I came across the idea of connectivism (Siemens, 2004) many years ago in a graduate class. In this topic, I am reviewing the definition. Connectivism suggests that learning is a social connected process:

1. learning as a network forming process

2. networked learning involves forming conceptual connections

3. networked learning through external social spaces (social and technological systems become part of the learning process)

Siemens talks about how his learning was always connected to how others learn and how knowledge evolves in “combinatorial creativity.” Using the affordance of technology he connected to specific online communities and found his learning and knowledge taking place through social systems – a space that offers infinite amounts of knowledge and insight. Siemens then goes on to talk about the need for students to develop critical thinking: to be able to find the information, make the connections, and also reach out to experts and peers online. Knowledge is no longer isolated to textbooks but also connected to the latest sources and the ways others make sense of the information.

In one of his interviews, Siemens himself acknowledges that his ideas have not been taken up as extensively in traditional higher institutions. As Selwyn (2012) noted these “new” ways of learning go against the ways of traditional institutions. I find myself in that dilemma as I consider the “dangers” of students connecting with networks and people online around their learning and interests. And as I do so I cannot help wonder also about students’ life in school and their personal lives. They are already connected on social media and other platforms. Is there a way to help them see how there can be a merging of the two? That social learning can take place? It is a very ill-structured process but in training our students, are we not preparing them for the complicated work-life situations where knowledge and learning are hardly structured. These ideas resonate with Douglas Thomas and  John  Seely-Brown’s  (2011)  description of a  technology-enhanced  ‘new culture of learning’—i.e. learning that is based around principles of collective exploration,  play, and innovation rather than individualized instruction. Nicolas Carr (2011)   contends that social media users  ‘are evolving from cultivators of personal knowledge into hunters and gatherers in the electronic data forest, I think this is possible through the introduction of guidelines and good practice.

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In this topic’s scenario, I sought to introduce social learning to the instructor. The following were some of the ideas I suggested as part of PBL08’s submission!

1. Using Facebook for the course/class. Having students connect, modeling as an instructor, and having students practice the sharing of information and resources. Not forgetting the fun of being in a connected and safe community. Other suggestions from Chugh and Ruhi (2018) maintain that “Facebook should be seen as a gateway to learning and teaching rather than just a platform aimed at enhancing social interactions.” Tips for a Facebook group include (Dougherty & Andercheck, 2014 as cited in Chugh & Ruhi, 2018):

a. Make some content available upfront to students when they join the group to attract their interest

b. Develop and post-critical voting/polling and multiple-choice questions

c. Encourage students to add content to the group

d. Devise a reward mechanism to encourage engagement

2. Make use of open resources like YouTube EDU, iTUnes U, Academic Earth, open courseware like EdX and Coursera where universities develop and distribute learning content and courseware.

3. Encourage students to connect to subject matter experts (SMEs) related to what they are reading to keep up with the latest research/updates. Additionally, they can explore the possibility of having these SMEs conduct guest lectures.

4. Develop guidelines for students around cyber security and also help students develop goals and self-regulation (Crook, 2008 as cited in Selwyn, 2012).

5. Encourage students to prepare for the workforce by connecting with people on LinkedIn for exposure to potential employers.

As much as it will still take time to develop I think there are already people doing so. We need exemplars of good practice. And I must say – faith that the excitement of such forms of learning can attract our students in developing new ways of finding information, connecting, and benefitting from social learning.

Social Learning