Panel: Challenges and particularities of implementing a blended learning MSc program: the MSc “ Analysis and Management of Manmade and Natural Disasters” initiative

The present proposal is based on the recent establishment of the MSc program “ Analysis and Management of Manmade and Natural Disasters” , conducted by four departments of the Eastern Macedonia and Thrace Institute of Technology and the Fire Officers Faculty of Hellenic Fire Academy.
The purpose of the MSc Program is to train the personnel of the Fire Service and Civil Protection officers through innovative procedures and methods to risk and Crisis Management, Social and Economic Impact of Disasters, Enviromental Disaster and Technological Accidents, electrical-mechanical disasters, spread of oil spills and fires, Construction Analysis, Reduction Project and Flood Diversion, Geoinformatics in Disaster Management, EU Civil Protection Mechanism, etc.
A number of particularities apply to the development of the teaching modalities : firstly the particular work conditions of the students attending the MSc, regarding their disponibility for in situ presence in classes and the major geographical dispersion of those willing to attend the Program; secondly, the fact that the academic and research staff involved in the educational procedure is also geographically dispersed (Kavala, Athens, Crete, etc); thirdly that the administrative handling is equally complicated (two different Organisations).
Based on those particularities, the MSc educational procedure was initially organized conforming to distance learning principles; this involved ten receiver “classrooms”, situated in different counties in Greece, where the physical presence of students in those locations would be blended with the virtually presence of the instructor(s) using synchronous technologies and assisted by asynchronous LMS.
This modality was not applied due to major legal obstacles; the status of blended learning is not yet defined in Greek laws and consequently, it would not be recognized by the Greek Ministry of Education. So far, only the asynchronous distance learning is established, but the legal framework is clearly outdated. The existing legal vacuum does not allow any synchronous distance learning or blended learning techniques as the mainstream of a formal curriculum.
Consequently, according to the applied scenario students were placed into two groups, located in Athens and Thessaloniki and the program is actually mirrored in these two locations with the in situ presence of the academic staff who travels back and forth to physically attend the classes. Therefore there was a major negative affection on the expenses and the complication of the Master Program

The panel consists of Professor Emmanouloudis, director of the MSc program, who will present the the principles and the vision of the MSc program ; Dr Chalaris, Dean of the Fire Officers Faculty who will present the particularities of implementing a MSc program in the academic program of the Fire Officers Faculty; Mr Simitsis, legal representative of EMATTECH, who will examine the legal modalities of the case; and Dr Roussi, executive secretary of the MSc program, who will present the and logistics of this initiative. The situation been exposed, the panel will be interested in discussing with the auditory the different aspects and is already eager for its experienced feedback.