Is Swarm Learning the new META for education?
Have you ever started a class, looked at the syllabus and thought “how am I supposed to get through this?” Well, that is exactly how I felt when I first opened up the class syllabus for Management Principles. I had never heard of Swarm Learning, never used Microsoft Teams, and what the heck is a Plectica? All of these different programs all for just one class, that sounds insane. Now, I am a very organized person and I always have been. I have adapted to online college life by staying organized, writing out all of my assignments and due dates on calendars, and sticking to those due dates. In all other classes that has worked for me, until this one. There was a moment of dread that I felt as I watched that introduction video when he said, “no solid due dates.” The realization that none of my assignments were posted yet and that almost nothing would be on Blackboard seemed tragic. I felt as if this class was going to be a nightmare, but to my very pleasant surprise, it was not. After what seemed like a very brief interaction with this eight-week course, I came to understand the significance of this learning style.
How to Read this Book — First of all, this is genius. This is a vastly different concept and way of learning, and a very non-traditional college textbook, so having a section that explains how the book is set up is a great starting point. This very section is what began to put my mind at ease as I started this journey into Swarm Learning.
Part 1 — This book is split up into three major questions. “Why” you are learning the concept, “What” you will be learning, and “How” to use it. Part 1 contains Why and What and includes a lot of comments and quotes from former students. Swarm learning is definitely a different type of learning that keeps students engaged, by the use of discussions and participation, and involved by asking for constant feedback. This feedback then allows the teacher to adjust the class to better provide information and objectives. It basically customizes the curriculum for the students from the feedback by the students.
“The traditional education system is set up to test knowledge without regard for how the student feels in the process of learning. It is creating a system of memorize and forget.” Swarm Learning
I have never been a fan of tests, and never felt as if I retain any information after taking them. The most information that I retain is from discussions or assignments that make you think about specific questions and explain your answers and reasoning. The Plectica maps were a different way to go about assignments that gave creative freedom to structure the way your own mind works.
There is no testing or quizzes in Swarm Learning. The concept is what you are aiming to understand, as opposed to just learning material for an exam. Engaging with other students, asking questions, and giving your opinion changes the course as you go. I am a terrible test-taker, so you can only imagine my joy as a fully remote student that I don’t have to take an online, somehow always proctored and timed exam that is usually worth way too many points of my grade.
Part 2 — The second half of the Swarm Learning textbook focuses on how to apply what you have learned. Swarm Learning is intended to teach you how to think, and not what to think. Once again, traditional classes focus only on what it is they will be testing you over, whereas Swarm Learning teaches you how to problem solve and collaborate your way to the final result.
In the beginning of this class, I dreaded the idea of not having due dates, but as the semester is ending, I believe I only dreaded it because it was what I was so used to. Every class I have ever taken has had weekly due dates to keep you on track, but I have never felt like I was behind in this course. In fact, I have felt less stressed about finishing assignments and actually enjoyed doing my work. It would be interesting to see how this form of learning is applied to different classes and possibly implemented into many more. As the world progresses our way of learning should as well, and it’s possible that this is the first step in that new direction.
Schwandt, J. (2020). Swarm Learning in Health and Human Performance. Iowa: Kendall Hunt Publishing Company.