Resilient and confident learners
An evaluation of 13 modules taught through block and blend (September–December 2020) revealed impressive results. Outcomes were compared against the same modules taught the previous academic year and showed that block and blend students achieved higher assessment grades on average—an uplift to 66 from 56 per cent.
Academics also reported that students were more engaged with online learning content. Data from the Brightspace platform showed a 10 per cent increase in hours spent in content compared to 2019/20 and a 55 per cent increase on 2018/19. Additionally, the number of accesses of content increased by 30 per cent from 2019/20, while the use of social learning tools was more than 8x what it was in 2019/20—from 332 posts to over 2,800.
Growing familiarity with the online tools would have contributed to higher levels of use but intentional design of the learning modules and an online induction to the University also played a big part. This new induction, hosted in the Brightspace platform for all Level 4 learners, helped support students in their transition into the University, and to normalise learning in the online space.
Students are assessed earlier in their learning journeys in the block and blend model. This, Ellen explains, helps give them a grasp on what’s working and what’s not, much sooner. It gives them the opportunity to get more support if they need it and helps them build resilience and confidence in themselves as learners. It also sets a foundation for cumulative skills development, not only during students’ time at university, but also beyond in their journey towards lifelong learning.
One student, commenting on the new block model, said: “‘There is a sense of being organised and ‘ticking off’ modules—personally, I like that, and I feel going through a module one by one makes me feel more on top of things and accomplished.”
“The block and blend approach also helps tutors engage in community activities, liaise with industry and keep up to date with their own learning and development,” adds Ellen. “If tutors know they’re not teaching until block two of a semester, they have more flexibility and can plan their time to meet the many additional non-teaching responsibilities they hold.”
Looking ahead, the University is committed to the block and blend model and recognises that the approach will evolve and develop to continue meeting student and staff needs.
“One model may not fit all courses but, while block and blend may have been born out of the pandemic, it’s here to stay,” says Ellen. “It advances our agenda to widen participation to cater for all students and equip them with the knowledge, skills and confidence to transform their lives. Academics appreciate this is a whole new pedagogical model that needs careful planning and execution and that includes building an understanding of how to make full use of the capabilities of the learning platform.”