Since I have been engaged in research on open learning, social networked learning, open online learning environments, PLE and all those issues related to the influence of emerging technologies on our current learning ecologies, I have been also thinking and reflecting on connectivism and its merits as a learning theory and its applications in our education and learning practices in the current digital and networked. Although, it seems that connectivism is not yet widely accepted as a robust learning theory and there are some criticisms around it but, there are some links between the nature of our learning and knowledge construction in the complexities of digital and networked technologies and connectivism as a theoretical framework which still can help us understand these complexities.
For me as a researcher in this area, there is still some sort of uncertainty to apply connectivism in my research with regards to the critical arguments around it. Nonetheless, my research on open and networked learning and personal learning environments (PLE) has some theoretical grounds in connectivism. My reflections on connectivism as a learning theory brought me to some issues which I’d like to argue here to provide a base for further discussion and thinking:
- With regards to the fact that some critics still argue about the potential of connectivism as a learning theory, one question is that what it offers that not existed in the other learning theories and how it explain learning processes differently from other learning theories? What are the core elements of a learning theory which qualify it as a learning theory and connectivism lacks in this respect?
-While it is not a serious learning theory (or let say a well-established learning theory), does it mean that it shouldn’t be used in our research on learning processes in technological-mediated learning environments? Most of the time I am talking about connectivism as a theoretical base for my research and the way it can explain our learning and knowledge construction in today’s networked world, there are some criticisms by some research fellows and even from supervisors that they are skeptical of that as a learning theory then, using it might endanger a research in its theoretical underpinnings.
-While there are many research and development being done on connectivism and at least it is something that could explain the nature of learning phenomena in a digital and networked world with regards to openness and connectivity, it indicates that it has good grounds as a growing phenomenon if not as a theory. So, a learning theory probably doesn’t become a theory unless being researched and practiced in different contexts and being developed over time by examining its potential. Since, connectivism is relatively a new born term and needs to grow over time, we all as educators and researchers can help nurture it by our contributions.