Victoria University (VU) will host the world’s first conference focusing on ‘block model’ teaching as universities and academics seek better ways to engage with students.
International Block and Intensive Learning Association (IBILTA) President Dr John Weldon says interest in block learning and teaching – where students complete one subject at a time over a few weeks instead of juggling multiple subjects over a semester – is exploding worldwide.
While the model of teaching has been around for 50 years, VU was the first Australian university to offer all its courses this way starting in 2018, leading to improved student satisfaction, retention and pass rates.
Dr Weldon said the IBILTA 2023 Conference on 2-3 February emerged from “a higher education zeitgeist.”
“The interest in block model was sparked, partly by the pandemic, but more substantially, by institutions and academics the world over that were driven by a genuine desire to find better ways to engage with students and provide improved outcomes for them,” he said.
Conference draws participants from around world
The online conference will open with Dr Weldon in conversation with VU Vice-Chancellor Adam Shoemaker and Emily Chan, Dean of Faculty at Colorado College – the first university to pioneer the block plan 50 years ago – discussing the past, present and future of the block model.
The conference will provide a forum for academics from Australia, the UK, Europe, Asia and the Americas to come together to share ideas, experiences, and research, with conference themes ranging from future trends in block learning to student welfare.
Dr Weldon said while there is growing interest in the block model from smaller institutions wishing to differentiate themselves from competitors, he could not foresee all universities – especially older, high prestigious institutions – adopting the block model of teaching.
“Universities are inherently quite conservative. The semester has been around for hundreds of years and it requires a great effort to change entirely how your institution delivers its material to students.”
VU’s Block Model system includes a dedicated and award-winning First Year College for commencing students, steered by a multidisciplinary team of specialist educators who design and implement curricula that is engaging, authentic and focused on future success.
First Year College Dean Professor Andrew Smallridge said the College helps students transition into university life from what is usually their most difficult year.
They enter a supportive community and we provide them with a range of support programs to guide them to develop the skills they need to become well-rounded university students and independent learners,” he said.