While the majority of universities are satisfied to maintain the status quo of education delivery, Victoria University has set itself apart from the pack by setting in place a transformation to pedagogical methodology that is changing the very landscape of tertiary education in Australia.
For some time, universities have been content to adhere to traditional values and concepts of education. In times past, universities were the place where the knowledge “was”. It was kept under lock and key and if you were lucky enough, you would get to enroll and get access to this knowledge. It is likely you would attend lectures, tutorials, go on placements, do final exams and eventually you would receive accreditation. A piece of paper that says you now have “the knowledge”, because we gave it to you.
The Information Age has challenged these traditions. “The knowledge” is no longer available to a select few. It is available to everyone. You can access the entire curriculum for the first year of Yale BA on line. For free. The qualification will still cost you, but information is there for you. Our rapidly changing world has also challenged long-held concepts of career. 40 years ago it was the norm for somebody to “become” something (engineer, teacher, doctor) and remain in that career until they retired. This is now archaic. The graduate of 2020 will most likely have 7-8 “careers” in their working life. Automation is rendering many older industries redundant. How have universities developed to evolve and react to these factors?
Many of them have, especially in terms of career preparation. Most universities will have a Hanger, Hatchery or Incubator where students can come and seek guidance around entrepreneurial aspirations. Most universities have also embraced mobile learning opportunities and disseminate course information via complex Learning Management Systems. But no university has pressed the reset button and completely challenged its mode of education delivery. Until now.
Beginning in 2018 with the launch of the First Year College, VU has completely re-imagined the nature of its content delivery for undergraduates. What began as a first year project expanded to include all undergraduate units. By 2020 all undergraduate units at the Melbourne and Sydney locations will incorporate the block model of learning.
So what is Block Model?
Block model style of delivery has been ongoing for some time in universities in the US, Canada and Sweden. Victoria University currently provides the largest Block delivery of curriculum on the planet: no other university delivers more units or curriculum in this style.
Block Model is an innovative style of pedagogy that places the learner at the centre of a co-creation of knowledge. Lectures and tutorials now have been replaced by a series of workshops where students come to class to participate in an active learning environment, where concepts of learning are investigated, discussed and work-shopped.
Students take one unit at a time in 4 week intensive bursts. Each 4-week period is called a “Block” and students take 4 blocks in one semester. Depending on the discipline, the student will attend 9 hours (Business Course) or 12 hours (IT Course) per week. The student is continually assessed throughout the 4 weeks and there are no final exams – student attain grades by contributing in class and by submitting internal individual assignments as well as group work. The curriculum is supported by Study Essentials where students access supplementary skills, relevant to the unit they are enrolled in. This can be industry specific or academic related content. The intent is to qualify students who are ready to participate in the modern workplace – the pedagogy models the qualities that are required: cooperation, contribution and communication.
It is a challenge – no doubt. Block changes everything: learning and teaching, administration, financials, policy and governance. Everything is turned upside-down and built again. It challenges an institution to re-imagine its own concepts of what knowledge is, and how the university can position itself to best equip students for life after education. There is a revolution in education right now, and its going on at Victoria University!
The energy that is put into final exams must be redistributed in the form of preparation, collaboration and participation.