Home > teaching > End of Block 1 – the 3 block system

End of Block 1 – the 3 block system

Empty classroom

Photo by James F Clay used under CC.

It’s the end of the first block of 12 weeks and many subjects are coming to an end. This is the first year we’ve ran a three block system instead of a semester system and I think the results have been positive. Some of the main reasons for changing include:

  1. Assessment / subject load is reduced for staff and students – each student studies less subjects per block and staff teach less subjects, reducing load.
  2. Students achieve results more quickly – in 12 weeks instead of 18, and the timing of assessments work out better – avoiding major holiday periods.
  3. Some students admitted that they spent 6 weeks learning, 6 weeks doing nothing and a few weeks at the end on assessment. Reducing the block length reduces the wasted period.
  4. 18 weeks is an unrealistically long time for project work. Most workplace projects take place over a much shorter timescale, so lengthy projects led to students learning bad habits such as procrastination.

The system isn’t without fault, for example, if a student is ill for a week they miss 8% of their course instead of around 5%. This has an impact on the students’ learning and ability to catch up, however I firmly believe this is outweighed by the benefits of the 3 block system.

The proof will be in the student results, however staff are already claiming that achievement has improved and that many more students are completing their work early. There seems to be a better pace and urgency to the courses, which carries the students through.

The only students I have heard complaining are a minority of existing HND students who have been used to an 18 week semester. Some students complained they didn’t have time to complete their work, however many others felt the opposite.

There is also a division amongst staff, but again the majority are in favour of the 3 blocks. The negative comments from staff have been that they felt the block was ‘rushed’ and that there wasn’t enough time for students to digest the subjects properly.

Not all subjects have been compressed to twelve weeks. Some units that have proved problematic in the past are running over two blocks. These subjects are mainly ones that require projects to be completed over a period of time or have complex requirements that need special arrangements. An example of this is Documentary Photography which requires students to undertake a photographic project over a period of time and with many variables that can often cause delays.

To be continued…

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Categories: teaching
  1. crlgibbons
    November 24, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    40 hour unit is compressed to 36 hours. That is eroded by meetings, holidays, illness, meaningless paperwork and before you know you will be teaching a 40 hours unit in 30 hours or less. If the student fail it’s your fault or the unit is ‘content heavy’ – also your fault. 🙂

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