Innovative approach to tertiary education improves results, but is it the right thing to do?

Posted on May 31, 2018 by Graham WynnGraham Wynn

Victoria University launched in 2018, a new First Year Model.
The First Year Model is not a change in which units are taught, but how they are taught. It is an Australian-first, innovative approach to higher education.

While VU is the first university in Australia to implement this new approach, several universities in the US, Canada and Scandinavia already use the ‘block’ mode teaching model with great success.

VU sent a group of staff members to investigate block learning. They found that:
 both students and teachers spoke very highly of it
 students loved the immersive nature and smaller class sizes giving them the chance to really get to know their teacher and their class mates
 teachers loved the freedom they had to teach their students in a creative and pragmatic way.

The block mode assists learning in many ways:
 a single focus, rather than juggling multiple units with competing demands and deadlines
 the chance to immerse yourself in each unit, learning through discussion and group interaction
 strong and lasting peer connections formed through close contact with one group at a time
 getting to know and be known by your educators
 timely support from a multidimensional team
 timely feedback
 early success to build your confidence and motivation.

The model applies to all first-year students, domestic and international.

While initially this seems a great idea my concern is that we are manufacturing the course to make it easier for people to achieve qualifications. Already we have seen a large increase in those with qualifications due to lower scores required than in years gone by. So by structuring this to make things easier for students, we are saturating the market with even more qualified people than already exist, and many people are already struggling to find work in the selected areas, as some sectors do not have the opportunities for the number of people achieving qualifications.

While it is encouraging to assist people in gaining qualifications, how do we now compare “like for like” if we are changing the way courses are structured, to increase success rates?

Already we compare qualifications earned by people 10-15 years of greater value than those being earned today, and if we again change the way people learn to make things easier, will those gaining qualifications using this method be looked at less favourably than those who achieved their qualifications the harder way?