Networked learning, CoPs and connectivism

The first Networked Learning Conference Hotseat with Peter Goodyear has attracted a lot of interesting discussion. Most of the discussion has centred on what is meant by networked learning and there seem to be as many definitions as there are people in the forum. Most agree that networked learning is about connecting people and ideas, but beyond that people’s ideas seem to be positioned somewhere along the following continuums

Virtual  >>>>>> Non-virtual

At a distance >>>>>> Predominantly F2F

Collective >>>>>>Individual

Open environment (e.g. a MOOC) >>>>>> Closed environment (e.g. a HE course)

Cooperative >>>>>> Collaborative

Questions have been raised around:

  • why people join particular networked events/venues,
  • understanding the norms/language of a network,
  • whether collaboration and cooperation is necessary for learning in a network,
  • what keeps people committed to the network,
  • the role of weak ties in a network ,
  • creating and maintaining social relationships in a network

……. all of which to me seem to imply that there is some confusion about the difference between a community of practice and a network.

The question was also raised about where/what is the overlap between connectivism and networked learning – and there is also confusion there.

So an interesting discussion – with lots of references being posted (great for those doing a PhD or other research) – but not a lot of clarity about what networked learning is. I think it would help to say what it is not – and that might help to distinguish it from communities of practice (although Wenger et al have already published about this) and connectivism. I think Stephen Downes and George Siemens are clearer about what connectivism is and is not.

From the discussion thus far – Networked Learning seems to incorporate anything from constructionist to constructivist approaches to learning – but the discussion isn’t over yet – so there is still time for it all to become a bit clearer 🙂

4 thoughts on “Networked learning, CoPs and connectivism

  1. brainysmurf1234 October 14, 2011 / 8:47 pm

    In my very limited experience, it seems to me that a CoP has a common interest or purpose that permeates throughout the community (something one could put on a logo or flag or the header of a website) whereas a network may have many convergent and divergent interests, purposes, themes or routes to explore. In that sense, the only ‘common’ part of my network is that I am in the middle of it but I might tap into parts or all of my network for very different reasons at different times.

    In looking over the continuums (continua?) you named, I feel as though networked learning is more of a matrix or quilt: a mix of the virtual, F2F, synchronous, asynchronous, open, closed and cooperative-collaborative. Will continue to ponder this, thank you!

  2. jennymackness October 16, 2011 / 4:17 pm

    @brainysmurf1234 Many thanks for your thoughtful comment. I think Wenger et al.’s work – which I wrote about back in May – – is helpful in distinguishing between networks and communities. I like your description of a network. As you say – but a bit differently – communities have some sense of common identity, which maybe networks don’t? Like you I’m still pondering.

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