Swarm Learning: A Pleasant Surprise
When I first discovered Swarm Learning (SL), let me tell you — I wanted to cry. I took one look at the course load and thought for sure I was doomed. What is this software? I had never seen it before in my life. Plectica, WordPress, the SL App, all programs that were foreign to me. When I realized I had not one, but TWO classes using this new freeware, my anxiety went through the roof again. Like a few others in my class, I was genuinely concerned I would not make it out alive. But as the semester flew by, I began to actually enjoy making maps for the class. Though still difficult at times, like everything in college and life, I wish I would have had Swarm Learning more often in my last four years at Fort Hays State University. Let me tell you why I love this new way of learning.
Swarm Learning (SL) can be defined as a useful learning method that seeks to teach skills that improve ones own logic, reasoning, a faster transfer of learning, adaptability, pattern-recognition, and comfort with Ambiguity. In simpler terms, SL defies traditional learning and forces you to think outside the box and get creative. It teaches students how to think rather than what to think, which is an issue in a lot of schools across the nation. SL promotes creativity, provides constant feedback for a better learning experience, and trial and error; all of these skills can be useful inside and outside of the classroom.
Unlike traditional, “boring” college classes, Swarm Learning pushes the student to think on their own and design assignments to their unique taste. These “assignments” are called maps and are created in Plectica. These maps allow the student to be colorful, add pictures and memes, and other ways the student can express themselves however they please. Oh — and the best part? No due dates. Say what? No exams. YOU LYIN? Yeah, I know, I was shocked too, but it is the truth sister! SL allows the student to work at their own pace, though they are provided a timeline to help stay on track. This completely defies the traditional laws of grueling college due dates. This can be counter productive though, because it also allows the student to procrastinate until the final day of class if they want. It is all about the student and how they manage their time. Either way, not having to turn in an assignment every Friday by midnight is kind of amazing. Where was this magic my freshman year?
Swarm Learning also offers a different way for students and teachers to communicate with each other. Feedback trails (I know we’re all too familiar with these) are created to change a class while in progress. Students are asked simple questions that provide instant feedback to the teacher. This enables the teacher to change or modify anything they want at any point in the semester. If a previous assignment was too hard, the teacher could change the assignment to better fit the student recommendations. This allows a direct and equal relationship between student and teacher. The student feels heard, and the teacher can make the class better and better. I don’t know about any of my classmates, but Dr. Schwandt was one of the coolest professors I’ve ever had.
We all grew up with the typical “Do this assignment by Monday”, “Take this exam on Friday” type of blasphemy that is the American educational system. Forced to do timed math tests and cite in APA until we die. With Swarm Learning, a new idea is introduced: a desire path. Think of this ass “the path less traveled on.” A path outside of the norm. In this case, a class outside of the norm. A type of class that changes, adapts, and evolves (CAE) as the semester moves along. None of that typical syllabus and coursework around here. Swarm Learning allows the student to think for themselves, while also learning new perspectives and creative ways of thinking from fellow students and peers.
Swarm Learning is a brand new way of learning that can be used in any classroom, any grade, at any time. Without a doubt the two classes I took (Tests and Measurements and Administration in Healthcare) were the easiest of my five classes. I was able to work through at my own pace, take my time learning each assignment, and turn them in only when I had perfected them — I never felt rushed. Never in my life have I experienced something like Swarm Learning and I really encourage every student to try it at least once. Who knows, maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised too.