Category: Week 3

Week 3 – Activity 11: Connectivism

Timing: 1.5 hours


Social Network Of People

The pipe is more important than the content within the pipe. Our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today.


On Connectivism:

Where constructivism is focused on an ordered set of tasks, the connect world is dealing with chaos, where this organisation is not always, or seldom present.

Think of contextualisation as a teaching tool. It is often valuable to frame knowledge in a context of other knowledge the learner might know of. This way enforcing the new knowledge or skill. Connectivism holds a very similar view, where the more access to knowledge we obtain, through networks of other individuals or organization, the ‘stronger’ we become as we hold more potential knowledge.

This potential knowledge is key to our progress in an increasingly chaotic world. “We exist within a network, where out connections and potential to learn, are more important than our individual knowledge.”

The health of a network is related to the speed of its flow. How quickly an innovative idea can become reality/practice, displays the health of a network, both personally, within organisations and between organisations. Think of this as being similar to social mobility: the more organised the economy, the easier it is for people to make connections and move through it. This provides a good metaphor for knowledge.

Think of the network as a river: Spread through various areas, ebbing and flowing in different parts. The flow of knowledge through this river depends on the linkages and health of its system. Ideally, we want to create a system where information can easily flow through organisations and society.

We could also consider the health of the network being improved by more nodes conceiving to it, similar to a Web 2.0 theory, that the more nodes, the healthier the network.

As a teacher:

The more we connect our students to networks, or different nodes of a network, the better we enable our students to make sense of the world and what they are learning. We increase their potential for knowledge through their ability to access and understand knowledge as a set of information within a context. “This amplification of learning, knowledge and understanding through the extension of a personal network is the epitome of connectivism.”


On other theories mentioned (behaviourism, cognitivism, constructivism):

Stated as being a definition that encompasses many of the attributes commonly associated with behaviourism, cognitivism, an constructivism: Driscoll (2000) defined learning as “a persisting change in human performance or performance potential…[which] must come about as a result of the learning’s experience and interaction with the world.” (p11). This idea is not dissimilar to connectivism, especially through its connections to the world of knowledge as interaction.

However, each of the theories (behaviourism, cognitivism, constructivism), do not address learning that occurs outside of people (i.e. learning that is stored and manipulated by technology). They also fail to describe how learning happens within organisations.

Therefore, whilst these theories do talk to personal learning, where they fail is in linking this personal knowledge to a network to assist in broader knowledge creation. They are highly focused on the individual learning, and not what happens to this learning once it is known with effect to others.

From the article, the limitations of the above theories:

  • How are learning theories impacted when knowledge is no longer acquired in the linear manner?
  • What adjustments need to be made within learning theories when technology performs many of the cognitive operations previously performed by learners (information storage and retrieval – think of Wikipedia)?
  • How can we continue to stay current in a rapidly evolving information ecology?
  • How do learning theories address moment where performance is needed in the absence of complete understanding (in many situations, we have to act without knowledge, meaning we have to quickly obtain it – how do we do so?)?
  • What is the impact of networks and complexity theories (chaos) on learning?
  • What is the impact o chaos as a complex pattern recognition process on learning?
  • With increased recognition of interconnections in differing fields of knowledge, how are systems and ecology theories perceived in light of learning tasks?

However, is it not plausible that connectivism can be viewed as the ‘outside’ and ‘connected’ world of knowledge, where theories such as behaviourism, cognitivism, and constructivism can be viewed as the personal/inside manner in which we understand/learn this knowledge? Therefore, although the author seems to suggest that these theories are outdate, I would argue that they are still very relevant, but simply look at a smaller part of knowledge building (what is obtained internally by the learner), rather than how this knowledge is spread beyond the learner.

Link to discussion thread.  



Week 3 – Activity 10: Investigating a learning theory

Timing: 10 hours

  • In your team divide the work among yourselves and start to find:
    • The main proponents for each theoretical position
    • A summary of the strengths of each theory
    • A summary of the limitations of each theory; i.e. what a theory does and does not account for
    • What useful predictions or implications the theory makes
  • Your tutor will set up a wiki for your team. Use it to work together on a document that you will post to your tutor group to inform your colleagues about the theory you have researched.
  • Read each group’s account of the theory they researched.
  • After your group discussions on all three theories, create and complete a table like the one below.
Behaviourism Cognitivism Constructivism
How do they assist the understanding of elearning?
  • Post the table so it can be viewed by your tutor group and record it in your learning journal/blog.


Link to Wiki.

Week 3 – Activity 9: Three learning theories

Indigo indicates my notes.

Timing: 2 hours


Skinner (1968) and Thorndike (1928) were two of the main proponents of behaviourism. Skinner investigated how to shape behaviour with rewards. He invented the operant conditioning chamber where his subjects were pigeons. You can see Skinner describing his work in this YouTube video:

Using pigeons that are rewarded with food when they do either peck or turn. This behaviour of scheduled reinforcement (reward) is likened to pathelogical gambling for humans. Not because they enjoy it per se, but rather as they need the reward. 

Thorndike’s (1932) work includes the original stimulus–response framework within behavioural psychology theories. The main paradigm within this framework was ‘trial and error’. Thorndike worked with cats within a puzzle box. Have a look at this YouTube video, which shows Thorndike’s puzzle box:

He placed cats in a box, which they could only escape from if they hit a latch and pulled a string. Once successful, they had food waiting on the other side. He measured their response time from their first attempt. Smart cats would get faster and faster. He claimed however, they for the first time, no noticeable ‘thought’ was planned by the cat. It was only by trail and error that it was worked out. If an action brings a reward, Thorndike believes that this action becomes ‘stamped‘ in the mind. If consequences changed, so did behaviour. He called this the law of effect.

Summary of behaviourism videos: Both are focused on rewards for actions. If the action is successful, a reward is received. This reward stimulates further actions until their is no reward. 


Cognitivism was the theory that replaced behaviourism and was a prominent psychological theory in the late 20th century. This theory abandoned much of the earlier concerns with external observable behaviour and instead concentrated on the organisation of knowledge, information processing and decision making.

Ausubel (1960) and Bruner (1966) were two of the main proponents of cognitivism. The major difference between Bruner and Ausubel is that Bruner pursued the notion that learners should be given opportunities to discover for themselves relationships that are inherent in the learning material. One of the major teaching strategies Bruner developed was that of scaffolding the learner. You can view more about scaffolding in this YouTube video:

About scaffolding: 

“Instructional scaffolding is the provision of sufficient support to promote learning when concepts and skills are being first introduced to students. These supports include, but are not limited to, resources, a compelling task, templates and guides. So teachers help students master a task or a concept by providing support.”

Two types: “One is hard scaffolding and the other is soft or contingent scaffolding. The major point of difference between the two is that hard scaffolding is predetermined assistance so the educator decides ahead of time as to how he or she will be helping the student. Soft or contingent scaffolding depends on the level of skill as well as the situation at the time of education.”

“It starts off as directive and then moves on to suggestion, encouragement and eventually observation. So optimum scaffolds adapt to the learner’s tempo, moving them from others regulating them to self-regulation. So on the part of the learner progress is at its highest when they are self-regulating.”

“So the scaffolds provided by the educator do not change the nature or the difficulty level of the task, instead the scaffolds provided allow the student to successfully complete the task regardless of their skill level.”

Step by step instructions, as well as demos are used. Demo’s are important in soft scaffolding. The instructor begins to offer less and less assistance as students gain competence

Challenges: Learners at different levels. This is particularly challenging in large classes. 

Advantages: “[M]otivation and efficiency. Because scaffolding is offered on a very step-by-step instruction basis, the students are very clear as to how they need to progress through the task. So the processes need to be very clear from the outset as to how the assessment will be carried out, what the purpose and objectives of the task are and this helps students to stay on track and not to be distracted.

Summary: The objective, purpose, and probably the assessment criteria need to be laid out from the start, and step-by-step instructions/tasks are given to get students to the final stage. Given that students are aware of the criteria, they work towards this goal through the various steps, and are aware when they might be confused or unable to progress. As they progress through the various levels, the assistance from the instructor lessens. 

Ausubel, however, advocated that it is better for the teacher/trainer to organise the material and present it to the student in a relatively final form. His emphasis is on meaningful learning through being taught directly, whereas Bruner promoted discovering learning.

The video I watched would have been more of an Ausubel approach, as it encouraged steady direction and predetermined steps. 

Ausubel’s view of instruction enhances the development of students’ cognitive structure. One of his most popular instructional techniques was that of advance organisers, which offer key concepts to the learner before they read or engage with the learning material. Ausubel theorised that the form of the advanced organiser would help the learner to organise the new material and therefore learn and remember it better. You can explore these ideas in Ausubel’s (1960) article about advanced organisers.


The main proponents of constructivism were Piaget (1957) and Vygotsky (1988). Piaget was interested in how knowledge is constructed by the individual and he was therefore technically an epistemologist. He studied young children and adolescents as only they could be the test beds for any theory of knowledge construction that could account for how knowledge develops from birth to adulthood. You can find out more about Piaget’s theory in this video:

Shows children and youths working through different ‘logic’ problems, i.e. which container has more juice, or which is my left/right hand vs. yours. This shows the large differences in cognitive ability (including motor skills) that are present between the different ages. This was based on Piaget’s theories of discovery learning, as per the quote “are we forming children who are only capable of learning what is already known? Or should we try to develop creative and innovative minds, capable of discovery from the preschool age on, throughout life?”

Vygotsky, however, was more concerned with the social construction of knowledge and how context language has an important role to play in this process. One of the important notions to take from Vygotsky’s work is the zone of proximal development. An overview can be found in this YouTube video:

Learning happens because we interact with the environment. We do not learn because we have develop, rather we develop because we learn. Learning proceeds development. However, in order to learn, we must be presented with tasks that are just out of reach of our learning abilities (balance between boredom and frustration).


Within this Zone of Proximal Develop are tasks we can almost do, but need help to accomplish. Once we can do these tasks, we will eventually be able to do them on our own, and thus shift them out of our ZPD. Think of learning to swim as an example. 

Every student has a different zone of ZPD. Teacher must design lessons for each of the students – or more realistically, balance their lesson to their specific classes ability. 

Week 3 – Activity 8: A theory for elearning

Timing: 1.5 hours

  • Read Nichols (2003), A theory for elearning, and review his 10 elearning hypotheses.
  • With which hypotheses do you agree? State your reasons.
  • Consider hypothesis 4 that ‘elearning advances primarily through the successful implementation of pedagogical innovation’. Then post your thoughts to the appropriate thread in your tutor group forum.
  • Read and discuss each other’s postings.



1: Agree

eLearning is a means of implementing education that can be applied within varying education models (for example, face to face or distance education) and educational philosophies (for example behaviourism and constructivism).

Through both personal experience and the various examples I have studied/read about, it indeed appears true that the application of elearning is across the spectrum of pedagogies. For me, I view elearning as a tool to assist with different pedagogical structures, not as a structure it itself through/on which a pedagogy should be based.

2: Agree

eLearning enables unique forms of education that fits within the existing paradigms of face to face and distance education.

There appear to be overlaps between this theory and the above. Just as elearning can assist with different pedagogical structure, it can also exist within them. I think some common logic here persists; if the aim of the instructor or course can be done more efficiently (reaching a larger audience in a shorter time) or more effectively (having a deeper discussion about said learning task), then it is natural to consider an online tool and thus a blended learning approach. For example, if you teach a highly discussion based course, which has different levels of attendance, moving to a discussion board online to act alongside class discussions is a fairly logical consideration.

3. Partially agree.

The choice of eLearning tools should reflect rather than determine the pedagogy of a course; how technology is used is more important than which technology is used.

In general, ‘how technology is used is more important than which technology used’ makes me think of a bad workman always blames his tools. However, if you are using better technology, the scope of what can be done with your class is broader, giving you more potential for success. A simple forum board might be enough for some tasks, and exceed in doing a good job in accordance to what you wish to do with it, however you are limited by this choice, preventing you from possibly further improvement. The users might also not like the tool, no matter what you wish to do with it. A blogging platform is a good example. You might want your students to create a blog to practice their language skills. This is probably a good idea, however if you insist of everyone using blogger, when some might find more comfort using WordPress or others, will hinder your good idea, or at least act as a force against some students to excel in the task.

4.I tend to lean towards this being true, though with some additions.

eLearning advances primarily through the successful implementation of pedagogical innovation.

It is possibly an oversimplification of a somewhat ‘chicken and egg’ scenario, however it is difficult for me to deny (or think of any example) where an educational tool (intended or not), was not improved once it was used under some form of pedagogical guidance. This is however not to say that there has been no education benefit before a more pedagogical lens was applied. 

Therefore, I disagree that breakthroughs in only teaching practices will make eLearning more useful, however I agree with the sentiment that once the teaching practices have caught up, the present technologies ‘breakthrough effect’ will truly be realised. 

For example, and linking in to what Andi said above about push and pull factors. If we consider YouTube, it is a great tool for learning, and it certainly wasn’t led by pedagogy in it’s development. However (and this is how I understood the the point of #4), once instructors used the tool within lessons with a particular aim, the real benefits of YouTube as a learning tool were likely improved – e.g. regarding how to use it within a lesson context (when, for what, how, etc.). Similarly, education videos posted onto YouTube would have gradually been refined to better suit the technology (i.e. the additions of annotations, subtitles/transcripts for accessibility, additional links in the description for more context, and general good presentation etiquette).

5. Agree

eLearning can be used in two major ways; the presentation of education content, and the facilitation of education processes.

However, I would add that the presentation of education content, and the facilitation of education process are increasingly cyclical, especially with more and more tools built on Web. 2.0 processes. I.e. What I create, you can learn and build on. There is a nice link here to the benefits of OER, where knowledge creation and sharing is the cornerstone of such content.

6. Partially agree.

eLearning tools are best made to operate within a carefully selected and optimally integrated course design model.

The article states that “build it and they will come” approach does not work. However, as we get more and more accustomed to online tools and ‘what works’ and how it works, I tend to think that we will automatically ‘go’ to online learning spaces. For example, anyone having done a previous OU module would need little instruction to make use of the forums. It does help to have guidance in the instructions (i.e. post your response to the forum including X, Y, and Z), however it would be very surprising to me if no discussion too place due to no direct request to post. Ultimately, for new tools and first time learners this is true, but for ‘natives’ in learning using technology, some tools will need little if any introduction any more.

7. Disagree – the future has had it’s say.

eLearning tools and techniques should be used only after consideration has been given to online vs offline trade-offs.

We have arrived at the time he the author describes as being in the ‘possible’ future, and thus file sizes and portable devices are here in abundance – at least in the developing world. I disagree as the consideration of is no longer about online vs. offline, but rather which file formats are most supported, which OS can run which programme, and which browser is best to design for optimum performance.

8. Agree.

Effective eLearning practice considers the ways in which end-users will engage with the learning opportunities provided to them.

Although the author is discussion desktops, dial-up, and CD-ROMs, the same is true today. We need to consider whether our class all has the particular technology available (i.e. if an app is only available on iOS and Android, do some students use other mobile platforms?).

9. Partially agree.

The overall aim of education, that is, the development of the learner in the context of a predetermined curriculum or set of learning objectives, does not change when eLearning is applied.

However, by using technology, the aims of a lesson or curriculum can be broader and possibly have more options. For example, if previously we wanted learners to write about their dream job, we could not have them each research an aspect of that job before hand, or join a forum discussion or community to learn more (i.e. using iSpot if you are interested in diversity) and report increased findings to the class.

10. Agree.

Only pedagogical advantages will provide a lasting rationale for implementing eLearning approaches.

We often hear about governments plans to provide every child with an iPad or a similar such goal. However, this is sometimes done more for politics than for any sound educational reasoning. Countries, such as Japan and China, still reject the use of digital technologies in normal classes – not because they are not available, but because they haven’t agreed on there being a need.