Connectivism: A progressive learning theory for advanced learners?

I was reading yesterday Stephen Downes’ blogpost in which he replied to some of the critics of connectivism

A particular line caught my eye: ‘The claim made by connectivism is that communication is non-semantical’. It got me thinking, is non-semantical communication real communication? I posted my question on twitter addressing Stephen Downes himself, who had the time -and the courtesy – to reply directly to my tweet saying that ‘communication signals don’t contain meaning and reference inherently’. When prompted by my question whether the educator’s role is exactly that, i.e. to create reference and meaning interacting with learners, his reply was that ‘No that’s a different kind of pedagogy, constructivism maybe. Connectivism is about growth and development, not meaning making’.

The idea that communication actually could be ‘multiple simultaneous monologues’ may seem strange at first but it has philosophical underpinnings and is not ungrounded.  Although as an educator I have been thinking that the aim is to create reference and meaning interacting with others, philosophically I accept that this may not necessarily be the case. We all need to challenge our thinking from time to time.

Elsewhere, the founder of connectivism have claimed that autonomy is one of the basic elements of a connectivist MOOC:  ‘Autonomy – this is essentially the assertion that members of the network (in this case, participants employ their own goals and objectives, judgments and assessment of success in the process of interaction with others. This is reflected, for example, in Dave Cormier’s assertion that “you determine what counts as success in a MOOC.”[16] A collection of people working in a MOOC should be, for example, thought of as cooperating, rather than collaborating, because though they will exchange value and support each other, each will be pursuing his or her own objectives and depending on their own means and resources.’

Accepting the claim that ‘communication signals have no inherent reference/meaning’ as a working hypothesis, in combination with learner’s autonomy – the ability to set their own goals and objectives, but also the ability to self-evaluate whether these are met and to what extent –  as a prerequisite for learning, where does this leave us?

Is connectivism an advanced learning theory suitable to advanced learners?

While it is anticipated that postgraduate learners are able to set their own goals, can we expect the same from all learners, including those in the early stages of their learning journey?