With top-quality programmes now offering e-learning experiences to match their on-campus counterparts, students are increasingly opting to benefit from the flexible schedules and lower tuition fees that these courses typically offer. The result is a net reduction in the overall higher education carbon footprint, with students no longer required to travel across the globe to access world-class education, or commute to and from class. With courses offered 100% online, this cutting-edge sector of higher education is also leading the way in terms of paperless programmes.
Tablet computers and networked environments
Even in physical campus environments, portable digital technology is helping faculty and staff to develop more eco-friendly teaching methodologies and administrative processes. Whereas before, tutors would share academic content with students in hard copy, it’s now possible to distribute multi-media learning resources such as power-point presentations, podcasts, and PDFs at the click of a button. Likewise, students are able to cut down on their paper consumption by using easily portable tablet computers and laptops to take notes in class. Social media and chat forums also mean that students are able to communicate and cooperate on group projects much more easily, and reduce the amount of traveling required.
We are currently witnessing a concerted drive to retrofit campus architecture with green technology and to place environmental design at the heart of future university building design. This includes the use of recycled building materials, the incorporation of renewable energy sources such as solar panels and wind turbines, as well as structural methods of improving water efficiency. The extent to which green architecture has contributed to reducing waste, energy expenditure, pollution, and environmental damage has even led to several university buildings and campuses being awarded official green certification by environmental agencies.
Green trends in higher education are not merely restricted to the way in which students learn and the buildings they study in, but also extends into what they learn. Not only are ecological studies becoming a real force in academia in their own right with a vast array of programmes relating to conservation, and green innovation, but green concepts are also permeating other subject areas too. Supporting eco-entrepreneurs through bursaries such as the InterActive Eco-entrepreneur Scholarship initiative are steps in the right direction by the education sector. This robust inter-disciplinary approach to environmental issues means that universities lead the way in terms of understanding and managing nature’s relationship with mankind.
The combined result of all the above points is that a strong green culture has emerged within the higher education sector which produces ecologically conscious students, academics, and staff at the heart of grassroots efforts to protect the environment by recycling, carpooling, and responsible consumption. Thanks to universities’ unique cultural leadership position within society, this is good news for the global eco-system, as it suggests that other institutions and organisations will not be far behind in terms of following the example set by higher education establishments.