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The University of Suffolk Boosts Student Engagement and Outcomes with Innovative ‘Block and Blend’ Course Delivery During Covid-19

The University of Suffolk’s new learning model delivers improved grades and greater collaboration as online learning during the pandemic becomes a catalyst for change

Press Release

D2L, a global learning technology leader, announced today that its partner, University of Suffolk, is celebrating the success of its new ‘block and blend’ teaching model, which is revolutionising and future-proofing the way student learning is delivered.

Higher education’s transition to fully online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the rate of transformation at many institutions that use technology to maximise student engagement. While fully online learning was necessary for much of the year, the forward-thinking University of Suffolk realised a truly ‘blended’ model of in-person and online would equip the institution long-term as technology adoption across the sector rises.

The University conducted a pilot of a ‘block and blend’ teaching and learning model to optimise COVID-necessitated distance learning outcomes and pave the way for innovative course formats in the future. The model was designed to relieve the existing time and workload pressures of concurrent modules, for both students and academic staff, and improve student retention and performance. D2L Brightspace was integral to the design and delivery of this approach.

“By moving to block, students study one module at a time, instead of three,” says Aaron Burrell, Associate Director Digital Learning and Innovation at the University. “Learning is delivered in short, focused periods. Each block is equivalent to 20 credits and consists of up to four weeks of academic content – lectures, practical work, seminars, tutorials and so forth – and a fifth week when students take a module assessment and prepare for the next block.”

During a four-week block, students are expected to engage in 12 hours of tutor structured learning time each week. While block learning can be fully online or face to face, it can also be delivered through a blend of the two. This not only made it ideal for the context in which the model was being rolled out, but also a viable and future-proof strategy that recognises the increasing role of technology.

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 Brightspace 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 eight times what it was in 2019/20 – from 332 posts to over 2,800.

“As we prepare for our annual Fusion conference this month, we’re celebrating our customers and the ways in which they are changing the world,” says Elliot Gowans, Senior Vice President, International at D2L. “Our goal at D2L is to reach every learner and we’re delighted to see how Brightspace is supporting the evolution of the University of Suffolk’s teaching methods – not only during this challenging period, but also long term.”

Learn more about D2L’s work with University of Suffolk here

About the University of Suffolk

At the University of Suffolk, we prepare our students for a world where nothing ever stays the same. We embrace change, and our students learn to embrace change too. We have absorbed the best university traditions and aligned them with a twenty-first century audience and the modern world of employment and entrepreneurship.

Our purpose is to change lives – of individuals and communities – for the better. We embrace our role as independent stewards of community life and values; an anchor institution proud of its central ambition of working collaboratively to transform our local communities.

We are strongly embedded in the local region. Our unique, integrated partnership with three of the region’s Colleges is central to our identity and our vision for the future. We have an attractive portfolio of courses within Arts and Humanities; Children, Young People and Education; Psychology, Sociology and Social Work; Business and Management; Health; and Science, Technology and Engineering.

About D2L

D2L is transforming the way the world learns – helping learners of all ages achieve more than they dreamed possible. Working closely with clients all over the world, D2L is supporting millions of people learning online and in person. Our more than 950 global employees are dedicated to making the best learning products to leave the world better than where they found it. Learn more about D2L for K-12, higher education and businesses at

About D2L Brightspace

D2L Brightspace is a cloud-based learning platform built for people who care deeply about student success and helping to prepare them for what comes next.

It gives faculty across your institution tools they’re going to love, makes it easy to support exceptional student experiences in the classroom or fully online. D2L Brightspace is designed in close collaboration with clients around the world – building a pedagogically rich set of features to improve engagement, retention and learning outcomes. It also makes it easier to do assessment and give feedback.

D2L Brightspace is worry-free with 99.9% reliability. It’s highly accessible and looks beautiful on any mobile device, making it easier for educators to reach every learner.

D2L Brightspace has won multiple industry awards, including the #1 LMS Technology for next generation online teaching and learning. To learn more, visit D2L for Higher Education.

UK Press Contacts

Pippa Twigg, Finn Partners
07769 719 719
[email protected]
Twitter: @D2L_EMEA

D2L Media Contact

Colin Horgan
‪Executive Communications Director
[email protected]
Twitter: @D2L
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