University supercharging student outcomes

University supercharging student outcomes

Two years after implementing the Block Model, Victoria University’s (VU) “The VU Way” program to increase student pass rates is proving to be transformative, inspiring the university to extend the model to its third year students. 

Initially introduced only to first year students to help them adjust to university, the Block Model makes a student focus only on completing a unit in a span of four weeks before they can move to the next one.

VU is the first Australian university to make use of this model, which is considered to be one of the most effective student-centred and community-integrated programs in the higher education sector.

In an article published in The Australian, outgoing VU vice-chancellor Professor Peter Dawkins said VU had based its program on studies by North American and Swedish universities which used the model.

The Block Model places the pass rates of the University higher than the common rate of around 40% in other institutions, Professor Dawkins said in a separate statement.

“This extraordinary level of attendance speaks to the value students are getting out of the Block Model – they are voting with their feet”.

Higher attendance, lower failure rates

Prior to the implementation of the Block Model, pass rates for first year students in 2017 was at 74%. Upon the implementation of the model the following year, these rates went up to 86% and rose again to 87% last year.

These first-year students also posted lower failure rates – from 26% to 14% -- and higher distinctions at 27% from 20%. Further analysis of the results found that students who had come from disadvantaged backgrounds and from equity groups benefited the most from the Block Model.

Attendance rates for second year students also increased by 5% under the new model at 90% in 2019. Second year students were still under the traditional model in 2018. Second year students’ failure rates also dropped to 10% from 15%.

Professor Dawkins said that second year students have managed to bank on the success they built up during their first year in the university.

The drop in failure rates for second year students are even more crucial as students who would have dropped out in their first year managed to move up to the next level.

Coupled with the delivery of smaller class sizes, more allotted time to talk to teachers and timely feedback, Professor Dawkins said that their students are able to retain the skills they acquired.

In his comments to The Australian, Professor Dawkins said VU is now planning to extend the program to vocational education and even in their postgraduate programs, as the latter is currently met by the challenges of online education.

The University’s ‘VU Online’, meanwhile, already employs the block model. However, Professor Dawkins said that they are working on making it possible for students to mix both on-campus and online studies.