Victoria University (VU) is a dual-sector (higher education and TAFE) tertiary institution based in Melbourne, Australia. VU has eight colleges, each covering a broad discipline of study, six research institutes and seven research centres. More than 42,861 students, including around 13,500 international students, study VU courses worldwide. In 2018, VU transformed the way it delivers courses through a new way of teaching and learning called the VU Block Model. The Block Model allows students to study in short bursts called blocks. Each block focuses on one unit (subject) for four weeks. VU is the first university in Australia to teach using block mode and this dramatic shift in teaching structure required extensive technical innovation to facilitate it. In 2019 VU Information Technology Services undertook the VU Block Model Enrolment Enhancements (BMEE) project to make essential technical developments to students’ MyVU portal and enrolment applications to support study in block mode. This project was able to ensure the best possible use of the University’s resources through efficient staff allocation and offer students simpler progression through their courses – while also promoting a better experience for students through updated messaging and intuitive user interface designs. The project is unique in its delivery of outcomes that have benefited the provision of courses in the VU Block Model and enhanced the enrolment experience for all students and staff across the whole University. This initiative importantly supports the overall University strategic goal to increase student satisfaction and extend the rollout of the revolutionary VU Block Model to all years of study and academic divisions.
The BMEE project involved numerous areas of the University – from the student cohort themselves, to student administration, student communications, academic teaching staff and course governance groups – as well as pivotal involvement from IT Services project and change management experts. The BMEE project team worked in a lean agile framework, holding regular showcases with all stakeholders and peers to present project qualitative benefits and progress at each stage of development. Being an initiative that directly supported the goals of academic staff and responded to the urgent needs of students, working closely with these different stakeholder groups was essential to the success of the BMEE project. This ensured the project teams gathered a full understanding of the detailed project requirements to make sure the project outcomes directly addressed key stakeholder needs.
The ultimate success of the project was due to this streamlined coordination and cooperation between colleagues from these diverse areas of the University. The BMEE project demonstrated what is possible when different stakeholders and technical teams work together across the University, providing a model for 2020 projects to continuously enhance course delivery in the VU Block Model.
Outcomes delivered by the BMEE project have ensured VU stays at the forefront of delivering an innovative and progressive student and staff experience throughout the VU Block Model transformation. The achievements of the BMEE project have meant an improved experience of Block Model enrolment and administrative processes for both staff and students, equating to an increase in positive interactions with the University and IT Services. The improvements the BMEE project provided offer a simpler enrolment processes, more streamlined enrolment experience, and reduction in the number of calls to technical support teams. With the goal of increased efficiency in staff and student systems, the BMEE project was geared towards achieving lower risk, higher productivity and sustainability of costs and processes. In addition, the more efficient and cost-effective use of academic teaching staff enabled by the BMEE project improvements ensures classes are maximised and reduces the need to employ additional casual staff.
VU is dedicated to providing practical industry placements to students. The BMEE project was able to overcome the challenges students encountered completing placements in block time-frames by creating an enrolment environment that enforces the Block Model course rules and therefore completion of placements. By improving enrolments in Block Model, BMEE helped to facilitate this revolutionary approach to learning and teaching. Students enjoy less stress (focus on one unit at a time), more personalised support and better connections with classmates and teachers. This has a positive impact on university transition and learning evidenced by commencing load increases, higher pass rates and increased retention. Therefore, VU’s Block Model supports inclusion and success of traditionally disadvantaged groups.