What I Learned from Swarm Learning

A Blog/Essay by Josefina Howard, Student — HHP 630, Fall 2019, FHSU

My real college journey began in July 2011 when I decided to learn about the process of aging. I had been caring for my elderly mother who was suffering from total delirium and other complicated illnesses at that time. My immediate family’s life was turned upside down! We were desperate for answers! Mother’s medical team didn’t provide satisfactory answers to our many questions, and it troubled us that she was taking over twenty prescriptions every day. I spent many hours of research and read many online and printed publications to learn about my mother’s medical conditions. Then I realized that I needed to go back to school! It had been many years since I set foot in a classroom! So, my back-to-college adventure started with a burning passion to answer questions that began with “What,” “When,” “Where,” “Why,” “How,” and “Who?”

  • What are these terrible illnesses that are plaguing my mother?
  • When did the symptoms begin?
  • Where do we go from here?
  • Why is this happening to us?
  • How are we going to manage her health?
  • Who can help us?
  • … and the cycle of “What, When, Where, Why, How, and Who” questioning continues to this day as my mother turned 82 this year.

Over 120 traditional and online academic credit hours later, it was time to take a course on healthcare management as a requirement for my gerontology concentration. I enrolled in the online Fall 2019 HHP 630 Administration in Healthcare class by Dr. Jamie Schwandt at Fort Hays State University; I have never heard of this professor and his teaching style before. I thought the course would be just like any other online classes that I’ve taken; it would use Blackboard and PowerPoint. I expected a straight-from-the-textbook type of instruction and learning. Quizzes and exams would be in multiple-choice and true/false formats. Completion of at least two traditionally formatted essays or research papers and discussion board participation would be required. When the semester began and I received the syllabus, I realized that I was wrong! I was wrong in assuming that HHP 630 would be an easy-peasy traditional online class on healthcare administration!

From the syllabus, I quote, “Teaching Methodology: This course uses a teaching methodology I created called Swarm Learning. In addition, this class uses Derek and Laura Cabrera’s Systems Thinking v2.0 to analyze and synthesize concepts and Lean Six Sigma as the vehicle to apply your understanding of the concepts introduced in this course.” Huh? What? Who? How?

My mind panicked as I scanned the rest of the syllabus! It did not look like any other syllabus that I have read before! My eyes quickly found these key words and phrases (most stood out in bold letters):

  • Information + Thinking = Knowledge.
  • Vision — emergent and adaptive learning.
  • Mission — teaching students how to think, not what to think.
  • Capacity — building capacity through thinking.
  • You will only use Blackboard to find the link to the Learning Community.
  • WordPress Learning Community.
  • Plectica.
  • Tableau.
  • Swarm Learning Facebook Group.
  • Thortspace.
  • Rationaleonline.
  • Medium.
  • The need to adapt creates the need for learning.
  • Individual and group concept mapping.
  • Collaboration.
  • There are no tests in this course; however, participation and feedback are essential. You must be fully engaged in this course.

I am familiar with WordPress because I was a website developer and internet marketer over a decade ago. But I have never heard of Plectica, Tableau, Thortspace, Rationaleonline, Medium, Systems Thinking, Lean Six Sigma, or Swarm Learning before! Who? What? Why? When? Where? How?

Information + Thinking = Knowledge; Vision — emergent and adaptive learning; Mission — teaching students how to think, not what to think; Capacity — building capacity through thinking: these phrases excited me! They remind of me inquiry-based learning and delight-directed learning!

When I was in elementary and high school in Manila, Philippines, I thrived in inquiry-based learning! It is an active form of learning that starts by posing questions, problems, or scenarios. I loved research projects! I refused to carry textbooks and notebooks. I had a handful of beloved teachers who encouraged interactive learning and critical thinking. Most of my teachers expected rote-learning, a memorization technique based on repetition I lost interest in some subject matters because rote-memorization bored me.

“Delight-directed learning,” in the world of homeschooling, is a teaching or learning method that takes into account the individual child’s learning styles and interests, but it also requires direction and structure. Our family adopted and implemented delight-directed-learning in our home education program for seventeen years while our military family lived in the US and overseas. Our ‘school” was not perfect; we had ups and downs. But our family learned many skills and made lasting memories together. Our two sons, who both learned how to read by deciphering Lego instruction manuals, were prepared adequately for college. They also grew up emotionally healthy and socially confident. Our family finished homeschooling in 2015. They are now thriving in their chosen careers in the military!

My experiences as an inquiry-based-learner in the Philippines and as a delight-directed-studies home-educator for seventeen years forged this obvious conclusion: “Swarm Learning” is a combination of Inquiry-Based-Learning and Delight-Directed-Learning; but with more refined and modern concepts, resources, and tools like Rationaleonline, Plectica, and Thinkquiry!

For sixteen weeks, my fellow students and I in HHP 630 were immersed in Swarm Learning! We wrestled through many concepts and tools that were introduced to us by our instructor. We created maps to show our understanding of health management concepts from the textbook but also expressed our creativity, emotions, and opinions! The course was not static; it was dynamic! If this course was a class about web design and promotion; it was “organic” and “sticky!” “Organic” because the growth of information and knowledge occurred naturally through interaction between participants, and it will continue to grow! “Sticky” because people will come back over and over and pass the information to others!

Swarm Learning brought back the “love of learning” from my early learning years into my college journey! Swarm Learning encourages “academic freedom” — freedom to think, explore, create, share, learn, collaborate, build, grow, repeat!

To the future students of Dr. Jamie Schwandt, I say to you, with Swarm Learning, you can ask “Who,” What,” “When,” Where,” Why,” and “How” and find the answers you’re looking for. Participate. Collaborate. Ask questions. Get answers. Repeat!

Welcome to Swarm Learning — where learning has no limits!


Inquiry-based learning. (2019, November 16). Retrieved December 9, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inquiry-based_learning.

Lisa, L. (2019, January 16). What is a Delight Directed Homeschool? Retrieved from https://www.raisingarrows.net/what-is-a-delight-directed-homeschool/.

Gerontology Concentration. (n.d.). Retrieved December 9, 2019, from https://www.fhsu.edu/bgs/gerontology/index.

Rote learning. (2019, December 7). Retrieved December 9, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rote_learning.

Schwandt, J. (2018, October 8). Swarm Learning: How Student Feedback Changes aClass in Progress. Retrieved December 9, 2019, from https://medium.com/@jamieschwandt/swarm-learning-how-student-feedback-changes-a-class-in-progress-87f59e4a35a1.

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