Joint course between Tampere and Tallinn Universities, autumn 2020 (Anja Heikkinen & Larissa Jögi)

The course continued the long-term collaboration between Tampere and Tallinn Universities, aiming at integrating research, studies and societal interaction in adult education. The implementation of the joint course built on experiences in research, supervision, courses and seminars between professors Anja Heikkinen from Tampere University and Larissa Jögi from Tallinn University, together with their national and international colleagues and networks. (;

Almost 30 students – Estonian, Finnish, Spanish and Turkish – studied the virtual course, which aimed at understanding foundations of adult education and learning, their basic theories and concepts, at critical understanding of adult education trends and their potential in various adult education fields and at critical understanding of developments of adult education and learning policies.


Anja’s outlines about fields of adult education.


The joint virtual sessions provided platform for guidance, encounters with experts and international research community, and for follow-up, discussions and sharing learning outcomes. Students were provided by key readings for joint reflections and a selection of additional thematic readings. As introduction teachers introduced their preliminary conceptions about paradigms and legacies of adult education.

During one session we made a virtual visit to Omnia-institute in Finland ( We had comparative presentations and discussions about organization and international development of adult education in Finland and Estonia with Omnia’s head of research Tarja Lang, with Tiina Jääger from Estonian Folk High School Association and with Ene Käpp from Estonian adult educators’ association Andras (


Tarja Lang introduced the strategies of Omnia institute.


Tiina Jääger provided introduction to periods of Estonian liberal adult (popular/folk) education.


Ene Käpp introduced the occupational standards, developed and controlled by Andras since the early 2000s for all adult educators working in different fields of adult education. Universities are responsible for providing the qualifications, which promotes continuity and quality of studies and research of adult education in the academy, and maintains close relations between universities, practitioners and politics.


The most important study method were virtual study circles, organized self-directedly by students to discuss historical, philosophical and political foundations of adult education and learning, national and international governance and trends in adult education, legacies and theories applied in policy and practice and by professionals of adult education, as well as current challenges of adult education. As individual studies, students were expected to develop reflective essays, based on interviews about family histories of adult education and learning, utilizing key and thematic readings and other lessons learnt during the course. It turned out that family histories provided also crucial material for the study circles.

An exciting learning experience for study circles was to moderate discussions in breakout rooms in one of the joint virtual sessions, an international workshop Environmental care and social progress: Impacts of beliefs, values and gender ( While students were exposed to planetary challenges of adult education, they also practiced skills to manage virtual academic events with cross-cultural audience, which will be crucial in their future careers.


In the final common session, study circles presented their learning diaries, reporting both from their learning outcomes and about the process, using videos, photos and slides. A collective reflection and evaluation followed. Afterwards the teachers provided feedback to study circles and individual essays, which were graded, but also shared their own self-evaluation of the course with the students.


Quotes from the learning diaries of some study circles.

This course offers a very broad view of education. For anyone interested in this science, it is a great experience since education is rediscovered as a tool for improvement and not as a practice only for government institutions. Study circles are a very successful tool, not only you learn but you do it together with other mates. This opens new paths to find new answers since the main voice of learning is not carried by one person (usually the teacher) but the voice is shared and ideas that would never have occurred to us individually arrive.  Thus, we do not only learn the contents but we improve our way of learning. That is, we educate ourselves.”

“Thank you very much for your feedback and for this course; it gave me more lessons to take home than I would have ever thought. Many times the most meaningful thing is to just do something together and share, especially during the worst of times. I am missing it already.”

“…the course foundations and international development of adult education and learning. I find such an international subject in the master’s program for andragogues very necessary. The experience of the study circle was excellent, for me it was the best study circle (study group, etc.) during the whole master’s program.”

“(about international workshop) Next time, I would suggest finding a way for the speakers to keep their presentations in time. This could even be done by students (us participants) who could review the presentations and give feedback to the presenter on both the content and the timeliness.”

“Thank you for the fabulous course! It is wonderful to have supportive teachers like you at these difficult times. 😊

Our experiment showed that it is possible to organize studies cross academic institutions, based on the mutual interest of teachers and students, even without external funding or bureaucratic formalities. Of course, there were unexpected organizational challenges, misunderstandings and frustrations due to the lacking physical encounters, but as teachers we bring the experiment with us as an encouraging exercise and we hope this kind of collaboration – hopefully integrated to physical activities in the future – could become a more permanent part of studies in universities.