The Incompleteness of Connectivism

Stephen has written a terrific post on connectivism as a learning theory. This is one of the briefest – and consequently, best – statements I’ve read on the subject.

Let me begin by saying that I’m a fan of connectivism. Personally, I’m inclined to be persuaded by the connectivist account as Stephen, George, and others have articulated it. But – while I haven’t read every piece written on the topic – those I have read contain a gaping hole which I feel must be addressed before the theory can be considered complete and, therefore, a legitimate alternative to longer established learning theories.

Stephen explains:

When I say of connectivism that ‘learning is the formation of connections in a network’ I mean this quite literally. The sort of connections I refer to are between entities (or, more formally, ‘nodes’)… In particular, I define a connection as follows (other accounts may vary): “A connection exists between two entities when a change of state in one entity can cause or result in a change of state in the second entity.”

In Stephen’s account, connections are defined as a kind of relationship between entities. However, I have never read a connectivist account of where entities come from, or a connectivist description of their nature. And defining an undefined word exclusively in terms of a second undefined word kicks the semantic can down the road. And building a learning theory on a term with such a definition seems “risky.”

But as I said above, this is not a critique of what has been written about connectivism – I’ve found that writing to be quite persuasive. This is simply a statement about what remains to be considered and written about before connectivism can be considered sufficiently complete.