate are self-referential – they are skills only in navigating the network which ‘defines knowledge’. If we imagine that the network is broken, then the only real skills developed are in navigating a faulty network.

For someone involved in professional development in education, concepts such as capability, self-efficacy and reflective practice don’t seem well-served by the connectivist definition of learning. This is not to say that ‘the network’ doesn’t have a role to play in supporting processes such as reflective practice (in fact, I think it has an important role) but it does seem limited in its ability to define learning in other than purely knowledge terms. I’m also not suggesting that ‘navigating patterns of knowledge’ is not an important part of learning, but it is just a part.