"Block plan" teaching method gaining appeal among small Canadian institutions

January 3, 2012

The "block plan" -- a one-course-at-a-time delivery format -- is making inroads at some smaller universities in Canada. Acadia University, Algoma University, and the University of Northern British Columbia have started toying with block schedules. BC-based Quest University is the only university in Canada on an entirely block curriculum. Instructors with block plan experience swear by it, saying students are more engaged when they can concentrate on a single class at a time, and the flexibility within the timetable to include fieldwork enhances the educational experience. There are logistical limitations when it comes to the block plan: assignments must be completed and graded quickly; illness can jeopardize a whole block, as making up a lost week is not possible; and the rigorous schedule can be an obstacle to part-time learners and instructors with other commitments. Once a skeptic of block teaching, Quest U president David Helfand finds it "liberating," and thinks feedback from his faculty members -- all but one of whom came from conventional semester systems -- warrants attention from even the most traditional institutions. Globe and Mail