Victoria University today officially launched its First Year Model – a bold and innovative Australian-first approach to learning for undergraduate students in their critical first year of university.
A team of enthusiastic VU foundation member educators joined VU senior leaders and internationally-renowned education experts to cut the First Year Model–launch ribbon. This acknowledged the hard work now taking place to transform the experience of VU’s first-year students on a scale never seen before in Australia.
A new teaching approach
Unlike other Australian university students, VU first-year students, from 2018, will complete their course units one at a time before going on to the next. This model avoids the juggle of competing demands and deadlines that results from studying multiple units simultaneously.
While new to Australia, similar models of teaching and learning have proved successful for many years in educational institutes in Canada, the US, and Scandinavia.
Canada’s Quest University President and Vice Chancellor Dr George Katsushi Iwama, a pioneer of the block-teaching format in that country, provided the keynote address at the launch.
“The block model opens student minds and honours learning passion,” he said. “Students learn to construct knowledge rather than have it transferred to them,” he said.
Transitional pedagogy expert and former Deputy Vice-Chancellor of James Cook University, Professor Sally Kift, explained how VU’s First Year Model elevates the status of first-year university teaching.
“The first year is critical for university students because it's where they need to focus to be successful in the longer-term educational experience. Engagement matters, particularly in the first year and particularly for time-poor students from under-prepared and under-represented groups.”
Columbia University astronomer Dr David Helfand, whose TEDx Talk focusing on ideas to design a university for the new millennium inspired VU leaders to transform VU’s first-year experience, sent greetings and congratulations by video.
Professor Dan Johnson from Colorado College, which also uses the block model of teaching, sent similar greetings by video.
Benefits of VU's First Year Model
First Year Model benefits include:
- Less stress – students take one unit at a time instead of juggling demands of multiple units
- Individual attention – smaller classes allow students to know their educators and classmates
- Building confidence and motivation – timely feedback helps keep students on track
- Gaining workforce skills – problem-based learning gives students skills to be job-ready.