Research in Cyprus

Partner: Center for Social Innovation – CSI

As soon as the World Health Organisation had declared COVID-19 a pandemic, the government of the Republic of Cyprus – as most other countries in Europe – decided to suspend all face-to-face operations of public and private schools at all levels. In the months that followed, the Ministry of Education, Sport and Youth – the responsible authority for education matters in Cyprus – adopted a series of measures to facilitate the smooth continuation of class delivery.

In the desk research conducted the researcher reached out to five faculty members at the main HEIs on the island, both public and private, to inquire about the educational measures taken during and post-pandemic. Questions were centred around the support provided by the institutions to their staff (in the form of workshops, trainings, and manuals), the digital tools in use, as well as the challenges faced by academic staff and students with regard to distance learning. Four responses were received, from which it was deduced that the University of Cyprus provided the most comprehensive support to both staff and students. Trainings and workshops, which are still offered today, are delivered by Ad Hoc committees, and cover a wide range of tools, platforms and software, as well as sessions on hybrid teaching and teaching methodologies. Trainings are mandatory for staff to attend at least once, while online and hybrid procedures at the University are monitored and evaluated though surveys sent out to staff. Detailed guidelines in the form of manuals are also available, as is the direct support of specialised IT and eLearning staff, and each member of staff, as well as students, can make use of a personal system that provides access to e-platforms managed by the University.

Responses also allowed for an understanding of the main challenges academic staff and students had to overcome in the months following the suspension of face-to-face lectures. Those were technical, pedagogical, but also practical in nature: In the beginning, the entire process was significantly time-consuming, as staff tried to familiarise themselves with the new tools, while amending teaching material to better suit online lectures and thinking of ways to better interact with and engage students in the online setting. Furthermore, due to the lack of physical interaction, communication with students was severely affected, while a lack of continuation, participation and discussion during lectures was also noted, which deteriorated over time. In some instances, such as in the case of laboratories, alternative teaching methods were either altogether not possible, or extremely difficult. Likewise, students faced a lot of issues with the new technologies, missed important updates or were not unaware of material uploaded on the digital teaching platforms, which often resulted in delays or to an overall confusion. Gradually, students were becoming all the more demotivated, lost focus and concentration easily, and were unwilling to participate in online activities.