Since its beginnings in 1970, World Earth Day has provided a voice for an emerging environmental consciousness and brought millions of people together into an environmental movement demanding the need for greater action for our planet on climate change, environmental conservation and clean energy.
The COVID-19 pandemic has not only increased the adoption of education technology capabilities across thousands of education institutions internationally, it has highlighted the positive environmental effects of a change in human behaviour throughout the pandemic such as the reduction of air pollution and emissions, reduction of water pollution and noise.
There is, of course, a relationship between them.
As many Moodlers in the edtech sector feel an increasingly urgent call to action to contribute more to protecting our fragile world, it is timely to remember that high quality online education is inherently “a part of the change” and is significantly less carbon intensive than traditional classroom-based education, creating savings in energy and emissions, and in-turn increasing equity in our education systems.
How is online learning better for the planet?
How and where you are educated has a significant impact on your carbon footprint. UNESCO data indicates that around 23% of the world’s population are students – approximately 1.8 billion people. Educating all those people requires a lot of resources, classroom space, energy, course materials, and transportation to and from institutions. In contrast, high quality online learning results in lowering carbon emissions through reduced commutes, lower campus or institution energy use and reduced use of paper. Consequently, the online model delivers more affordable education choices, which increases equity in education across the developing and developed world.
A study conducted by the Stockholm Environmental Institute (SEI) and the United Kingdom’s Open University Design Innovation Group (DIG) called Towards Sustainable Higher Education: Environmental impacts of campus-based and distance higher education systems identified that online education was significantly less carbon-intensive as conventional classroom-based coursework. While the study identified that increased computing would contribute CO2 to the atmosphere, it concluded that the 90% savings in energy and emissions in the areas of transport, campus site, and residential energy far outweighed this negative impact.
A study by the University of West Georgia revealed that for every 100 students who did not commute to school, carbon dioxide emissions were reduced by up to 10 tons every semester.
When learning virtually, learners primarily get their course materials and submit their assessments electronically. This helps cut down on paper waste and saves millions of trees every year.
Delivering education through classroom settings involves operating, maintaining and powering buildings, creating infrastructure for staff, providing housing and food for students, delivering facilities for social and sporting interactions. Typically, the cost of these services is reflected in the cost of tuition, particularly at post secondary school level. In contrast, online learning is, by its very nature, more affordable in its delivery and this affordability is generally reflected in tuition costs. Not only that, Moodle LMS, as an open source platform, embraces and celebrates principles of open exchange, collaborative participation, rapid prototyping, transparency, meritocracy, and community-oriented development. In addition to a multitude of other benefits, we know that this Freedom in education technology is fundamental to allowing education to flourish and grow in a more equitable and accessible way.
How else can Moodlers contribute?
EARTHDAY.ORG™ believes every education institution in the world must have compulsory, assessed climate and environmental education with a strong civic engagement component. EARTHDAY.ORG acknowledges Climate Education Week each year on the days surrounding Earth Day. This year, Climate Education Week occurs April 19-23 with Earth Day on Thursday, April 22. You can add your voice to the call for climate literacy, utilise their resources for climate education, organise an environmental teach-in or find ways to support local environment education groups in your community.