In recent years the advancement of technology, the advent of the internet and widespread use of the computer has led to new forms of delivering education. The process of acquiring knowledge, skills and competences, is no longer bounded by space and time, and higher education is no longer limited to rigid pedagogical methods. Distance education offers the opportunity to people who cannot or do not prefer to study in a conventional program requiring their physical presence in a classroom (due to geographical restrictions and/or time constrains), to acquire knowledge and gain a higher education qualification.
Distance education is a way of learning remotely without being in regular face-to-face contact with an instructor in a classroom. The students’ course experience is managed through a distance-learning platform and other systems and software, which students access using their browser with a login username and password. Through these platform, systems and software they access course materials, submit assignments, and interact with the instructor and other students in their course.
Students spend more time working on their own in a distance learning program. The time they would spend on-campus in a traditional course is replaced with activities such as more reading, writing, watching PowerPoint/video presentations, participating in online discussion boards attending online live lectures and real-time communication with the instructor and other students. They should expect to spend sufficient hours per week working for each course. In terms of the course assessment they will be required to upload assignments as attachments and take a comprehensive written final examination.
The mission of American College Distance Education Unit (DEU) is to support and enable American College to offer distance higher education of high quality in order to meet the educational and professional needs of students receiving distance education. The Unit aims to ensure that distance education students receive education and services of the same standard compared to those they would have received if they were enrolled in a conventional program attending classes and receiving services physically.
The Unit aims to underpin its mission by:
- introducing and maintaining a clear and well-defined organizational structure and employing effective policies, procedures, guidelines and regulations that can support the Unit’s smooth and efficient operation;
- employing qualified administrators to operate the unit and execute its administration policies and procedures. For the operation of the unit it will also be necessary for the Unit to collaborate with other College administrators;
- collaborating with American College faculty and academic departments in employing teaching personnel sufficiently qualified in their teaching field and in distance education;
- training and providing guidance and assistance to teaching personnel on pedagogical and IT aspects in order to develop, deliver, maintain and improve distance education;
- collaborating with teaching personnel in developing learning material, study guides and other to be used in the delivery of distance education;
- working with the College faculty and academic departments in developing distance education programs of study (curriculum, syllabi, etc.);
- deploying and maintaining adequate facilities (information communication technology and others), resources and services of high quality that can provide a stimulating environment conducive to distance education;
- supporting distance education students by providing them with adequate and accurate information on anything concerning their distance education (e.g. guidelines on using distance education platforms/systems/software, regulations, program and courses requirements, etc.) and offering adequate support and guidance throughout their study; and
- working with American College administration to insure the continued financial viability of distance education.
In designing the pedagogical model of our distance education we took into consideration the legislation and guidelines of the Cyprus Ministry of Education, Sport and Youth, the Cyprus Agency of Quality Assurance and Accreditation in Higher Education and the Cyprus Council for Recognition of Qualifications. In addition, we took into account the fundamental functioning principles of the Open University of Cyprus.
The students’ learning experience is mainly managed through Moodle, our distance learning platform, a single robust, secure and integrated system, designed to create personalized learning environments. Students log in the platform by using their browser and a username and a password provided by the DEU. In addition, to the distance learning platform for the delivery of distance education we use the online library platform ProQuest, the web conferencing system Zoom, the telecommunication software Skype, Email software and telephone communication.
In our distance-learning platform our students have access to practical information concerning their studies and related regulations and procedures as well as information on program objectives, structure and curriculum. Through the above platforms, systems and software students access course materials and learning resources, submit assignments, interact with the instructor and other students enrolled in their course and watch live online lectures.
Our distance education is delivered with the use of asynchronous and synchronous learning tools. Asynchronous learning tools include reading and watching learning materials provided by the instructor or found in the online library, email interaction with the instructor of the course and other students enrolled in the course and participation in online discussion boards (forums). An important element that enhances the learning experience of our distance education students is the opportunity to attend live online lectures.
The live online lectures along with private chat, private web conference and telephone communications with the instructor and other students and participation in live chat rooms constitute the synchronous learning tools used in the delivery of our distance education. In addition, the live online lectures are recorded and stored and can be played back by a student at any time.
The instructor of each course is the person in charge for the teaching and learning process for the particular course. He/she is in charge of the structure, the content, the design and elaboration of the learning activities and learning resources of the course. He/she provides students with all the necessary information and resources for the delivery of the course and the successful performance in the final examination and other course assessments.
The instructor of a course supervises the students enrolled in the particular course, answers their questions, grades their assignments and projects and monitors their overall learning progress providing them with the necessary feedback. At the same time, the instructor encourages active participation in learning by using all the synchronous and asynchronous tools. The instructor of a course is also the examiner who will mark the final examination of the course. He/she is the person in charge for the management of the distance-learning platform, systems and software in relation to the particular course. How the learning resources of a course are organized and how the activities of a course are designed varies with the instructor and the course.
The student has a major position in our pedagogical model. The entire process revolves around preparing, designing and organizing the learning resources and activities in such a way in order to enhance the student’s learning. The learning process and the preparation of the students for the final examination and other assessments are the core of the model.
Our pedagogical model places great importance on the interaction between the student and the instructor and the guidance offered by the instructor, the quality and richness of the learning resources available to the student and the student interaction with other students. Moreover, independent learning is also necessary and needs to be combined in a flexible way with other learning activities.
We believe that frequent and direct interaction between a student and the instructor of a course play a key role in the learning process. During the direct interaction, personalized attention is given to the student so that he/she receives valuable guidance on the content of a course. Through this guidance, each student receives supplemental help that is specific to his/her needs.
For our distance education each instructor carefully prepares (in collaboration with other instructors and the DEU) the learning resources of his/her courses such as the learning materials expressly designed to support and convey the course content, and other types of documents and tools, whether text or multimedia; taken from the web, created by the teaching staff themselves or created by others.
In the delivery of distance education we place special emphasis on communication and discussion and exchange of opinions and ideas among the students and between the students and the teaching staff. This takes place for example while students do group assignments and projects, participate in online discussion boards and live chat rooms. Such group activities allow students to interact with other students from the same or different work experiences, other countries and cultures, learn from each other and gain new perspectives. The collaborative construction of knowledge combines personal experience, group research processes and knowledge management.
Our model is flexible and it adapts to the special characteristics and objectives of each course. The interaction with and guidance by the instructor, the interaction with other students and the independent study of the learning material do not appear with the same intensity in all courses.
In some courses independent study, individual work and the interaction with and guidance by the instructor are highly required while the interaction with other students is less significant. In other courses, group activities and interaction with other students are highly required to achieve the courses objectives. Finally, in some other courses the independent study of resources is the most important element for their successful completion.
Apart from the above, the success of our distance education lies in the fact that our distance education is delivered by the highly qualified instructors of American College who are specialists in their respective fields and trained in regards to the distance education pedagogical methodologies and IT aspects. All our distance education instructors have a long experience in higher education teaching and research in their field of expertise. Moreover, they were trained in using synchronous and asynchronous distance learning tools, preparing and organizing distance learning material, activities and communication.
Their scientific background in their academic field, their knowledge in distance learning delivery along with the state-of-the-art learning tools we use, the up to date and comprehensive learning material we provide and the modern learning methodologies and assessment we apply guarantee the high quality and reliability of our distance education.
American College subscribes to ProQuest ABI/INFORM Global online library resources. The platform contains thousands of online books from reputable commercial and academic presses, millions of citable journal, magazine and newspaper articles on various subjects and other business reports.
In addition, the online resources provide its users with advanced tools for research and writing such as search tools and automatic generation of bibliographies. All these can be accessed on any device (PC’s, smart phones, tablets) from anywhere in the world with internet connection. These online resources are available twenty-four hours a day via the Internet.
Both our on campus students as well as our distance learning students are provided with access to the above online learning resources. Below you may find further information about these resources.
Each course will be assessed during the teaching period of a course through coursework and a written final examination.
For every course, students produce a number of written assignments called coursework (e.g. projects, essays and other assignments) depending on the subject being evaluated by the instructor. Coursework is assessed as follows: The instructor will provide students with the requirement and the submission deadline (date and time) of the coursework well in advance. Students will be able to upload their work through the distance-learning platform. After the deadline, the platform will not accept any uploads.
Coursework will be uploaded in word format so that the instructor can use the comment facility of word to comment and mark the coursework. In addition, the instructor will use an antiplagiarism platform to check the coursework for plagiarism. The instructor will then upload the marked coursework using the platform.
Each coursework will be marked and will have a weight towards the total coursework of the course. The coursework will not contribute to the course mark but students are required to obtain an overall weighted average passing mark (at least 60%). The coursework serves to keep students alert, provide feedback to them (as part of the learning process) and prepare them for the final examination.
After the teaching period is over students will take a comprehensive written final examination in person for each course. Students residing in Cyprus must take the final examination at American College premises. Students residing in countries other than Cyprus can take the final examination at American College premises or in the examination venue in their country of residence arranged by the Distance Education Unit.
For examinations in countries other than Cyprus the examination will take place under reliable invigilation conditions in the country where the student is residing at a date and a time announced to students well in advance. During the examination all College invigilation and other examination related regulations are followed including verification of the student’s identity.
The weight of the final examination towards the course mark will be 100%. The final examination mark of those students who do not obtain an overall weighted average coursework passing mark (at least 60%) will be multiplied by 80%.
Authorized examination centers
The final examination usually takes place at an authorized examination center in the student’s country of residence. Well in advance of the final examination, students will be provided with the contact person and contact details (address, email, telephone) of the authorized examination center where their final examination will take place along with the course title for which the examination is taken, date, time and duration of the examination. Students are required to arrive at the examination center at least 30 minutes before the examination starting time and have with them their passport or identity card.
Prior to the beginning of the examination students will be required to present their passport or identity card so that the examination invigilator verifies their identity. Once the examination is over your answer script and examination question paper will be collected by the invigilator and sent to the College for marking.
Both the thesis presentation and the thesis itself are assessed and the weight towards the final grade is as follows:
The thesis presentation which is compulsory takes place via a private web conference. Prior to the beginning of the actual presentation the student needs to present his/her passport or identity card so the instructor can verify the student’s identity.