First-year students at Victoria University will bypass the regular four-unit semester and instead opt for a
sequential process where they complete one subject at a time in a four-week
block. The ‘block model’ is built on the premise that some students prefer
focussing solely on completing one facet of the course before moving onto the
next rather than juggling multiple subjects simultaneously.
This approach is a first for an Australian university but
has existed in some North American institutions since the 1970s, and is
practiced by most Swedish universities. It is a bold move by Victoria
University no doubt, but arguably a necessary one to compete with local rivals
such as University of Melbourne, Monash, RMIT, Deakin, Swinburne and La Trobe.
The initiative has garnered plenty of support for its
capacity to build a sense of belonging and learning gain. Acting Dean Dr John
Weldon claims that rather than focusing on content, the model will encourage
collaboration and creativity to cater to the 21st century student, but
it is not without its flaws.
Students would not experience the usual mix of classes and
pupils, meaning they would be interacting with the same group of people in a
structure that more closely resembles primary school than a traditional
university timetable. This could be problematic from a social perspective, as a
huge 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-profile
competitors – Melbourne trades on its reputation as one of, if not Australia’s
best university, Monash is world renowned for pharmaceutical science, and RMIT
attracts elite design students. This would give VU something unique and
something that you can’t get at the other urban universities.
At this stage, second-year students at Victoria University
will revert back to the traditional study, although Dr Weldon says this will be
monitored depending on the success of the initiative. It remains to be seen
whether this whether other Australian universities will follow suit.
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