What Do Good Adult Educators Do

1. Taking on different roles to meet the learners' needs

The main task of an adult educator is to provide the participants with the opportunity to learn. In order to do this one will have to fulfil a variety of roles, which depend on the participants' needs and the specific situation of the course.

Expert

Not so long ago access to information was a privilege of teachers, researchers, and experts. They held the knowledge and were responsible for spreading it. Thanks to the Internet, access to information has become widely available to most people. As a result, the traditional trainers' task of providing information has become less important. However, a trainer's experience and background knowledge enables him/her to be a catalyst and expert who is able to select what is most relevant to the learners and to help the learners by placing this information in the right context. What hasn't changed is the ability of a good trainer to explain complex issues in an understandable way and demonstrate how this information can be applied by the learners.

Actions that reflect this role:

  • Interest in the topic, actively looking for new materials and resources.
  • Carefully selected content, filtered through one's own experience.
  • Clearly structured content.
  • Clear presentation skills.
  • Generate participants' interest in the topic through the use of interactive methods.
  • Foster the participants' curiosity.
  • Linking information to the participants' own experience.

Supporter

The Supporter values the learners' life experience and existing competencies. He/she is aware that a lack of confidence and low self-esteem are the main reasons for people failing in education. Therefore, showing support and motivating learners are important aspects of the teaching process.

Actions that reflect this role:

  • Create a positive learning environment.
  • Show interest in the learner's background.
  • Be patient.
  • Be prepared to offer individual support.

Guide and coach

Helping set realistic objectives and showing the learner how these can be reached will increase the learners' motivation and make the learning more effective. Supporting learners in tackling their weaknesses and improving their skills are typical tasks of a coach.

Actions that reflect this role:

  • Ensure that the information provided and the skills taught are applicable in the participants' work and life.
  • Motivate participants to reflect on their strengths and weaknesses and support them in changing their habits and attitudes.
  • Provide feed back.

Facilitator

The Facilitator helps learners make use of their strengths. He/she ensures that the group's potential is developed and put to good use. Don't underestimate the “wisdom of crowds” -- there is hardly a task a group can not accomplish and in most cases the results will exceed the trainers expectations – however, one must trust the learners and give them the opportunity to show their potential.

    Actions that reflect this role:

  • Structure the process and offer tools for group work.
  • Involve participants in setting aims and creating the content.
  • Make processes transparent.
  • Document processes and results.

Judge

The Judge assesses the learners' progress. He/she also creates an environment in which people can openly provide feed back to each other.

Actions that reflect this role:

  • Fair and transparent assessment process.
  • Use of different sources for assessing results.
  • Communicating results of the assessment, showing progress.
  • Create a trusting environment in which people can share their positive and negative observations.

Role model

Nobody is better positioned than the trainer to disperse the learners' existing negative stereotypes about learning.

Actions that reflect this role:

  • Compliment what is said with demonstrations.
  • Be fully aware why you are doing what you are doing at all stages in the process.
  • Be self-critical and look for ways to do differently tomorrow what you did today.

2. Preparing for the teaching

Some things to keep in mind when preparing for a course:

  • Learn about your learners. What do you know about them? Why do they attend this course? What are their main challenges? What might be their expectations about this course? What might be their concerns regarding this course?
  • In practice it is very difficult to refrain from planning based on what I know and what I consider important. Therefore it is a good habit to permanently question oneself during the preparation phase: Why do I want to include this topic? What will the learners gain from it? How will they be able to apply this information in their lives? Why is this method the most appropriate for delivering this content? How can I make use of the participants' experience?
  • When planning the content of the course, reserve space for using information provided by the participants, e.g. instead of using previously prepared examples, create examples together with the learners during the course.
  • Do not just focus on preparing the content of the course but also consider how you can take on other roles that support the participants' learning process.

3. Creating a learning space

The aim is to create an environment that fosters learning and creates positive group dynamics. Aspects related to a course's physical space are often not within the direct influence of the trainer, e.g. room temperature or design flaws in the room's layout, however it is the trainer who will have to deal with the situation. Neither will the participants reflect too deeply about the reasons why there were problems in the teaching process – they will consciously or unconsciously hold the trainer responsible for the shortcomings. It is therefore important for the trainer to draw attention to arranging the room, check that the required equipment is available and functioning, and pay attention to other aspects that might influence the teaching.

Examples for negative physical aspects are:

  • The classroom lacks air or is too cold.
  • Participants are tired due to overly intense teaching or a lack of breaks.
  • Layout of furniture limits communication among participants.
  • Use of mobile phones disturbs the flow of learning and withdraws attention.
  • Participants come and go.
  • The group is too large.

Choosing a room layout that corresponds to the teaching

Tradicionālā mācību klase

The traditional layout found in most classrooms does not promote active communication and engagement of the group because participants see only the backs of each other and all focus is directed towards the trainer. This setting is appropriate for “one-way communication” where the sole purpose is to present information.

U forma vai pakavs

The most common alternative is the “U”, which is well suited for following a presentation and common discussions.

U forma ar atstarpēm

When leaving gaps between some of the tables it is easy to transform the setting from one group into subgroups, e.g. for accomplishing group work exercises.

Saliņas

If the course's focus will be on group work, “islands” are an appropriate layout. This setting places the emphasis on the fellow participants, rather than the trainer. Another advantage of this layout is that it accommodates more people in a limited space.

Bez galdiem

Depending on the topic and maturity of the group, it might be appropriate to remove desks altogether and create a circle. This setting reflects and promotes openness and equality. This might not be such a good idea in new groups, where a desk can help people to create their personal space and achieve a sense of security.

Divas zonas

If the room is large enough, it can be a good idea to divide it into different areas or zones. For example, one part of the room can be reserved for listening and receiving input such as a lecture, while another part of the room can be reserved for group work. Likewise, parts of the room may be declared “planning zones”, in order to emphasise the need for careful planning before moving into action, while other parts of the room become “action zones”, where the groups implement their plans.

The division into two zones is especially beneficial in computer classes, where there is the additional challenge of participants being tempted to press buttons on their keyboards rather than listen to instructions.

Additional considerations:

Involving the participants in moving furniture can raise their feeling of "owning the classroom" and increase their co-responsibility for the teaching process.

Creating a warm welcome

As always, the first impression matters. Giving the participants a feeling that they are welcome and that the organisers care about them will help in getting the course off to a good start.

Ideas for creating a welcoming atmosphere:

  • Signs that guide participants to the right room.
  • Greeting each participant personally.
  • A place for leaving coats and jackets.
  • Classical music in the background.
  • Agenda and handouts placed on tables so participants can start familiarising themselves with what is to come.
  • Flowers in the room.
  • Name tags.

Making the process and outcomes visible

By placing all produced materials, e.g. flip chart papers and learners' group work summaries, on the wall, the teaching process becomes visible and participants see what has already been done. This also ensures that conclusions and other relevant ideas remain present. Another benefit is that the anonymous classroom is transformed into a place that is filled with thoughts and ideas that belong to this particular group of learners. If the teaching takes place over a longer period of time, outcomes of previous lessons can be placed on the wall in order to create a link to what has already been done.

In order to make processes and outcomes visible, it is not advisable to rely too much on computer or overhead projector presentations. Computers and other technical presentations are a convenient way to show information, but the drawback is that, as soon as the slide is switched, the information is no longer present.

Making sure you have what you need

The trainer should not rely on all required equipment being available in the classroom. Chances are great that a key piece of equipment will be missing or not working. Experience shows that this can happen anywhere. One option is, of course, to bring along everything yourself. The other option is good communication with the organisers regarding the facilities and equipment.

4. Getting things going – the start of the course

To a large extent, the starting phase with a new group will determine the atmosphere in the classroom during the whole course. In this phase the trainer should achieve the following:

  • Get participants out of their "boxes" and promote communication among them.
  • Balance participants' expectations and the actual content/requirements set by the trainer and the programme.
  • Extract some background information about the participants that will be helpful later in the course.

Getting people out of their boxes

The following description exemplifies the behaviour of a participant when entering into a training course where the other participants and the trainer are unknown to him/her:

Peter enters the classroom. He stops and looks around; he finds a place to sit; he starts browsing the handout that is placed on the table; he raises his head to get a better idea about the other participants; he returns to browsing the handout; he checks whether his mobile phone is switched off before continuing to observe the other participants and deciding which of them are likable and which create negative feelings...

Peter's behaviour reflects the typical emotions participants experience when starting a course:

Will the course justify my efforts or will it be a waste of my time? What will the other participants be like? Will I meet interesting and nice colleagues? Will I be able to show my best side? What will the trainers be like? Will the course be interesting? What will be expected from us? Will I get what I hope for?

Conclusion

When a new group starts their work, group members experience doubts and questions. As soon as the trainer enters the room all focus is placed on him/her. The participants expect the trainer to provide them with the required information and skills and to ensure a positive atmosphere, an interesting teaching process, and the possibility to learn more about the other participants.

In order to create healthy group dynamics, it is important to overcome the participants' focus on the trainer and to develop relations among the learners. This is the main purpose of using ice breakers at the beginning of a course - small exercises that reduce tension and get people talking to each other.

Balancing expectations

A mismatch between the content of the course and the learners' interests and needs is likely the main reason for dissatisfaction among participants. Previously circulated information is no guarantee that participants will have an adequate understanding about the course. Therefore, the trainer should clarify in the beginning what are the participants' expectations and interests for the course. In most cases it will not be realistic to introduce any major changes to the content because it is predetermined by the curriculum and other factors or because certain expectations are expressed only by a few participants and do not represent the interests of the whole group. In these instances the trainer will still be able to comment on the expectations expressed by participants, explain what will or will not be addressed within the course, and show the “bigger picture” by explaining the course's aims and content. As a result, everybody will have a more realistic understanding of what to expect from the course and there will be less room for disappointment later.

At the beginning of the course participants will still be in their "boxes" and will not publicly express their honest expectations. Typical replies are vague and general, e.g. “to gain new knowledge”, “to learn something interesting”, “to get to know new people”. One way of gaining more in-depth information is to give this task to pairs or small groups, e.g. by using the methods "Partner interview" or "Life trees". Participants are more likely to be frank with each other, e.g. admitting that the true reason for attending the course is to get away from the family for a few hours or admitting a weakness he/she wants to address.

5. Developing and making use of the group's potential through group work

Group work

The group's potential is developed by gradually transferring more responsibility to the group. It is important to keep in mind that participants have to find their role in the group and learn to work together before they will be able to successfully take on major tasks. Group work is the main method for promoting this development because it takes the focus away from the trainer and develops a team in which participants can contribute with their knowledge and experience.

In reality getting participants to effectively engage in group work is often not so easy. Everybody has experienced unsuccessful group work. Especially in the beginning of the teaching process trainers often face a situation in which participants react negatively towards group tasks and the envisaged results are not achieved. The prospect of working in groups can raise doubts and anxieties in the participants that are similar to those experienced at the beginning of the course (See "Getting things going"). The difference is that in the meantime the participants have already found their place in the group, have gotten to know their colleagues, know what to expect from the trainer, and have adapted to the situation - the result is a "consumer mentality", where they are prepared to follow the course but do not want to leave their newly gained comfort zone. On this background the trainer's request to work in groups is perceived as a threat to the established order, which again raises doubts and more questions: "Who else will be in my group?" "How should I present myself in the group?" "Why do we have to do this?" "Wouldn't our time be better spent continuing to listen to the trainer?"

The trainer also often feels anxious about inviting participants to work in groups: "Will they be motivated to work actively?" "What to do if they deviate from the topic?" "Will they keep to the given time frame?" "What to do with participants who don't participate?" "Maybe it would be better if I stay in control and continue guiding the participants through the content?"

The more the trainer himself/herself doubts the given task, the greater the chances that it will indeed be unsuccessful. Previous negative experiences with group work can decrease a person's belief in the benefits of this method. Therefore the trainer should be prepared for a situation in which the learners will not receive the invitation to work in groups with enthusiasm. For group work to succeed, it must be carefully prepared. Group work requires trust in the participants and flexibility towards the process and results.

Effective group work - step by step

1. Defining the task

Both the trainer and the participants need to have a clear understanding of why a task has to be carried out. If the feeling arises that group work is being done just for the sake of group work, it will rightly create dissatisfaction. The task should be relevant to the learners, challenging and thought-provoking, and offer the opportunity for sharing experiences. Group work is unlikely to have a positive effect if the task's relation to the course is unclear, it only asks for the repetition of known content, or the learners get the feeling that the trainer already knows the "right" answer and their efforts will not adequately valued.

2. Presenting the task

People tend to overhear and misunderstand instructions. Therefore, instructions should be given before participants split into their groups, else it will be difficult to get their attention again. Aural instructions should be complemented with written information, e.g. by writing it down on the blackboard or providing the task as a handout. Participants should get a clear idea of what is expected from them and how they will present their results.

The trainer has to ensure that the groups have adequate working conditions, e.g. enough distance between working groups so they do not interfere with each other, required resources are available, etc.

In order to ensure that the participants' doubts do not transform into open resistance against the task: Be definite when presenting the task, do not give room for alternatives. If the invitation is phrased as an offer to the participants, e.g. "Wouldn't it be a good idea if we continue now with work in groups?", it will create hope in the participants that there might be a way to avoid it and they might start revolting. Later in the process, when the group has become used to collaborative work, there is less resistance and more motivation for working in groups. To summarise: The less experienced the group, the more decisive the trainer's instructions should be.

3. Dividing participants into groups

There are a number of ways of dividing participants into groups: randomly, based on common interests, based on sympathies, or based on a trainer's plan. Using a random selection approach, e.g. counting or picking playing cards, ensures that participants will familiarise with each other and that nobody is left aside. Selecting group members based on common interests, e.g. similar background or similar aims, will make the process more purposeful and increase motivation. If participants create groups on their own, the result will be a positive atmosphere but this method can result in less popular participants being left out. If the trainer takes responsibility for the group division, e.g. in order to ensure an equal distribution of participants with leadership skills or knowledge of the topic, this is likely to deliver good results, however it requires good knowledge of the group and can be a time-consuming process.

4. Making the group work more effective

Group work will be more effective if the learners have spent some time individually familiarising themselves with the task, e.g. reflected on what they know about the given issue, what is their attitude towards it, what could be their contributions towards the task at hand or what ideas they have for solving the given problem.

For the group work to follow a structured and purposeful process, the trainer should offer a framework, e.g. using a teaching method that provides a guideline for the work such as ""Moderation cards"". To promote thinking outside the box and foster the involvement of persons who usually remain silent and let others do the talking, the inclusion of non-verbal elements is beneficial, e.g. asking for the results to be presented as a drawing or a charade.

The trainer needs to be prepared to support the groups during the group work, e.g. by clarifying the task, bringing groups that have deviated back on track, and providing the groups with required resources.

5. Presentation of results

This step often proves to be more time consuming than expected. It is important to demonstrate fairness towards all groups and ensure that all are treated equally. The trainer should show respect and be be open-minded towards the results, even if they are not what he/she expected. Where applicable, results should be documented and used in the upcoming teaching process, e.g. by writing down the main findings on flip charts.

The trainer as a facilitator of group work

Adult learners have a high level of knowledge and experience, which can become a substantial resource during a course. For this to happen the trainer has to step back from teaching and give the participants room to reflect on their own experience and introduce it to the group.

Tasks of a facilitator:

  • Prepares a structure for work and ensures the availability of all needed materials and equipment.
  • Offers tools and methods in order to structure and guide the process; the participants are responsible for the content.
  • Observes the group dynamics, fosters a positive atmosphere in order to ease communication, interaction, and participation.
  • Is neutral and dedicated in order to promote group activity and cohesiveness.
  • Makes the process transparent (visualisation) and offers rules when needed.
  • Avoids a leadership role; a facilitator does not express his/her opinion or criticise because it is human nature to place more value on what is said by a leader than by fellow participants.

6. Presenting information

Introducing new information and explaining complex content are important tasks for a trainer. Listening to information is, however, one of the least effective ways of learning because participants remain passive and the trainer has limited feed back regarding what participants already know, their learning speed, or how they receive the presented information. See also "Learning", "Learning strategies", and "The anatomy of communication" in "Communication".

There are a number of things the trainer can do make a presentation more effective:

  • Preparing the content from the learners' perspective - considering what they will gain and what information they need.
  • Limiting information to 3 - 5 main points because the human brain's capacity for receiving information is limited. The French philosopher Voltaire put it this way: "The secret to being boring is to say everything."
  • The less accustomed the participants are to being in a classroom and to learning, the shorter the input should be. In any case, no presentation should exceed 15-20 minutes.
  • Information should address different sensory channels. Aural information should be accompanied by visual information, such as keywords on a flip chart or images. Putting written statements on Powerpoint slides is not enough because the presented information remains of a verbal nature. Another disadvantage is that most people, when seeing that the key information is presented on the screen, pay even less attention to what the presenter says. Powerpoint is effective when it compliments the verbal information. A powerful method is to translate main messages into images or metaphors. For this one can find vast free resources on the Internet, for example, freedigitalphotos.net offers a good collection of free images.
  • New information is easier to comprehend when it is based on existing knowledge and when it is apparent how it can be applied in practice.
  • Keeping contact with the audience is most important, especially in one-way communication settings. Eye contact, asking for examples from the participants' lives, and providing opportunities for asking questions are some good strategies for keeping contact with the audience (if the trainer does not want to answer questions straight away, he/she can write them down on a flip chart, thus ensuring that they will be addressed in due time).
  • One-way communication should be complimented with interactive methods, for example, ending the presentation with a "Bee hive" or group work.

7. Methods in adult education

Choosing the right methods plays an important role in making the teaching process interesting by creating positive group dynamics and helping the participants to learn. However, methods are just a means for achieving the envisaged objective. In order to succeed, the teacher must have a clear idea of what he/she wants to accomplish. This section includes information about different types of methods and tips for putting them to good use.

Classification of methods

The term method is rather vague - it can be used to describe any kind of activity in the classroom, starting from a small ice-breaking exercise to complex project work. All of this is like comparing pliers to a tower crane.

A feasible way for grouping methods is to look at the level of activity they promote and the extent to which the teaching process is centred around the teacher. At one end are methods that are used for one-way communication, in which activity on the part of the participants does not play a significant role. At the other end are methods that promote autonomous learning.

  PurposeExample

One-way communication

  • Informing
  • Explaining
  • Convincing

Lecture

Loosening up

  • Getting to know each other
  • Relieving tension
  • Promoting communication

Ice-breaking exercises

Engagement

  • Active involvement of participants and sharing of responsibility
  • Sharing information

Group work

Autonomous work

  • Participants taking on full responsibility regarding content and processes

Project work

In recent years different forms of e-learning have become more available and widespread. Though the tools that are used for communication and interaction are new, the above classification remains valid for e-learning as well. In e-learning one can also differentiate between courses in which the whole content is predetermined by the teacher and the participants are put into the role of passive learners, and courses that are based on the active interaction and autonomy of the participants.

Obstacles in using interactive methods

One-way communication continues to dominate all educational areas: schools, higher education, vocational training, and in-service training. Though the need for teaching approaches that truly put the learners, their needs, and their expertise at the centre is widely acknowledged, its implementation proves to be difficult.

It is not very difficult to apply methods for making a teacher-centred course more interesting and more effective. It is much more difficult to create a true learning space in which the participants take on an active role in determining the teaching process in which the content is based upon their experience and needs and in which the teacher's main role is to be a facilitator. A number of obstacles exist:

Formal requirements

The teacher must often act within formal restraints that make the application of interactive methods difficult or even impossible, for example, situations in which the content and outcomes are predetermined by the curriculum, time and other resources are limited, or the number of participants is too high.

Teachers

As stated before, one-way communication has a number of advantages that make it the preferred choice for many teachers: the number of participants does not matter, it is possible to deal with a great amount of content in a short period of time, the content itself can be prepared beforehand and used repeatedly, and the teacher has complete control of the teaching process.

Teachers must learn to lose a great deal of control over the teaching process and must be prepared to leave their comfort zone to try something new with an open outcome.

Participants

The traditional education system promotes a "consumer mentality" towards education: Learners attend a course with the expectation that it is the teacher's role to provide them with the required knowledge and skills, which puts them into a passive role. But a learner-centred course requires the active engagement of the learners; the learners must become co-responsible for the learning outcomes.

Motivation is a core ingredient of learning. In reality, however, learners often attend education courses in order to gain a certificate or diploma, and their willingness for active engagement is therefore rather low. Another problem can be that adult learners must divide their attention between learning, work, and family.

The role of methods in the teaching process

The selection of methods determines the role of the teacher and vice versa. If the chosen method is a lecture, the teacher takes on the role of an expert. If the chosen method is group work, the teacher becomes a facilitator. The teacher should consider appropriate methods for each role he/she would like to take on.

Much more important than selecting the right method is the teacher's attitude. First of all, the teacher must consider what he/she wants to achieve:

  • To present information in a comprehensible way?
  • To ensure that participants learn what is required by the curriculum?
  • To stimulate reflection and critical thinking?
  • To make use of the learners' expertise and creative potential?

Depending on the set objective, the teacher's attitude towards the course content, teaching process, and the participants will change. The following questions will help to balance content, aims, and methods:

To whom? What do you know about the participants and their needs?

What? What do you want to achieve, what information do you want to pass on, what skills must be developed, what changes in attitude are required?

How? What methods are best suited to achieve these aims?

Why? This is the most important question of all: What will the participants gain from what you say and the methods you use?

8. Exploring what has been learned

This chapter introduces a number of methods and tips for assessing learners.

Tests

Tests are mainly for checking a person's knowledge. Tests can have different purposes:

  • To demonstrate that a person possesses the knowledge required by the curriculum.
  • To provide the trainer and learner with information about whether the delivered information has been understood correctly.
  • To identify information gaps that still exist.

The trainer should consider whether the test should include questions/tasks that ask the learner to apply his/her knowledge and not just to reproduce information.

A feasible way to assess a course's effectiveness is to ask participants to fill in the same test before and after the course, thus providing information about the increase of knowledge and/or change of attitudes.

Feed back form

Feed back forms are the most common way for getting response from the participants. A major drawback is that most people fill in the form formally without putting much thought into the responses. Feed back forms are therefore most appropriate for obtaining a quick insight or if the responses are required for other purposes such as statistics or reports. If the trainer is interested in obtaining more in-depth feed back from the learners, there are better alternatives, for example, "Unfinished sentences".

Various free tools for creating questionnaires can be found online. Creating a feed back form and requesting from the participants to fill it in within a certain time frame can serve as a means to create links between the course and the learners' lives. Furthermore, the respondent will have had time to "digest" the course and provide more relevant responses. Another advantage is that an online form is more convenient to fill in than one that must be filled in by hand; in addition, it is much easier for the trainer/organiser to collect and analyse data from an online form.

Learning diary

A learning diary allows for the collection of information about one's actions over a longer period of time. In the diary the learner documents his/her personal and professional development, identifies questions or problem situations, gathers best practices, analysis decisions that were taken in different situations, etc.

It can be helpful to offer a more formalised approach - for example, the trainer can allocate time slots when participants must write in their diaries - in order to provide the learners with structure and in order to ensure that the learning diary is indeed updated on a regular basis.

Interviews

Interviews are probably the most effective way of receiving feed back. An interview should be carefully planned, drawing attention to what one wants to learn and what questions will help accomplish this. During the interview one should remember that the interviewee is talking about his/her experiences and perceptions; the interviewer's responsibility is to listen carefully and try to understand (See "Feed back principles").

Moment of reflection

It is not always necessary to use a formal assessment method; often the trainer can get a sufficient idea of what is going on in the group through a non-formal question or short discussion during the course: "How do you feel about this?", "What percent of what you need to know about this topic have you learned by now?", or "What are your suggestions for getting the most out of the remaining course?"

9. Building inroads into the learners' life

A major shortcoming of most adult education courses is that trainers and organisers have limited possibilities to know how participants make use of acquired knowledge and skills in real-life situations and cannot offer support in addressing knowledge gaps or overcoming challenges that occur in practice. Ideally, the relationship between the trainers and participants is extended beyond the face-to-face learning, for example, by follow-up meetings, in which participants can present their progress and ask for help regarding problems they face. In practice, however, this is often not feasible because of costs and logistical problems. There are, however, still a number of things that trainers can do to build inroads into the learners' lives:

  • Homework: The trainer can invite the learners to actively reflect on how they apply gained knowledge and skills in practice, for example, by introducing learning diaries in which the learners document what they do, what works, and what does not work.
  • Being available: Trainers can stress that learners should feel free to contact them after the end of the course to answer any questions and provide support in overcoming challenges.
  • Reminders: Trainers or organisers can send out reminders after some time has elapsed in which they once again highlight key aspects of the course. A variation to this is "Letter to myself".
  • Providing resources: The trainer can equip the learners with adequate sources for self-learning. The Internet offers vast materials for such learning; YouTube, for example, offers practical instructions on nearly every topic.
  • Making use of information and communication technologies: Though Internet access is not yet available to everyone, the situation is changing quickly. Practice shows that a combination of traditional face-to-face learning with the use of Internet-based tools (blended learning) provides enormous potential for making learning sustainable and more effective. These solutions do not have to be expensive or complex. There are various tools available that are easy to use and freely available, for example, Google offers a full suite of products that can be used for sharing and discussing information. You might want to have a look at Google Groups (www.groups.google.com)] as an online forum or Google Docs (www.docs.google.com) for creating online questionnaires. A great advantage of using such tools is that they allow for two-way communication in which learners can share their expertise and exchange ideas among themselves. Another advantage is that text-based information can easily be complimented with photos, video, or audio material.