Photograph by Jorge Reyna

Intensive Mode Delivery: Where to Start?

Jorge Reyna

by Jorge Reyna, Educational Designer working with the Faculty of Science at Macquarie University


What is intensive mode delivery?
Intensive mode refers to various alternatives to semester delivery of units; wherein teaching and learning occurs over a shorter timeframe than a semester. Intensive units provide greater access and opportunity to students who require greater flexibility in order to balance family, work and study (Curtis, 2000). Recent research has found that students regard intensive units as a short-cut and do less work than they would in a semester’s unit (Welsh, 2012). A secondary concern students pointed is fatigue toward the end of the unit. It is well-known that fatigue undermines learning and performance (Kahol et al, 2008). These issues pointed the need to ensure that the intensive mode delivery is not undermining student learning opportunities and outcomes.

What an effective intensive mode design takes into account?
An effective learning design for an intensive mode unit will: (1) create new learning opportunities; (2) adapt learning activities to a variety of time frames; (3) preserve engaging parts of the unit; (4) alleviate issues the students struggle in semesterised units; (5) adapted the curriculum to enable students to have the time to reflect/consolidate material/ideas in-between tasks/face to face session, and; (6) consider alternative ways to engage students.

What questions will help you to design an effective intensive mode unit?

  • What aspects of the units do the students and you as academic find particularly engaging and are critical to preserve in intensive mode?
  • What academic issues do your students currently struggle with in order to be successful in the unit? Will these be compounded or alleviated with intensive mode?
  • Can the existing curriculum be adapted to enable students to have the time to reflect and consolidate material/ideas in-between tasks/face to face sessions?
  • How can the learning activities be adapted to a variety of time frames? E.g. will a traditional approach of lectures and tutorials work on an intensive basis?
  • Are there other ways to present activities and assessments within the course (such as online instead of face-to-face, group project instead of individual project, podcasts to supplement lectures, slidecast, etc.)?
  • What are the alternative ways to engage students?

How you can achieve an effective learning design for intensive mode?
The next step is to develop a learning design that takes into consideration these questions. Do not forget to look closely to the learning outcomes of your unit, they need to be realistic and measurable. You can use different taxonomies such SOLO, or BLOOM’s to cite some examples. You can contact your Educational Designer to ask for support in the process (email