Students Learning Computers

Dr. Anne-Marie Fiore, Higher Education Curriculum and Instruction Senior Lead

Beginning in the 1980’s, technology has radically altered daily life, communication, and education.  Siemens, the developer of connectivism, labeled it as a new learning theory heavily influenced by technology. Connectivism is a theoretical framework driven by the understanding that information is a network continually being acquired and updated (Siemens, 2004).  Through a network, web, or internet, learners can (a) acquire new content which is continually updated, (b) identify credible resources, and (c) draw distinctions between opposing facts and figures.  In connectivist theory, one view of learning is knowing where to locate information may be as valuable as the information, itself.

Abik, Ajhoun, and Ensias (2012) asserted that to advance the quality of instructional practice, educators used a variety of learning theories, such as cognitivism, constructivism, and behaviorism.  Research by Abik et al. suggested that the “pre-technology” learning theories were no longer valid. Due to the implementation of new forms of e-learning, online, and distance learning, connectivism should be adopted wherever possible (Abik et al., 2012).

Why Connectivism?

Connectivism releases the learner from the cognitive practices of acquiring knowledge through experience, study, and receiving instruction. (Abik et al., 2012). Connectivism allows students to incorporate electronic devices for the “off-site” storage of information, treating the role of memory differently than prior learning theories.  With connectivism, technology is permitted to become part of the student’s internal learning process. While older learning theories have their place in the communication of basic knowledge, instruction must embrace connectivism to ensure that knowledge in the 21st century will be properly conveyed (Abik et al., 2012).

Before technology appeared on the pedagogical landscape, the cognitivist method was delivery of instruction by a teacher-centered method. Students were receivers of the information. In the constructivist model, learners became dynamic members in the development of their own learning while the teacher served as facilitator (Stavredes, 2011). In the post-technology world, Siemens proposed “connectivism as a learning theory for the digital age” (Siemens, 2004, p.1 ). In connectivism, knowledge is distributed across networks where connections and connectedness inform learning. Heavily grounded in technology, connectivism is a learning theory based on the acquisition of the knowledge focused on the future, not the past (Siemens, 2012).

Learning theory and internet technologies are some of the components of what is considered an online educational ­experience.  Although the teacher, student, and content generally remain the same, the transmutation of student–teacher–content pedagogical triangle of the cognitive theory to the student–teacher–network–content tetrahedron of the connectivist learning theory invites the network into the educational process (Fiore, 2017).  Whether a student is learning in an online program or distance education course, teaching and learning can be improved by the incorporation of connectivist learning theory.

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Abik, M., Ajhoun, R., & Ensias, L. (2012). Impact of technological advancement on pedagogy. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, 13(1), 224-237. Retrieved from

Fiore, A. (2017, August 17). How can a theory guide or inform practice? [Web log post]. Retrieved December 21, 2018, from

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age [html]Retrieved from

Siemens, G. (2012, June 16). The future of higher education. Retrieved June 16, 2014, from

Siemens, G. (2012,June 3). What is the theory that underpins our moocs? [Blog post]. Retrieved  from

Stavredes, T. (2011). Effective online teaching: Foundations and strategies for student success. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.