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Curriculum Design

Block and Blend Learning and Teaching Evaluation

At the University of Suffolk, a block and blend approach to learning and teaching has been adopted as a pilot, but also to respond to the restrictions imposed by the global COVID-19 pandemic and the changing HE landscape.

The below report outlines a rapid evaluation of the first stage of a block and blend approach to learning and teaching. The evaluation took place in January 2021, and using a mixed methods approach, explored the impact of block and blend learning and teaching upon student attitudes, experiences, and outcomes, in addition to academic and professional staff experience in delivering and supporting these modes of learning and teaching. A total of eight one-to-one semi-structured interviews were conducted with academic staff, as well as online focus group interviews with 10 students and 11 professional services staff members. A further 127 students and 21 academic staff responded to an online survey.

The below table highlights the 3 broad superordinate themes, with 9 subordinate themes identified from the triangulation of qualitative and quantitative findings:

Table 1: Summary of themes

Superordinate Themes

Subordinate Themes

3.1 Transforming Pedagogical Approaches

3.1.1 Knowledge consolidation vs. surface learning

3.1.2 Structure and time management

3.1.3 Engagement, social connection, and accomplishment

3.2 Margin of Error

3.2.1 Widening participation: Mode of study and disability

3.2.2 Risk management: Illness, enrolment, and late starters

3.2.3 Extenuating circumstances

3.3 Implementation: Communication, Processes and Aligning Support

3.3.1 Communication

3.3.2 Alignment: Academic skills, professional staff, and workload monitoring

3.3.3 Timetabling

 

The evaluation has highlighted the complex and nuanced perceptions and experiences relating to a block and blend approach to learning and teaching. While the majority of students describe positive experiences, university staff concerns include, but are not limited to, significant changes to pedagogical practice (including altering content and assessments), fatigue induced by the intensity of block, difficulty meeting the needs of a widening participation student body and managing structural change to course delivery. Findings are similar to academic literature investigating the impact of the implementation of block delivery. With the alignment of key processes, policies, services, careful adjustment to timetabling and investment in additional support structures, it is likely that the implementation of block and blend could have positive implications for our students, including higher levels of attainment as identified when comparing grades from 2019/20 with 2020/21 (Figure 1), although this requires longitudinal monitoring and evaluation. As a continuous learning process, with inevitable teething issues, and the significant confounding factor of a global pandemic, university staff have coped incredibly well in delivering and supporting positive and effective learning and teaching for students, which was reflected in positive responses from many students who participated in this evaluation.

Executive Summary


 

Full Report