Special issue


Universities across the globe are considering how to effect meaningful change in their higher education (HE) delivery in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and shifting student learning preferences. This paper reports on a descriptive case- study of whole-of-institution curriculum reform at one regional Australian university, where more traditional 13-week semesters have been replaced with a 6-week immersive block model known as the Southern Cross Model. Based on a synthesis of literature in best practice HE pedagogy and principles, the case study draws on both a review of policy and staff interviews (N = 5) to outline the key changes necessary for successful HE transformation. Analysis revealed themes related to the vital roles of leadership, capacity building, monitoring the transition, staff adoption, and adequate technical systems in implementing a radical, multifaceted institutional transformation. Implications for practice at institutions considering reforming their curriculum model are also discussed. The findings from this case study indicate that an institutional transformation to an immersive block model requires both a considered change in institutional policy and process, as well as the appropriate resourcing of roles, governance committees, technical solutions, and, importantly, communities of practice.

Practitioner Notes

  1. Radical disruption to traditional teaching approaches, such as the introduction of an immersive block model, is one way that universities can respond to student achievement issues and changing student learning preferences
  2. Whole-of-institution curriculum reform is best supported by evidence-based pedagogical principles
  3. Evidence indicates that immersive block models combined with the application of active learning pedagogies can significantly improve student engagement and academic performance
  4. Whole-of-institution curriculum reform should include transparent leadership structures, fit-for-purpose governance mechanisms, communities of practice, appropriate levels of resourcing and planning, as well as robust monitoring processes
  5. Key challenges for institutions to overcome during radical curriculum transformations include countering uneven adoption among academic and professional staff, and timely implementation of technical solutions that support related changes in policy and business processes

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erica_scu, LizSGoode