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Frequently Asked Questions Note (FAQs) on iBLOCs Offered from January to June 2017

Q1. What is the iBLOC initiative that NUS launched in January 2014?
Q2. What does the term "iBLOC" mean?
Q3. What will be offered under this technology-enhanced education initiative?
Q4. Why should I consider enrolling in iBLOCs?
Q5. How do these iBLOCs fit into my course of study?
Q6. Will I be allowed to enroll if my ORD date falls within the second quarter of 2017 (i.e., after March 2017)?
Q7. What is the expected structure of and workload for each iBLOC module that NUS will offer in January 2017?
Q8. Is physical attendance in the interactive classroom sessions compulsory?
Q9. What is the module fee like? When will fees be charged?
Q10. What does the implementation of the Grade-free scheme from AY2016/17 onwards mean for me if I read iBLOCs open to Returning Full-time NSmen?
Q11. When can I apply for iBLOCs?

Q1. What is the iBLOC initiative that NUS launched in January 2014?

Since 2009, NUS has catered to different learning needs and students’ preferred mode of learning by instituting a regular e-learning week on campus. In 2012, NUS broadened this e-learning initiative by actively promoting various forms of technology-enhanced teaching and learning, to harness good technology-enabled pedagogical practices for the enhancement of learning outcomes. In February 2013, NUS became the first university in Singapore to join elite universities around the world to be a partner of Coursera (you can view the NUS site at this link: https://www.coursera.org/nus), the online education consortium based in Stanford University. The iBLOC initiative is the latest in NUS’ effort to optimize teaching and learning through blended learning platforms, manifested in both MOOC (massive open online course)-style teaching and higher intensity face-to-face interactive sessions.

Q2. What does the term "iBLOC" mean?

"iBLOC" refers to internal Blended Learning Online Course, a new online course which is integrated with re-designed face-to-face learning in a flipped classroom format. The term, "flipped classroom" means "inverting the classroom practice". Traditionally, we deliver 2-3 hour long lectures in the lecture halls, conduct 1-2 hour tutorials and seminar discussions in seminar rooms, and we require students to do additional practice and homework outside class or at home. In the flipped classroom concept, physical lectures will be organized into targeted video snippets of between 8-12 minutes, and classroom time will be used for targeted, high-intensity interactive discussions or problem-solving activities. In this way, the classroom is flipped in the sense that basic content delivery is now put online and in-class time is devoted to address difficult concepts/ideas and to cultivate higher order skills of critical thinking and collaborative peer work.

Q3. What will be offered under this technology-enhanced education initiative?

NUS has invested in flipped classrooms, apps-enabled pedagogy and mobile learning since 2010. In January 2014, NUS launched 3 Coursera MOOC courses for learners around the world, and at the same time, started a pilot involving a slate of 10 iBLOCs. Eight of these iBLOCs were offered to NSmen who had accepted offers of admission from NUS and embarked on their undergraduate studies in NUS from August 2014. The other 2 iBLOCs were General Education modules, offered to NUS students from January to April 2014. One iMOOC ("i" for internal) - a five-week wholly online communication skills module - was accessed by anyone in NUS in late Septermber 2013 and October 2014.

Currently, NUS offers two Coursera MOOCs and two 5-course Specializations. In January 2017, the University will be offering a total of 11 iBLOCs to Returning full-time National Servicemen who have places reserved for them in the University and will be matriculating as undergraduates in August 2017.


Q4. Why should I consider enrolling in iBLOCs?

The 11 iBLOCs are specially designed for you. They are all essential modules that Major students headed for each of these faculties will need to read to fulfill their core degree requirements. Each of these modules is designed to stretch from January to June 2017, to cater to the schedule of NSmen who may be serving the last stretches of their national service. The extended course duration is planned to allow NSmen more time to develop their understanding of the basic concepts and ideas to be introduced in each module. The flipped classroom pedagogy is used to allow for increased flexibility of self-access (of online materials) and a more intense and targeted face-to-face engagement. In short, these iBLOCs allow for a more leisurely build-up of basic core concepts that we hope will not only lay solid foundation but will also enhance students’ learning experience. 

Returning full-time NSmen reading iBLOCs prior to their matriculation in AY2017/18 are eligible for the Grade-free scheme which is implemented from the matriculation cohort of AY2016/17 onwards. See Q10.


Q5. How do these iBLOCs fit into my course of study?

Here is an example to illustrate how an iBLOC may fit into a student’s course of study. Let’s assume that you are admitted to the Faculty of Engineering from August 2017. You have already obtained an ‘A’ Level H2 pass in Physics but you need more Physics knowledge to help you in your course of study in Engineering. If you enroll in the Physics iBLOC (PC1431X Physics IE) offered by the Faculty of Science, and you obtain a pass for this module, you will not have to access PC1431 again when you enter NUS in August 2017, and can instead move ahead to access other Engineering modules. This may help to speed up your candidature as you would have space to access other modules during the regular term in August 2017. The relevant iBLOC will enable you to meet specific degree requirements as they are all recognized by the relevant NUS faculties. The same is true for students who are planning to access the other iBLOCs on the list. 


Q6. Will I be allowed to enroll if my ORD date falls within the second quarter of 2017 (i.e., after March 2017)?

Yes. As the first part of each module (from January to March 2017) is expected to consist predominantly of online engagement and self-access of course materials (with some guidance from Teaching Assistants and the Instructor), a later ORD period in the second quarter is not likely to pose difficulties for most students. Students are, however, advised to make informed decision about their module choices, paying attention to their relevant background and/or qualifications so as to ensure that they have the sufficient baseline knowledge to cope with the demands of each module.


Q7. What is the expected structure of and workload for each iBLOC module that NUS will offer in January 2017?

The plan is to allow students a minimum of 3 months to work independently at their own time, with peers and with tutors in a range of online activities and to devote the second 3-month period to more intense classroom interaction and some amount of online activities. In other words, the interactive classroom sessions will only kick in, indicatively, in April 2017 when (most of) you have fully completed your National Service. All high stakes graded activities will be scheduled only in the second 3-month period onwards. This structure aims to accommodate the schedule of NSmen and at the same time, allow students to take their time to build solid foundations by learning at a more leisurely pace. Each module will consist of targeted 8-15 minute videoed lectures that deliver the key concepts and ideas, 3-5 interactive tutor-facilitated online forum discussions, 3-5 interactive or problem-based learning physical classroom sessions, online homework sets, and assessment activities (the activities and the frequency will vary across modules). In total, each student should be prepared to commit about 120 hours per module, spread across the duration of the module.


Q8. Is physical attendance in the interactive classroom sessions compulsory?

To earn a pass in each module, a student must show evidence of active and satisfactory participation in all aspects of each module. Each instructor reserves the right to specify the level of participation required.


Q9. What is the module fee like? When will fees be charged?

For each iBLOC to be offered in January 2017, students will be charged $795 per module (about 10% of annual tuition fees prevailing at the time Returning full-time NSmen accepted their offer of admission). Students will also pay Miscellaneous Student Fees (MSF), comprising of Student Services Fee (SSF) and the Health Service Fee (HSF), as stipulated by the University, MSF help to meet part of the costs incurred by the University in providing services to the student community that are either not covered or only partially covered by the tuition fee and government subsidy. These services include healthcare for students and maintaining the internal shuttle bus service, IT network and other campus-wide services. The MSF rate payable by students reading iBLOCs from January to June 2017 is $66.20 (one-time payment). Fees will be charged on 1 March 2017 with a two-week payment deadline. There will be no refund once fees are charged.


Q10. What does the implementation of the Grade-free scheme from AY2016/17 onwards mean for me if I read iBLOCs open to Returning Full-time NSmen?

You will receive a grade for each module you complete, and the grade and modular credit may contribute to your degree requirement. You may apply for the iBLOC to be transferred into your undergraduate student record as Advanced Placement Credits with Grade (APG) if you satisfy the criterion of obtaining C grade or above for the module. Upon your completion of registration as an undergraduate student in July 2017, if you have obtained a grade C or above for your iBLOC, Registrar's Office will contact you with instructions on how you can apply for APG transfer into your undergraduate student record. With the APG, the grade and credits earned will be computed into your Cumulative Average Point (CAP). However, you may choose to exercise the Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U) grading option for the iBLOC, together with enrolled modules, during the S/U option exercise to be conducted upon results release at the end of Semester 1 AY2017/18 together with your other Semester 1 modules, subject to the new S/U policy. Modules for which students have opted for S/U grading will not impact the CAP. You can also opt NOT to have the grade and modular credits recognised, i.e., no modular credits and grade will be recorded in the transcript of your undergraduate academic records. (Please note that the modular credits and grade will appear on the NG or Non-graduating transcript.)

For more information on the Grade-free scheme, in the form of Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory option, please refer to Registrar's Office website here.


Q11. When can I apply for iBLOCs?

The application period will be open from 23 September 2016 to 25 October 2016. Please click here to submit your online application to NUS. Further details about iBLOCs can be found here.



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