Networked Learning


Connections with others and content

Principal Metaphors

While Networked Learning is explicitly aligned with Situated Learning and related theories, few of its proponents demonstrate deep appreciation of the any specific learning theory.  Consequently, direct references to learning are most often suggestive of Folk Theories:
  • Knowledge is … material
  • Knowing is … mastered material
  • Learner is … a connector (in a network)
  • Learning is … connecting to/with
  • Teaching is … facilitating




As its name suggests, Networked Learning is concerned with the learner’s connections – with other learners, with information, through learning resources, via open communication. Subdiscourses include:
  • Collaborative Networked Learning (Charles Finley, 1980s) – a type of Networked Learning that is mediated by electronic means. Many models and emphases have been proposed, but original foci included shared purpose, mutual dependence, and leadership support (e.g., from a coach/facilitator or expert/mentor).


Networked Learning is more a catch-all for popular trends than a coherent perspective on learning or education. Proponents typically tap into prominent Embeddedness Discourses, while at the same time demonstrating little interest in engaging deeply with difficult principles and their potentially disruptive implications.

Authors and/or Prominent Influences

Ivan Illich

Status as a Theory of Learning

Networked Learning points to relevant aspects of a learner’s world, but it doesn’t really go anywhere with them. Thus, it cannot be described as a theory of learning.

Status as a Theory of Teaching

Similar to its treatment of learning, Networked Learning points to but does not engage deeply with elements of the learner’s world that might be managed or influenced by a teacher. Thus, it cannot be described as a theory of teaching.

Status as a Scientific Theory

It does not appear that Networked Learning offers any assertions or hypotheses that might be investigated.


  • Collaborative Networked Learning

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2022). “Networked Learning” in Discourses on Learning in Education.

⇦ Back to Map
⇦ Back to List