Cognitivism and Connectivism

An Overview of Cognitivism

In Cognitivist learning theory, the thought processes are important to learning. These mental processes are shaped by our past experiences, which also shape how we process new information. Cognitivism focuses on acquiring knowledge and information.

Social Cognitivism builds upon the theory of Cognitivism while also stressing that the learner is an active participant in his or her own learning process. Therefore, motivation plays a strong role in learning.

Cognitive Load

Cognitive load refers to the amount of effort it takes to process something in working memory. Working memory can generally hold between five and nine items of information at any one time (Atkinson and Shiffrin “Human Memory” – 1968.) For this reason, it is important that Instructors and Curriculum Developers do their best to reduce cognitive load and ensure the transfer of knowledge to all learners.

Here are some ways to help reduce cognitive load:

  • Break larger or more complex content into smaller segments that are more easily understood

  • Use a combination of audio and visual methods for communicating information

  • Any non-essential content should be ommitted

  • Text or verbiage should be placed near the corresponding imagery

An Overview of Connectivism

Connectivism is a modern learning theory for the digital age. Connectivist learning theory states that digital technology allows us to expand our network, therefore also allowing us to expand the number of tools, resources, and people where we can attain new information. The argument is that this contributes to greater intellect, although the learner must use good decision-making and critical thinking skills to discern between sources of information. This is essential in the modern digital environment, where information is all around us.

Overlap Between Constructivism and Connectivism

There is some overlap between Constructivism and Connectivism. Jerome Bruner was responsible for developing many theories of both Constructivism and Connectivism. Additionally, both learning theories take social and cultural influences into account when it comes to learning.


Jonesrebandt, Erin. (Oct. 22, 2013).  Connectivism
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MacLeod, Saul. (2016). Bandura – Social Learning Theory.
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Siemans, George (2005). “Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age”
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Atkinson and Shiffrin. (1968).”Human Memory”.

Guyan, Matthew. (2013, November 1). “5 Ways to Reduce Cognitive Load in eLearning”.

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