The pedagogical framework of the distance learning programs/courses was developed after resolving the following crucial issues: 1) the location of potential students (local, and/or European, and/or international students), 2) international trends and research developments regarding the mode of delivery of distance learning programs and 3) requirements set by the Cyprus Agency of Quality Assurance and Accreditation for Higher Education (C.Y.Q.A.A.) and the Cypriot Council for Recognition of Degrees (KYSATS) in terms of accreditation of distance learning programs and the recognitions of degrees awarded from such programs.

Pedagogical Framework Pillars - The pedagogical Framework is consisted of the following three pillars:

  1. Directed Learning Online and Educational Material (Learning Activities) (Mandatory Content) (mandatory and supplementary bibliography/content and digital/multimedia content)
  2. Dynamic Online Interaction (Weekly Learning Activities – Communication)
  3. Assessment Activities: (Final, Formative/Continuous and Self-assessment - Weekly Learning Activities)


Directed Learning Online and Educational material

The aim of directed learning online activities is to introduce and explain the key concepts for each course. These activities aim to engage students in studying, reading, viewing or listening, permanent, static, online materials. These materials include the e-books, digitalized books, notes, readings from various sources (i.e. books, articles, websites, blogs, online newspapers, etc.). The Mandatory bibliography should be available through the Electronic Platform (provided that the principles of copyright are respected) and where there is a need for students to buy/borrow books, this should not be done excessively.

In addition, students are given educational content, or digital/multimedia material that includes digital bibliography, links, open access resources (OERs), eBooks, videos, etc. Also, the digital/ multimedia material includes the teleconferences recordings that take place through the Electronic Platform and/or other educational videos, which are prepared by the teaching staff of the Subject Unit. Digital/multimedia material also includes various forms of presentations: simple, narrated and presentations with notes, video lectures, interactive presentations and interactive videos, audio files, simulations, virtual learning environments, interactive educational games, interactive scenarios for problem solving or other multimedia sources for material delivery (e.g. tutorials). The content included in a course is rich and contemporary, since it is constantly monitored and reviewed by the authors.

The materials used are classified into ‘mandatory content’ that must be studied by students or ‘supplementary’, which could be studied on a voluntary basis by students who wish to delve deeper into the thematic areas of a course. The supplementary/optional bibliography includes a collection of additional bibliographic titles, indicative for further study, but is not the subject of study for the subject module examinations. More specifically, students are also expected to independently engage (independent learning) in further study activities. These activities require students to study additional publications within the field (i.e. readings that are beyond the core content included in Directed Learning Online activities). These materials include Journal articles or key texts in the specific discipline, online videos or podcasts of theorists within the field and any other material that students will locate, on their own, from the vast online resources available. Courses are therefore carefully designed in order to encourage and stimulate students’ independent learning.


Dynamic Online Interaction

The weekly dynamic online interaction activities engage students, in online discussions and collaborations but, not all of them contribute to assessment directly. The online interaction activities are designed in such way to provide students with opportunities to discuss, interact, share opinions, criticize and query their understanding of the key concepts introduced during the delivery of a course as well as to collaborate for the development of content/assignments.

Within this context, online lectures (video and audio sessions) are organized by instructors. The online lectures aim for content delivery and explanation, students’ presentations, discussions among students, and among instructor & student and their duration should be adjusted accordingly. Furthermore, within the context of the teleconferences there are group assignments and discussions, problem solving scenarios, role playing, etc.  The duration of the teleconferences is an average of 2 hours. Within the same framework, dynamic online interaction activities include the creation of discussion groups on the subject unit (e.g personal statements, case study discussions, critical commentary of research articles), group simulation games, interactive problem-solving scenarios, the use of online files for collaboration, the development of wikis for collective writing, the utilization of blogs and/or micro-blogs (e.g. Twitter) for discussion, argumentation, critique, commentary, feedback. The DL instructors are encouraged to use build-in platform tools (i.e. zoom for teleconferencing sessions, discussion forums, chat rooms, wikis) as well as tools outside the platform (i.e. websites, blogs, online documents, wikis). These activities allow students to build and participate in online learning communities.


Assessment Activities

The evaluation method of assessing the student performance for each course, as well as the importance of different assessment methods for calculating the final grades are defined in the course outline (syllabus) which is given by the instructor during the preparation/induction week (Week 0). In each course, there are the following 3 assessment methods: 1) Final evaluation, 2) Continuous/formative evaluation and 3) Self-assessment.

Final evaluation

The final evaluation is obligatory for all distance learning courses and has at least 50% weight. The final evaluation is based on the final exam, which takes place at the University premises, or in specific exam centers established by the University either within, or outside of Cyprus, where strict procedures are applied in order to ensure the reliability of the exam results. The final exam is part of the overall student assessment in each course. The physical presence of students is essential in every case. The revision for the final exams takes place in the last weeks of the semester mainly through teleconferencing, as well as with revision handouts.

Continuous/ formative evaluation

In the continuous/formative evaluation, any practice can be used, in order to export, interpret and use "evidences" for the performance of each student. The assessment method may include assignments, quizzes, midterm exams, research reports, simulations, problem solving learning scenarios, virtual environments, educational interactive games, case studies, role playing, online presentations, development of wikis, e-portfolios, participation in discussion forums, other forms of participation in the electronic learning platform. The continuous evaluation form and the weight of assessment are determined by the instructor in the course outline (syllabus).  It should be noted that the continuous/formative evaluation can be carried out either offline or online.

 Self-assessment

Self-assessment does not take place with the purpose of grading the students but it aims to help students to conceptualize and improve the level of their knowledge and skills. Self-assessment is achieved through a variety of weekly activities, such as online quizzes, online multiple-choice exercises, essays and reflective journals and checklists given to the students after the completion of each unit. Finally, the degree to which students were engaged in deeper learning and further study activities are also assessed through the aforementioned assessment methods. For further information about students’ evaluation the Dl instructors are encouraged to study the document Student Evaluation Performance in DL Programs.

Teaching Methodology

The teaching methodology in an online environment requires the utilization of the capabilities and techniques provided by new educational technologies and synchronous and asynchronous means of communication. It is necessary that students will be distinctively informed of the support provided by the instructors and the use of the means and tools that they will use during their distance learning. In addition, the promotion through teaching, interaction and active participation of students in the learning process are of great significance, as well as the exploitation of multimedia material, which is adapted to the needs of distance learning students and easily accessible to them.

Asynchronous communication

Valid asynchronous communication with distance learning students is crucial to the programme’s success. Queries are expected to be answered within 48 hours or earlier under special circumstances. Responses must be comprehensive and informative. It is understood that, in some cases, a response within 48 hours is not feasible, but this should be an exemption. Various technological tools for asynchronous communication such as e-mail and discussion forums can be used.

Constant student support: The instructor is also expected to be available to his students outside the hours of teleconferencing, in order to answer questions, or other issues regarding their studies and academic performance. The valid asynchronous communication with distance students is crucial to the success of the program.

Synchronous Communication

In addition, instructors are expected to meet students’ requests for synchronous communication (e.g. face to face communication, telephone communication). The organisation of synchronous communication meetings is a compulsory responsibility of the instructor. The meetings must be carried out only through the provided platform (ZOOM) and must be available to students for asynchronous use at a later stage (recorded lectures).

The instructor is required to hold 4 meetings minimum during the semester, which must be of sufficient duration (minimum 2 hours). The content and organisation of the meeting is solely decided by the instructor. Ideally, students should be informed about the time of the online meeting from the beginning of the semester (information to be provided in the course syllabus) but if this is not feasible, the time of the meeting should be announced on the LMS platform at least a week in advance. In the exceptional case that the course needs to be cancelled due to reasons beyond the instructor’s control, the instructor is responsible for informing the students directly and setting a new teleconference day and time. Apart from the organised synchronous communication, instructors are encouraged to provide additional communication meetings to support students with feedback, explanations and / or course requirements.

Communication with the instructors and/or the Program Coordinator: students can communicate with their instructors via e-mail as well as via the electronic platform.  In addition, students can communicate with their fellow students via email and the question-and-answer forums.

  

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