Week 2: Connectivism – Introducing the concept

"and Rossi" by Anne Petersen. Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-ND
“and Rossi” by Anne Petersen. Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-ND

The e-Learning Ecologies MOOC: Week 2 Question

Make a post introducing a ubiquitous learning concept. Define the concept and provide at least 1 example of the concept in practice. Be sure to add links or other references and images or other media to illustrate your point. If possible, select a concept that nobody has addressed yet so we get a well-balanced view of ubiquitous learning. Ubiquitous learning concepts might include:

Ubiquitous computing; Cloud computing; Web 2.0; The flipped classroom; Blended learning; Over-the-shoulder learning; Virtual schools; The internet of things; Mobile learning; Social media learning; Networked learning; Informal learning; Lifelong and lifewide learning; Work and community-based learning; Learning management systems; ePortfolios; Collaborative workspaces; MOOCs; or suggest a concept in need of definition!

My Response

The week 2 block on the e-Learning Ecologies MOOC introduces the first of the seven “e-affordances”: ubiquitous learning. Ubiquitous? Because it suggests learning that is “anytime, anyplace, anywhere” (older readers may recall that this was the marketing slogan used in an iconic TV advert of a popular alcoholic drink of the 1970s).

By way of explaining these activities, a number of “learning theories of the digital age” have been proposed: c3-learning (Sims, 2008); rhizomatic learning (Cormier, 2008, 2012, 2014), borrowing the term from Deleuze and Guattari’s (1987) work, and its variant mycorrhizae (or wildfire) learning (Engeström, 2007, 2009) which takes its name from the symbiotic relationship between the fungus and that of the roots of the host plant. But chief amongst these is connectivism (Siemens 2005, 2006) underpinned by connective knowledge (Downes, 2005). Connectivism has been conceived as a:

…learning organization whereby there is not a body of knowledge to be transferred from educator to learner and where learning does not take place in a single environment; instead, knowledge is distributed across the Web, and people’s engagement with it constitutes learning (Kop, 2011:20).

The origins of connectivism can be located within the theories of “chaos, network, and complexity and self-organisation” (Siemens, 2005:3) and has a couple of distinctive features. Firstly, learning can reside in “non-human appliances” (such as databases, devices and tools); and secondly, learning is about “creating paths” to knowledge, when required, rather than acquisition of knowledge itself (Anderson, 2010:34), or as Siemens (2005:5) puts it: ” the pipe is more important than the content within the pipe”. The connectivist learning theory has generated considerable debate between its advocates (Mak, 2013) and its sceptics (Kop, 2011; Barry, 2013) since its inception.

The MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), perhaps, best represents the concept of connectivism in practice. Though I should be clear and stipulate that the cMOOC variant is better aligned to connectivist principles than the xMOOC, which has long been perceived as being more instructivist in its approach and application. Though current discourse suggests that this is, perhaps, an over simplification of the xMOOC/cMOOC dichotomy as it conceals much more “nuanced approaches” and practices that are yet to be fully understood (Bayne & Ross, 2014).

Much research has been done on a variety of MOOC courses and platforms that have examined course engagement that has witnessed learners in active participation, passive participation or lurking (Milligan, Littlejohn & Margaryan, 2013); and the development of “new digital literacies and learning roles” to prepare and expose learners to “open, decentred practices and distributed expertise” to enable learners to participate in these massive, open spaces more effectively and efficiently (Stewart, 2013) – it had been noted that more work needed to be done to provide the necessary scaffolding to support learners who were very new to these over-abundant, uncertain and confusing environments (Downes, 2012b), as well as understanding how learners engaged in these spaces so that more appropriate and effective pedagogies could be developed to exploit these educative and technological opportunities (Wintrup, Wakefield & Davis, 2015; Wintrup, Wakefield, Morris & Davis, 2015).


Anderson, T. (2010). “Theories for learning with emerging technologies”. In: Veletsianos, G. (Ed.), Emerging technologies in distance education. Edmonton: Athabasca University Press. Available at: http://www.aupress.ca/books/120177/ebook/02_Veletsianos_2010-Emerging_Technologies_in_Distance_Education.pdf [Accessed 20.3.2013].

Barry, W. (2013). “Connectivism: Theory or Phenomenon?”. The Accidental Technologist blog, 29.4.2013. Available at: http://www.waynebarry.com/blog/?p=702 [Accessed 31.1.2015].

Bayne, S. & Ross, J. (2014). The Pedagogy of the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC): The UK View. York, England: The Higher Education Academy (HEA). Available at: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/resources/detail/elt/the_pedagogy_of_the_MOOC_UK_view [Accessed 31.1.2015].

Cormier, D. (2008). “Rhizomatic Education : Community as Curriculum”. Dave’s Educational Blog, 3.1.2008. Available at: http://davecormier.com/edblog/2008/06/03/rhizomatic-education-community-as-curriculum/ [Accessed 13.3.2013].

Cormier, D. (2012). Embracing Uncertainty – Rhizomatic Learning in Formal Education. Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJIWyiLyBpQ [Accessed 13.3.2013].

Cormier, D. (2014). Rhizomatic Learning – The community is the curriculum. Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU). Available at: https://p2pu.org/en/courses/882/rhizomatic-learning-the-community-is-the-curriculum/ [Accessed 18.2.2014].

Deleuze, G. & Guattari, F. (1987). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translated by B. Massumi. London, England: The Athlone Press.

Downes, S. (2005). “An Introduction to Connective Knowledge”. Stephen’s Web, 22.12.2005. Available at: http://www.downes.ca/cgi-bin/page.cgi?post=33034 [Accessed 20.3.2013].

Downes, S. (2012a). “What a MOOC Does – #Change11”. Half an Hour, 1.3.2012. Available at: http://halfanhour.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/what-mooc-does-change11.html [Accessed 20.3.2013].

Downes, S. (2012b). “Education as Platform: The MOOC Experience and what we can do to make it better”. Stephen’s Web, 12.3.2012. Available at: http://www.downes.ca/post/57725 [Accessed 20.3.2013].

Downes, S. (2013). “The Quality of Massive Open Online Courses”. MOOC Quality Project, 13.5.2013. European Foundation for Quality in e-Learning (EFQUEL). Available at: http://mooc.efquel.org/week-2-the-quality-of-massive-open-online-courses-by-stephen-downes/ [Accessed 31.1.2015].

Engeström, Y. (2007). “From Communities of Practice to Mycorrhizae”. In: Hughes, J., Jewson, N. & Unwin, L. (Eds.), Communities of Practice: Critical Perspectives. London: Routledge.

Engeström, Y. (2009). “Wildfire Activities: New Patterns of Mobility and Learning”. International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning, 1(2), pp. 1-18. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.4018/jmbl.2009040101 [Accessed 20.3.2013].

Kop, R. (2011). “The Challenges to Connectivist Learning on Open Online Networks: Learning Experiences during a Massive Open Online Course”. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(3), pp. 19-38. Available at: http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/882/1689 [Accessed 20.3.2013].

Mak, S.J. (2013). “Is Connectivism a New Learning Theory?”. Learner Weblog, 30.4.2013. Available at: https://suifaijohnmak.wordpress.com/2013/04/30/is-connectivism-a-new-learning-theory-2/ [Accessed 31.1.2015].

Milligan, C., Littlejohn, A. & Margaryan, A. (2013). “Patterns of Engagement in Connectivist MOOCs”. MERLOT: Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 9(2), pp. 149-159. Available at: http://jolt.merlot.org/vol9no2/milligan_0613.pdf [Accessed 31.1.2015].

Siemens, G. (2005). “Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age”. International Journal of Instructional Technology & Distance Learning, 2(1), January 2005. Available at: http://www.itdl.org/journal/jan_05/article01.htm [Accessed 20.3.2013].

Siemens, G. (2006). “Connectivism: Learning Theory or Pastime of the Self-Amused?”. elearnspace, 12.11.2006. Available at: http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism_self-amused.htm [Accessed 20.3.2013].

Sims, R. (2008). “Rethinking (e)learning: a manifesto for connected generations”. Distance Education, 29(2), pp. 153-164. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01587910802154954 [Accessed 20.3.2013].

Stewart, B. (2013). “Massiveness + Openness = New Literacies of Participation?”. MERLOT: Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 9(2), pp. 228-238. Available at: http://jolt.merlot.org/vol9no2/stewart_bonnie_0613.pdf [Accessed 31.1.2015].

Wintrup, J., Wakefield, K. & Davis, H. (2015). Engaged Learning in MOOCs: A Study using the UK Engagement Survey. York, England: The Higher Education Academy (HEA). Available at: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/node/10346 [Accessed 31.1.2015].

Wintrup, J., Wakefield, K., Morris, D. & Davis, H. (2015). Liberating Learning: Experiences of MOOCs. York, England: The Higher Education Academy (HEA). Available at: https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/node/10315 [Accessed 31.1.2015].