The Distance Education Unit of the EUC is determined, from a pedagogical perspective, by a concrete model. Our main inspiration for the design and development of this model has been the Open University of Catalonia, the first 100% online university in the world, with which the Distance Education Unit of the EUC is constantly collaborating not only in research, but also at teaching level. Of course our pedagogical model is adapted to the needs, special characteristics and legislation of the Hellenic region (Greece and Cyprus), where distance education is still always accompanied with face-to-face meetings between the tutors and the students, as well as with the existence of an obligatory (written) final examination. In this context, EUC has taken into consideration the fundamental functioning principles of the Hellenic Open University and the Open University of Cyprus, with which it collaborates in issues that concern the learning materials that will be used by the EUC distance learning stdents, as well as the creation and offer of Joint Degrees.
The Virtual Campus and the Blackboard platform is the environment which provides access to learning resources and content and makes a certain kind of interaction possible through them. The student occupies a predominant position in our model. The entire process revolves around designing areas and resources to enhance his/her learning. In other words, the learning activity and the preparation of the students for the final examination are the core of the model. In this context, it is important to mention that our model includes three fundamental elements that all come together in the design of learning activities: learning resources, collaboration and guidance from the teaching staff.
Collaboration: Learning collaboratively means using teamwork, through communication and discussion with the tutor and other classmates, to solve problems, develop projects, create products jointly, etc. The collaborative construction of knowledge must combine personal experience, group research processes and knowledge management with the support of Virtual Campus tools. However, our model cannot only be based on collaboration. Independent learning is also necessary and needs to be combined in a flexible way with other methodological approaches.
Guidance: With this term we mean the different types of relations that are created and developed between the students and the teaching staff of the European University of Cyprus. The guidance does not only include the help that is provided to the students on the contents of the courses, but also includes tutoring and coaching concerning the planning of their study, problem resolution, the evaluation process and decision making issue (courses election, itineraries, etc.). Through this guidance policy each student receives personalized attention according to his/her needs, from the first day of his/her enrolment. More concretely, the tutor (teaching staff) is the person in charge for the teaching and learning process of each course. He/She provides students with all the necessary information and resources for the delivery of the course and a successful performance in the Final Examination. She/he is the person in charge for the students’ evaluation, as well as for the management of the learning platform (Blackboard). The academic coordinator is the person in charge for the structure and the content of each course, as well as for the design and elaboration of the learning activities (often in collaboration with the tutor). The academic coordinator is responsible for conflict resolution issues between the tutors and the students or between the students and the administrative services of the university. Finally, the specialized administrative staff is always at students’ disposal concerning the course enrolment, the registration and payment of tuition fees, their professional development, etc.
Resources: This term includes both educational materials expressly designed to support and convey learning content, and other types of documents and tools, whether text or multimedia; taken from the web, created by the students themselves, etc.
As it can be easily understood from the above description, our model is very flexible and it can be easily adapted to the special characteristics and objectives of each course. This means that the 3 basic elements of the model (guidance, collaboration and resources) do not appear with the same intensity in all courses.
For example, in the course of Educational Research, where the students have to decide and concretize the topic of their Master’s Thesis, autonomous study and individual work are highly required for each student. So, the collaboration element is less developed in this course (despite the fact that special importance is given to the exchange of opinions and ideas among the students and between the students and the teaching staff), while the element of guidance is much stronger, since frequent and direct interaction with the teaching staff is fundamental in this learning phase.
The situation is different in a course about “Open and Distance Education”, where group activities, interaction and collaboration among the participants are needed to achieve the courses objectives.
Finally, within a course of Educational Technology Resources are the most important element for its successful delivery and completion in comparison with the other two axes of our pedagogical model.
Main characteristics of the teaching and learning process and the students’ evaluation
The Master’s Degree students in every subject offered through distance education are asked to deliver some written assignments (their number depends on the ETCS of each subject). These assignments consist between 40% and 60% of the students’ final grade (depending on the program). The rest corresponds to the result in the Final Examination. It is necessary, to achieve a “pass” grade to both activities (assignments & exam).
Our independent specialization courses follow similar processes with some exceptions due to the number of ETCS, their purpose and special characteristics.