Defining Connected Learning

Connected Learning Is:

An approach to education.  It is not a learning theory.  It is not a specific set of teaching techniques, and it is not bound by specific educational environments or contexts.  Connected learning is a set of powerful design principles that engage, empower, and equip students to learn effectively, purposefully, and continuously throughout their lives.

The MacArthur Foundation, The Digital Media and Learning Research Hub, and the Connected Learning Alliance have developed a shared understanding of connected learning which they promote through websites, webpages, and reports. As defined by these organizations, connected learning consists of six core concepts that can be visualized in this infographic. They are: interest-powered, peer-supported, academically-oriented, production-centered, shared purpose, and openly-networked. Though we have adapted the core concepts to fit the Virginia Commonwealth University context, ALT Lab agrees with and supports the six principles. For that reason we have identified the Connected Learning Alliance core concepts in the margins of our case studies when and where they arise. What follows are brief definitions of the connected learning core concepts, heavily informed by the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub and the Connected Learning Alliance but flavored with the ALT Lab experience of higher and adult education at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Interest-Powered. Students engage more fully and learn more deeply when they can connect content to their short-term and long-term goals–academic, professional, or personal.

Peer-Supported. Connected learning encourages students to cultivate and experience the benefits of collective intelligence. Because the effective cultivation of collective intelligence requires skill, the best learning environments provide students with opportunities to practice through participation in peer-led learning, assessment, and feedback.

Shared Purpose. “Shared purpose” is a foundational aspect of communities of practice, or groups of people who work together to achieve a shared goal.

Academically-Oriented. The best learning experiences encourage students to tap into their personal interests in ways that drive academic success, civic engagement, or professional development.

Production-Centered. New digital media are particularly effective tools for creating meaningful products that can be shared with a wider audience. Connected learning takes advantage of new digital media to enable experiential or hand-on learning in exciting and meaningful contexts.

Openly Networked. Refers to the opportunity for students to connect classroom learning with other aspects of living, working, or “doing” across space, time, and multiple spheres of influence or community. The use of digital technologies often makes open networking possible, because it provides incomparable access for learners across both space and time.


For the ALT Lab Case for Connected Learning, please click here.

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Last updated: April 11, 2018

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