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About this glossaryEdit

This is a glossary of terms used in connectivism to help define how they they differ from the dictionary definitions and other learning theories. This glossary is currently under development as part of the CCK09 and CCK11 course. Please help to improve.

Alphabetical index of termsEdit



A central concept of connectivism. "learning, knowledge and understanding [can be amplified] through the extension of a personal network" (Siemens 2005) the connection of one concept or skill set with another complementary concept or skill set that produces a greater impact than each element could produce on its own. (Siemens, 2011)

capacity to knowEdit

This is the potential that exists in a learner and their connections. It "is more critical than what is currently known" (Siemens 2005)


A measure of the importance of a node in a network. Degree centrality - the number of direct connections a node has - a well connected node - a busy hub. Betweenness centrality - a calculation of how 'between' constituencies or groups of nodes a particular node is - a broker node or 'boundary spanner'. Closeness centrality - nodes with short connections - nodes best placed to monitor information flow. (Krebs 2008)

connected specializationEdit

In complex systems, individual agents/nodes become increasingly specialized. In order to enact new domains of knowledge (see above), we need to connect specialized nodes. Understanding how and why nodes form and connect may help us to understand why we have an iPad but not a Windows tablet (as promised by Balmer in 2010). Connections have an impact – but we don’t want random connections for connections sake. We need connections that increase the capacity of a network of individuals to create and grow knowledge. ([[1]])


"A connection is a link between two entities [in a network] such that a change of state in one entity may result in a change of state in the second entity." (Downes 2009) These connections are where knowledge and understanding are represented and they may be at a neuronal level within a person's brain, at a social level between people, groups of people and other entities in the network. (Siemens 2009)

connections, makingEdit

"Connections form naturally, through a process of association, and are not 'constructed' through some sort of intentional action." (Downes 2007)

connective knowledgeEdit

"connective knowledge is knowledge of the connection. If Janet votes a certain way because I told her to, an interaction has taken place and a connection has been established. The knowledge thus observed consists not in how Janet and I will vote, nor in how many of us will vote, but rather, in the observation that there is this type of connection between myself and Janet." (Downes 2005)



"is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision." (Siemens 2005)


Are choices that learners make and "are based on rapidly altering foundations. New information is continually being acquired. The ability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information is vital. The ability to recognize when new information alters the landscape based on decisions made yesterday is also critical." ([[2]])


"an ecology, habitat, or studio is simply the space for fostering connections. Networks occur within something. They are influenced by the environment and context of an organization, school, or classroom. Certain ecologies are more conducive to forming connections. ... Connection barriers are aspects of an ecology. ... The nature of the ecology influences the ease, type, and health of networks created." (Siemens 2007a)

emergence / emergent propertyEdit

"is interpretation applied to connections" like the wave made by a line of falling dominoes (perceiving connections as a distinct whole) or the the image of a face from a picture composed of pixels (perceiving a distinct whole but interpreting it as a series of connections). The emergent property is the interpretation of the connections (i.e. between the dominoes or the pixels). (Downes 2005)

Enacting new domains of knowledgeEdit

The virus that causes SARS was discovered through a distributed research network, aided by reasonably simple communication technology. We all possess some levels of knowledge. When that knowledge is connected with the knowledge of other people, we are able to access more complex domains of knowledge. For example, the iPad is the combination of innovations and technological advances that spans decades and centuries. The iPad – and its aesthetic and appeal – can only be realized with the knowledge required in its creation is networked and connected (Siemens 2011)




It is difficult to define group as used in connectivism, since Siemens and Downes use the term somewhat differently. Downes distinguishes groups from networks along four axes: unity/diversity, coordination/autonomy, closed/openness, distributive/connective.[3][4] On the other hand, Siemens sees groups as a type of network, seeing the distinction as 'unfair'.[5] However, in the network science sense, a group is a particular type of network. Downes talks more about how groups are distinct from networks and Siemens talks about how groups are a particular sub-type of networks.

half-life of knowledgeEdit

"the [shrinking] time span from when knowledge is gained to when it becomes obsolete. Half of what is known today was not known 10 years ago." (Siemens 2005 quoting Gonzalez)


"Within social networks, hubs are well-connected people who are able to foster and maintain knowledge flow. Their interdependence results in effective knowledge flow, enabling the personal understanding of the state of activities organizationally." (Siemens 2005)


Which concepts or nodes have the capacity to impact others? Which nodes can be trusted? Why? Are single nodes as influential and nodal structures that are in a state of resonance and/or synchronization? (the answer is obviously no). What role do individual nodes play in producing resonance across multiple nodes? Which attributes or actions on the part of nodes contribute most to trust formation and influence generation?

(Siemens 2011)

informal learningEdit

"Learning now occurs in a variety of ways – through communities of practice, personal networks, and through completion of work-related tasks." (Siemens 2005)

Information diffusionEdit

how does information flow through a network? Which nodes slow down information flow? Which test the accuracy or trust-ability of information? (Siemens 2011)


In Connectivism knowledge is not thought to be propositional. "knowledge is distributed across a network of connections ... knowledge is not acquired, as though it were a thing ... Knowledge is ... literally the set of connections formed by actions and experience." (Downes 2007). In the individual there is no place where 'Paris is the capital of France' is stored. The knowledge is represented by the connections between people. Similarly where is the knowledge stored that has been learnt by a society? (Downes 2009)

knowledge cycleEdit

"Personal knowledge is comprised of a network, which feeds into organizations and institutions, which in turn feed back into the network, and then continue to provide learning to individual. This cycle of knowledge development (personal to network to organization) allows learners to remain current in their field through the connections they have formed." (Siemens 2005)


"Learning is a process that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements – not entirely under the control of the individual. Learning (defined as actionable knowledge) can reside outside of ourselves (within an organization or a database), is focused on connecting specialized information sets, and the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing." ... "Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions. Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources. Learning may reside in non-human appliances." (Siemens 2005). "learning consists of the ability to construct and traverse ... networks" (Downes 2007)



"Meaning-making is the foundation of action and reformation of view points, perspectives, and opinions." (Siemens 2006)


MOOCs, Massive Open Online Course. MOOCs are a way of using Internet Technologies to connect others and learn together.


"A network can simply be defined as connections between entities. Computer networks, power grids, and social networks all function on the simple principle that people, groups, systems, nodes, entities can be connected to create an integrated whole. Alterations within the network have ripple effects on the whole." (Siemens 2005). It is an expression of structure such as the constellation of connections that enable the movement of an arm, or those that define a particular memory. Adding or modifying nodes in that structure may lead to a ripple of changes in other parts of the network [which then represents the expression of a new structure]. (Siemens 2009)


An entity in a network with connections. This could be an individual neuronal pattern within a person, the person themselves, a group of people, a computer, the output of a computer / website etc. "Nodes (can be fields, ideas, communities) that specialize and gain recognition for their expertise have greater chances of recognition, thus resulting in cross-pollination of learning communities." (Siemens 2005)

pattern recognitionEdit

A skill acquired by learners that allows them to make decisions and learn from their network. "The value of pattern recognition and connecting our own “small worlds of knowledge” are apparent in the exponential impact provided to our personal learning." (Siemens 2005)

Personal learning environment (PLE)Edit

A shortcut to an individual's connections. For example this could be shortcuts for a particular course or an aggregation of content

Personal learning networkEdit

"Most of us belong to more than one learning community. These multiple communities form a personal learning network. If a learning community equates somewhat with a course, then our learning network is equivalent to a degree program. Each community is a node on the network." Siemens 2003. The origin of the term is discussed by Downes in his blog.


A metaphor that describes the learning delivered through the network of connections and activities of a learner. Siemens uses it to highlight that the connections are more important [for tomorrow] than what you learn from them [today]. "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". (Siemens 2005)


"Praxis, as a cyclical process of reflection, experimentation, and action, allows the learner to critically evaluate the tools, processes, and elements of an ecology or network." (Siemens 2006)


Resonance: when concepts are available to connection with other concepts based on some element of similarity or capacity for connection. For example, a psychologist is in a better position to understand a new theory of motivation than a farmer would be. And a farmer in turn will likely find greater resonance with a new approach to land management than a psychologist would. Resonance is capacity for connections to form based on the attributes of connect-able nodes. Nodes that are too unlike each other will not form a meaningful connection. (Siemens 2011)


nodes/concepts aligning themselves to other agents/concepts (fireflies is a common example). (Siemens 2011)


taxonomy (of connectivism)Edit

"a staged view of how learners encounter and explore learning in a networked/ecological manner (the taxonomy begins with the basic and moves to the more complex): Awareness and receptivity, Connection-forming, Contribution and involvement, Pattern recognition, Meaning-making, Praxis" (Siemens 2006)



"understanding is an emergent property of a network" (Siemens 2007b)


Downes S. (2005) An Introduction to Connective Knowledge

Downes S. (2007) What Connectivism Is

Krebs V. (2008) Social Network Analysis

Siemens G. (2003) Learning communities and learning networks

Siemens G. (2005) Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age

Siemens G. (2006) Connectivism Taxonomy

Siemens G. (2007a) Networks, Ecologies, and Curatorial Teaching

Siemens G. (2007b) Helsinki Seminar June 2007

Siemens G. & Downes S. (2009) CCK09 Elluminate discussion 17th September 2009