Today, we learn from a vast array of avenues, whether through experimentation, peers, or set resources. Digital technology has been at the forefront of education for the last two decades and influences the way we learn.

Because of this, the process of mentoring new employees has become more streamlined than ever before—and it can be used in your organization too.

It’s these connections—between members of a group as well as users and technology—that are the basis of connectivism. Connectivism Learning Theory proposes that knowledge is distributed across networks and amongst individuals, and that learning can be facilitated through connecting to these sources.

Originally introduced by George Siemans in 2004, connectivism helps the people in your workspace coordinate with one another. This theory emphasizes collaboration, participation, self-organization, and respect for group diversity as key components of successful learning.

Another critical component of the theory, however, is how our technology supports our education. The theory recognizes the importance of technology in allowing us to access information from around the world—also known as “networked learning”—and how it can help enhance our understanding of particular topics or concepts.

Though it’s only been around for a couple of decades, this new approach to teaching and learning has been embraced by educators seeking to foster an environment where students are empowered to take ownership of their own educational journey.

The key components of connectivism

There are some basic principles of connectivism you should be familiar with before employing them in your employee training programs.

Learning is non-linear

Connectivism stresses the importance of allowing learners to explore their own paths and find information on their own rather than following a straight line or “teacher-defined” approach to learning.

Learning requires human connection

The relationships your learners create within a group will help them to further their understanding of the material.

Technology enables learning

The tools that are available today make it easier for learners to grow and stay connected with their mentors and colleagues. This supports collaboration and knowledge-sharing in ways that weren’t possible before digital technology was widely available. 

Diversity matters

All individuals have different experiences and perspectives they can bring to the table. Connectivism encourages embracing this diversity rather than suppressing it or ignoring it altogether. 

Continuous updates are necessary

Both our knowledge and the resources we use must be up to date, or else we risk missing out on valuable information and insights.

Connectivism learning theory examples

To better illustrate how connectivism works, consider the following example: 

As the head of the onboarding process, it’s your job to assist new hires as they adjust to their new workplace. You could take on the responsibility entirely by yourself, acting as the new employees’ mentor throughout their time at the company.

However, you decide to bring in other experienced colleagues to teach and answer questions your learners might have. As they grow more confident in their roles, these newer members now have a network of coworkers they feel comfortable reaching out to for help—and a much deeper and broader well of knowledge to draw from.

Beyond delegating your responsibilities, applying connectivism to your onboarding process allows you to create a web of mentorships between your colleagues.

These new employees now have a whole team of people who can offer insights and advice as needed, or potentially even go a step further by connecting them with additional resources.

But connectivism relies on two forms of connection—human and technological. Consider this:

You’re a manager beginning an onboarding process for new employees. Instead of only providing your staff with the company handbook, you decide to implement connectivism into their training.

You create an online forum of articles, videos, and podcasts relevant to their position and allow them to explore it on their own terms. As they work through the material, you encourage them to ask questions or discuss topics with each other so everyone can benefit from each other’s knowledge and experience. 

By creating a network of resources your new hires can access at any time, you have used technology to facilitate their learning process and given them the autonomy to explore topics as they see fit. This helps them to learn at their own pace while addressing potential problems as they arise.

All in all, the combination of self-directed learning and human/technological connections will facilitate your employee’s skill development.

How connectivism is different from traditional learning theories

Traditional learning theories tend to focus on the teacher as the main source of knowledge and students as passive recipients. Connectivism, on the other hand, emphasizes collaboration, self-direction, and exploration through networks. 

In a more traditional setting, lectures are often used to deliver information from one person (the teacher) to many people (the students).

In contrast, connectivism encourages learners to seek out their own sources of knowledge and form connections with peers or experts in order to gain new insights. This is done through discussion groups or online forums where they can discuss topics freely and share their own experiences. 

The theory also recognizes that technology plays an important role in modern education—not just for accessing resources but also for connecting individuals with each other.

Using digital tools like social media platforms or messaging apps lets learners easily connect with others who have similar interests or backgrounds in order to further their understanding of particular topics without relying solely on one person’s opinion or expertise. 

Because of its emphasis on collaboration—as well as its recognition of technology’s influence on the learning process—connectivism learning theory has become increasingly popular among educators seeking new ways to engage their learners in conversations and activities. 

It’s important to note, however, that connectivism is not a one-size-fits-all approach—it should be adapted to the specific needs of your learners and the context in which you are teaching.

Same with any learning theory, it’s up to educators to determine which elements will best serve their students and create an environment where meaningful learning can take place.

How connectivism can be used in your employee training programs

If this learning theory seems like a good fit for your organization, you’ll be happy to know that creating a connectivist learning environment is easy to do.

While it may take a bit of time towards the beginning to integrate the technology your learners’ need, the maintenance these resources will need can be done easily by various group members.

To ensure that connectivism works in your organization, it’s important to create an environment of trust and respect. Encourage collaboration between employees by setting up group activities or design projects that require everyone to participate and contribute.

Make sure that everyone has access to the same information so that no one is left out of the conversation. Acknowledging each individual’s contribution will foster a sense of ownership over their work, which can be a powerful motivator for further exploration. 

Finally, stay open-minded about new ideas and approaches to learning. Talking with your new employees about how they learn best will let you avoid future issues as well as craft a stronger training program.

Making Connectivism a Reality

Connectivism learning theory provides an effective framework for creating a learning environment that encourages collaboration, self-direction, and exploration through networks.

By taking advantage of the technology available today—and coordinating with senior employees within your company—you’ll give your newest hires access to a variety of resources while also providing them with the freedom to explore topics on their own terms.

So take advantage of constructivism when designing your employee training program to promote active learning and continuous engagement.

With constructivism, you can create an effective training program that will help your employees reach their full potential.