First-year students at Victoria University will bypass the regular four-unit semester and instead opt for asequential process where they complete one subject at a time in a four-weekblock. The ‘block model’ is built on the premise that some students preferfocussing solely on completing one facet of the course before moving onto thenext rather than juggling multiple subjects simultaneously.
This approach is a first for an Australian university buthas existed in some North American institutions since the 1970s, and ispracticed by most Swedish universities. It is a bold move by VictoriaUniversity no doubt, but arguably a necessary one to compete with local rivalssuch as University of Melbourne, Monash, RMIT, Deakin, Swinburne and La Trobe.
The initiative has garnered plenty of support for itscapacity to build a sense of belonging and learning gain. Acting Dean Dr JohnWeldon claims that rather than focusing on content, the model will encouragecollaboration and creativity to cater to the 21st century student, butit is not without its flaws.
Students would not experience the usual mix of classes andpupils, meaning they would be interacting with the same group of people in astructure that more closely resembles primary school than a traditionaluniversity timetable. This could be problematic from a social perspective, as ahuge part of uni is getting to know a variety of new people.
The result of the program could well be a turning point for VU.The institution would benefit from a point of difference to some of its more high-profilecompetitors – Melbourne trades on its reputation as one of, if not Australia’sbest university, Monash is world renowned for pharmaceutical science, and RMITattracts elite design students. This would give VU something unique andsomething that you can’t get at the other urban universities.
At this stage, second-year students at Victoria Universitywill revert back to the traditional study, although Dr Weldon says this will bemonitored depending on the success of the initiative. It remains to be seenwhether this whether other Australian universities will follow suit.