Special issue


This paper will contribute to our understanding of the Block, its pedagogical rationale and value, and explain why, apart from pandemic conditions, these might constitute a compelling alternative to traditional academic calendars. Current research highlights the need for further research on the nature of the Block, driven by an increased global focus on student outcomes and retention in Higher Education. This paper offers five case studies from institutions that have adopted a version of the Block at some time over the last 50 years. The authors seek to define the features that comprise block courses whereas the nature and functionality distinguish blocks from other intensive formats. A survey of the limited literature on this topic was based on theoretical underpinnings offered by one-course-at-a-time delivery, scholarship of teaching and learning on compressed education, and experiential learning. Using the research question, “Other than scheduling alternatives, what does the block offer HE institutions?”, this project uses research that is qualitative in nature drawing on a controlled comparison of case studies which enables a cross-institutional evaluation. The case studies explain why each institution adopted the Block, how these schedules work, and discusses the challenges and affordances of teaching in this intensive format. First findings of this cross-institutional exploration suggest that blocks are unique in their delivery, often experiential in nature, and effective in their outcomes. The various versions of the Block described within, provide ongoing transformative models of teaching philosophy, curriculum, student success, and more.

Practitioner Notes

  1. Addresses the implementation of curricula (block) as a means of delivering courses as a response to institutional needs;
  2. Highlights the benefits of the Block initiative for student engagement;
  3. Demonstrates that there are many ways of delivering the Block (one course at a time) that could suit most institutions;
  4. Builds upon the research available on the block delivery and its benefits and challenges;
  5. Utilises a case study approach to demonstrate the various methods of block delivery