Consider this thought, every person around you has a wealth of knowledge in a specific subject. You might not know it, but the person who has sat next to you in the office for the past 6 years knows every single fact about competitive ballroom dance, and if you never connect with that person – how would you learn that information? Okay fine, you might not need to learn the tango and foxtrot, so let’s make this more relevant. Maybe they know information that would make your job easier or simplify your process and you have no idea because you two have never collaborated.
As L&D leaders, it’s your job to break down those silos of knowledge and ensure your team is not only learning core job duties, but also learning from each other. In this article I will explain connectivism learning theory and why it is critical to include it in your L&D program.
What is connectivism learning theory?
Connectivism learning theory emphasizes the importance of connections and networks in the learning process. Connectivism learning suggests that learning is not solely an individual process but occurs through connections with people, resources, and technology. This theory recognizes that in the digital age, information is constantly evolving, so the ability to find, evaluate, and apply information becomes crucial.
Connectivism learning theory in technology
We know almost every organization these days has some kind of learning management system (LMS) or online platform. Coursework may include reading modules, short videos, webinars or even games and simulations. Using these different approaches to content can help learners feel connected to the material and help them grasp new concepts.
For example, let’s say you’ve assigned “Handling Hazardous Material” training to all lab technicians in your state’s Department of Health. Lab technicians can read material and complete a module about hazardous substances. But connectivism learning theory acknowledges that a more effective approach would be using technology to simulate what a chemical spill would look like and how contamination can affect the lab and allow colleagues to discuss their experiences through conversation. Leveraging technology and relationships can help individuals retain new information.
From the L&D perspective, it’s important to keep in mind that uniform training deployed across every location may not appeal or seem relevant for all individual locations. This can leave the staff feeling disconnected. The entire assigned staff will complete the training for compliance and regulatory reasons. But did each individual feel it was relevant? Linkedin Learning (2022) states more than 90% of employees reported not learning anything from their mandatory compliance training. Employees prefer to learn from their peers or on the job. Does your organization’s technology promote a collaborative environment where employees can educate each other?
Connectivism learning theory promotes collaboration
Connectivism learning theory recognizes the importance of social learning and collaboration in the learning process. It encourages learners to connect with others, share knowledge, and collaborate on projects, fostering a more interactive and engaging learning experience.
Every team has at least one seasoned superstar that’s been with the company for 10+ years. You want that person to help train and facilitate important conversations about best practices and day-to-day job functions. And it helps having a centralized platform where your seasoned superstars can share their knowledge, making it accessible to the rest of the team.
Structured online training plus practical knowledge from people in the field can fuse together to promote a high-functioning team. That’s connectivism learning.
Let’s take the hazardous material training from earlier, a more seasoned lab technician could share with their cohort in an online forum, “while chemical spills aren’t common, cross-contamination can happen frequently without proper training.” The lab tech can then give tips about cross-contamination handling and how it is similar. Now the required training has turned into an opportunity for newer employees to learn from the team and better equip the staff on a common occurrence in the department. Accurate, up-to-date knowledge is the aim of all connectivism learning. Sharing ideas and expanding on current understanding is an easy way to help ensure your team remains aligned.
By embracing connectivism, L&D leaders can shape learning and development strategies that prioritize collaboration, networking, and the effective use of digital tools and online sources. This approach can enhance employee engagement, knowledge sharing, and overall organizational learning. Want to know more about the new way of learning? Download our paper today.