Building on the VU Block foundations: Results from the inaugural first year cohort

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Research and Development in Higher Education Vol. 42: Next Generation, Higher Education: Challenges, Changes and Opportunities

March, 2020, 125 pages
Published by
Eva Heinrich & Roseanna Bourke

In 2018, Victoria University (VU) implemented the most radical change to first-year university education in Australian history. Transforming the traditional model of concurrently studying four lecture and tutorial-based units into sequential 4-week blocks conducted in small, active learning groups, led to improvements in retention and results. Comparing the inaugural first-year student cohort to matched counterparts from the preceding year, this paper presents the initial results of an innovative, cross-disciplinary first-year change initiative which recalibrated most aspects of higher education: mode of delivery, teaching practice and curriculum to ensure student retention and increase opportunities for success. The data demonstrates how the approach has impacted on diverse student cohorts including non-English-speaking background students (up 14%), first-in- family (up 13%), Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander (up 21%), low socio-economic (up 15%) as well as all domestic (up 9.9%) and international (up 5.8%) students. The paper challenges traditional assumptions of how Australian higher education is delivered and provides evidence that purposefully applying focused strategies can lead to improved results, increased retention and positive outcomes for students.

Keywords: retention; first-year; Block Model; higher education change