Fuel for e-learning

The Zen newsletter for August says that, by 2020, it is estimated that technology and consumer electronic products will account for 45 per cent of domestic energy use. The same newsletter notes that electricity consumption of datacentres resulting from the explosion of Internet use is also becoming a major issue. “Big technology vendors are hurrying to build giant datacentres that will enable them to offer more Internet-based services to consumers and enterprises over the next few years. Google, Microsoft and Amazon are ignoring the recession and leading a global ‘cloud computing’ datacentre construction race that they believe will change the face of business and consumer computing.”

This news makes me wonder whether, given the threat of global warming and the need to reduce carbon emissions, there will be fuel for e-learning in my grandchildren’s lifetimes, which I hope will last into the 2070s if not beyond.

The pilot study by Nikoi and Wheeler*, that yielded provisional carbon footprints for on-campus and e-learning students, understandably did not take into account all factors. It was designed to draw attention to what a university like Leicester might do to make its activities greener. It didn’t show that e-learning was greener than learning on campus. The picture is confusing, but fuel is needed for e-learning, without doubt.

*Nikoi, Samuel and Wheeler, Matthew (2009). How green is your learning? Pedagogical options for environmentally sustainable education. Paper presented at the EDEN Conference, 10-13 June, Gdansk.

David Hawkridge

16 August 2009

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