Take your teaching online
Take your teaching online

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

2.4 Connectivism

This theory takes into account the availability of a plethora of information on the web, which can be shared around the world almost instantaneously with the rise of social networking. Connectivism draws on chaos theory’s recognition of ‘everything being connected to everything else’. It also draws on networking principles, and theories of complexity and self-organisation, and is built on a notion that ‘the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing’ (Siemens, 2005).

Siemens explains that:

‘Connectivism is driven by the understanding that decisions are based on rapidly altering foundations. New information is continually being acquired. The ability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information is vital. The ability to recognise when new information alters the landscape based on decisions made yesterday is also critical.’ (Siemens, 2005)

Unlike the other theories presented above, connectivism is ‘a learning theory for the digital age’ (Siemens, 2005). It is also newer and less established in terms of a body of research. Whether or not you agree with its arguments, two very important questions for this course are prompted by connectivism: has the internet fundamentally changed what learning is? And does the internet change what education, and educators, should aim to achieve?

Activity 2 How do educational theories match with your teaching?

Timing: Allow about 20 minutes

Make brief notes on the differences between behaviourism, cognitivism, constructivism and connectivism. Are there ideas that are present in your current teaching practice? How do they appear? Do these theories fit with your experiences of learning?

To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).


As a teacher, you are probably familiar with these theories already, but it can be helpful to take a step back and look at your teaching with a critical eye. This activity should help you to identify where you draw on the theories, which, as you move through the course, should help you to decide where the theories will play a role in your online teaching.

Here you have explored some of the theories that inform the underpinning principles of effective online teaching. However, online teaching cannot take place without the application of technology, and this is what you will focus upon next.

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371