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Cluster Learning Logo Cluster Learning Springboard: An Energetic Launch to Educational Journeys
A new pilot course is facilitating the benefits of Cluster Learning across all academic interests. Through explorations of interdisciplinarity, project-based work, and open education, Cluster Learning Springboard students will be better able to articulate the interests and passions they’re excited to pursue.

The basis of Cluster Learning Springboard is both to be a Cluster Learning course in practice and also to help students think about what Cluster Learning means. Students design most of the course work, both individually and in groups.

Its genesis stems from Plymouth State University’s popular interdisciplinary studies (IDS) major, which is consistently named one of the top programs of its kind nationwide. IDS students use their intellectual curiosity, imagination, energy, and passion to design customized studies that fulfill eclectic academic interests and which move them toward successful careers. The content of Cluster Learning Springboard, previously required of IDS majors as part of a three-credit course that occasionally drew curious non-IDS participants, has been reformulated as a two-credit course to attract more diverse participation.

“It lives and breathes open education and project-based learning, and its primary goal is to help students explore what interdisciplinarity is, how a Cluster approach can be put into practice, and how they might take control of their own education, whether they are an IDS major or not,” says Director of Interdisciplinary Studies Matthew Cheney. “Again and again, we hear from IDS alumni that the independence, problem-solving, and self-knowledge they gained by creating their own major was useful to them after PSU. Being able to say to an employer or graduate school admissions office, ‘I didn’t just have a major—I made a major,’ is a powerful statement. With Cluster Learning Springboard, we want to spread this kind of agency to other majors.”

Springboard students gain insight through consideration of technology’s pros and cons, the origin and purpose of academic disciplines, and what it means to take control of one’s education, among other areas of inquiry. The course culminates in group projects on these subjects or others proposed by students that relate to questions of learning, interdisciplinarity, the Habits of Mind, or related topics. Students take control of the course in the concluding class periods, with each group responsible for leading the whole class in an experience.

“Plymouth State is particularly well positioned to empower students in being active visionaries within their own educational journey,” says Cheney. “That is what Cluster Learning Springboard seeks to do. We chose the word ‘springboard’ in the title very carefully, because we wanted the sense of this being not just a foundation, but an energetic launch into students’ own interests, life, and experience.”