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In this article, discover Connectivist learning theory and its associated teaching style. How relevant is it in the network age?
Graphic representation of students using technology connected via a network of lines.
© University of Southampton

The final picture represents our last learning theory – called Connectivism, (although there is still some debate about whether this is an extension of Social Constructivism for the network age, or a new theory in its own right).

It sees knowledge as distributed across a network of connections – networks where

  • humans,

  • technologies,

  • actions

  • and social relationships

act continuously together to create and distribute knowledge.

There is an equally important role for the individual, the social, and the technological in discovering naturally occurring connections to knowledge. Knowledge, in all its forms, emerges from our interactions with our connections. This includes our interactions with technology and non-human information resources.

Our connections and interactions form together into a network, which we use to learn with. Watch a video by one of the key thinkers in this area – George Siemens – which explains more.

Teaching and learning

This theory focuses on the process of making specific and reusable patterns of connections between technology, people and information and then the successful navigation of those networked connections in a range of formal and informal situations.

It sees learning not as dependent on a specific place, person(s), or time, but as an unlimited action across a distributed network. Some aspects of this approach have been referred to as Networked Learning.

The teacher acts as a guide and advisor in how to build, manage and activate our learning networks in an appropriate and effective manner. They also try to minimise the effects of our digital differences by helping us to develop our digital literacies at every stage of the learning journey.


This learning approach is dependent on the opportunity to access, grow, develop and use our networks of connections, and again, not all our networks are equal. Neither are all our digital skills and literacies equal.

What are your experiences of teaching and learning in this way?
How relevant is Connectivism / Networked Learning to the network age?

Key thinkers

Downes, S. (2006). Learning networks and connective knowledge. Collective intelligence and elearning, 20, 1-26. Chicago

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: Learning as network-creation. ASTD Learning News, 10(1). Chicago

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Chicago

© University of Southampton
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