Vice-Chancellor Adam Shoemaker discusses the VU experience with students

Victoria University’s Block Model has won the Australian Financial Review Higher Education Awards 2021 in the category of Teaching and Learning Excellence.

The AFR Higher Education Awards highlight the outstanding contribution that the Higher Education sector makes to “Australian prosperity and quality of life.” The award also recognises the ways COVID-19 has presented unprecedented challenges which have “demanded agility and resilience” from the tertiary sector.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Adam Shoemaker said the honour is something to be shared and celebrated by the University:

“It is fantastic to see VU’s Block Model receive this recognition. VU took a courageous risk in introducing the Block Model to Australia, but this risk has paid off.

“We are the first Australian university to implement the Block Model and the first in the world to do so at scale. In a recent external review the block format received many commendations for its structure, support and achievements. Compellingly, we are now consulting with eleven universities in Australia, South-East Asia and the United Kingdom who are interested in the model. 

“The biggest accomplishment is our students’ increased grades and satisfaction rates. The VU Block Model has clearly done a lot already – and still has much more to offer,” Professor Shoemaker said.

This year the AFR received a record number of submissions from 23 institutions and selected individual finalists and winners in nine award categories.

Former VU Vice-Chancellor, Professor Peter Dawkins AO was honoured for his outstanding contribution to the Australian higher education sector with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Prof Dawkins implemented the VU Block Model in 2018 – disrupting Australian higher education by introducing the entirely new model of student learning, where students undertake one unit at a time for their entire degree to enhance engagement and success. In 2020 this work culminated with the graduation of 650 students.

VU introduced the Block Model across all undergraduate courses (1400 units of study) to accommodate the needs of contemporary and non-traditional students who often need to juggle competing priorities and navigate complex lives. 

One of the unexpected advantages of the Block Model was the ability to quickly and efficiently respond when COVID-19 forced Melbourne into several lock-downs. The Block Model ensured students could access their courses remotely and continue to engage with one educator as they adjusted a new learning environment.

Trish McCluskey, Director Connected Learning, who prepared the winning submission said the award recognised the hard work and dedication of both students and staff.

“We now have the Block Model integrated across all VU courses and levels, including sub-degree and postgraduate programs. This remarkable whole-of-university transformation is a credit to the hard work and dedication of students and staff,” she said.

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