Bright Ideas

One Course at a Time


Institution: Human Geography, , Prince George, , Canada

The University of Northern British Columbia launched a pilot test in January 2013 of 5 upper-level human geography courses, to be taught one at a time in what has become known as the “block method” (also offered at Quest University, and originally pioneered at Colorado College in 1980). The courses were opened to undergraduate students at UNBC, grad students, and members of the community simply interested in the course.

12 students enrolled in the courses in Spring 2013, taking classes 3 hours a day, Monday through Friday, for 2 1/2 weeks (a total of 45 hours in class per course). UNBC officials hope that the block approach will allow for more experiential techniques, group projects, and in-class discussion. The unusual scheduling allows a student at UNBC to take a minor in Geography in just one semester. Term papers won’t be completed during each course; instead, a four-week period from mid-March to mid-April will be set aside for research papers or projects.

Teaching on the block model also gives instructors more flexibility to conduct spring or summer research, or attend conferences during the fall and winter semesters.

Quest University, founded on the block method, has achieved unparalleled student engagement scores on the NSSE survey, in part because of this approach.

Algoma University announced that they would experiment with the block method at their new campus in St Thomas, Ontario.


“The depth at which we are learning about issues is so profound that it seeps into your understanding and transforms the way you think about certain things. … I will walk away remembering more and having a greater understanding of the topics covered within the block courses.” - Student Richan Greenlees, in University Affairs

Key Contact

Name: Dr. Neil Hanlon

Title: Chair, Department of Geography


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