Tag: sustainable training

Friday, April 15th, 2011

Calculating the Footprint of Your Training

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What footprint are you leaving on Earth?For any business deciding whether or not to replace existing training with eLearning (and in what proportion), there are several factors* to consider, including the “ecological footprint” of various training methods.

I can’t tell you what the footprint of your training is, but I can tell you how I calculated mine when I created my “Leave a Legacy, Not a Footprint” eWheel in 2007.  If you follow the same steps, you will be able to understand your impact and reduce it, even if you are not able to calculate the exact value.

1. Processes

The first thing I did was to make a list of environmental aspects and impacts associated with the processes of face-to-face training and eLearning. I also looked at meetings; in-person vs. using web technology.  My list of processes:

 

  • Building training facilities (not used otherwise); material production and transportation, land use
  • Furnishing training facilities (furniture, electronics; production, shipment, disposal)
  • Using facilities (air conditioning, heating, water use and treatment)
  • Printing of paper materials, including drafts/mistakes that are thrown away
  • Production of non-paper materials used in face-to-face
  • Shipping of materials to training site
  • Traveling by instructors and participants to training site, daily commuting or extended stays
  • Living arrangements for instructors and participants who are not commuting

I made the assumption that with virtual learning, there would be a negligible increase in computer usage because in 2007 most office workers had at least one work computer and one home computer, all being served by network servers connected through intranet and Internet equipment.  To be completely fair, if everyone did everything electronically, the environmental impact of computers would rise, but by how much I don’t know.

2. Aspects

 

From the processes, I made a list of environmental aspects associated with them.  An aspect is an output of your process that you can touch (and possibly measure) that will affect the environment.

  • CO2 (metric tons) – every process above contributes to this aspect.
  • Freshwater used (gallons)
  • Water treated (gallons)
  • Electricity used (KWhr)
  • Heat produced (therms)
  • Crude Oil (barrels)
  • Noise (decibels/hour)
  • Light pollution
  • Pollution (from chemical used in production and disposal)
  • Non-productive time (person-hrs)

Next, I searched the web to find data on each of these.  I found three particularly helpful sites:

  • The Oil Drum – discussions about energy and our future.  This site gave me a great starting place for calculating the impacts of travel.
  • CarbonFund.org – I used their formulae for calculating the carbon footprint of travel and office activities.
  • Ecological Footprint analysis of The Countryside Council for Wales offers a comprehensive look at how our daily activities impact the environment.

Each of these sources led me to several additional sources.  Because many of the aspects are algebraically equivalent to others (e.g., carbon dioxide per therm is a known value), I pared the list down to these three:

  • Carbon Dioxide (pounds)
  • Crude Oil (barrels)
  • Non-productive Time (hours)

3. Impacts

links to an electronic wheel to "calculate" the ecological footprint of training and working

Click & Spin

Environmental impacts are defined as the change in an aspect between doing nothing and doing something.  They are measured as the increase or decrease in each aspect, due to a change in your process.

Click the wheel and spin it to see the final values.  They represent the increase in each aspect (CO2, Crude Oil, Non-productive time) of each type of training over no training.

If I had been preparing a business case (instead of creating a marketing wheel) I would have been more precise in my calculations.  Still, a relative comparison of face-to-face vs. virtual activities presents a strong argument for using eLearning if your objective is to reduce waste (both environmental and time).

Take it one step at a time

Including footprint analysis in your decision process should make it easier for you to decide how to use eLearning in your business.  Every day, more data becomes available, so it will get easier.  Don’t worry about including every last aspect and impact into your initial calculations; the Pareto Principle applies!

  1. List the processes
  2. List the aspects of those processes
  3. Measure or calculate the impacts

Additional Reading

*The following posts from The eLearning Coach are a good a good place to start when writing a business case for eLearning, considering costs, intangibles, and other non-environmental criteria.

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Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Sustainable eLearning is Great eLearning

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Ideas for Sustainable PracticesLast month I was amused as I read online instructions for participants in a webinar on Sustainability (of all things). It said “download the presentation file and print three slides per page to save trees”.  Wow! Why print it at all?

I would like to propose that your online training – whether it’s a Moodle course, an eLearning course in another LMS, or a webinar – can be both GREAT and environmentally responsible.  Here are some ideas to enrich your training while doing better by the environment, your students, and your wallet:

1. Take full advantage of online technology.  If you design an eLearning course, making it all that it can be, printing won’t make any sense.

  • Interactive features from games to online chats are meaningless in paper form.
  • Linked text loses its value when printed. Colors disappear.
  • Animations – even simple ones in PowerPoint – are ineffective when printed.
  • Start thinking of training in terms of screens instead of slides.   PowerPoint really isn’t the right tool to present content online.

2. Provide printable material that reinforces your message; not the entire presentation itself.

  • Create full color and illustrated, 10 Tips to Save More Than Paper that serve as references and reminders for the most important messages of your course content.
  • Offer these tip sheets as “rewards” for attending your webinar, taking the course, posting to forums, submitting a great assignment, or getting a high score on a quiz.
  • Use your imagination and make them great.  The best part:  they don’t have to be printed to be useful.  Let your students decide!

3. Build an app that does something your course teaches.  Perhaps it can determine the lumber needed for a tool shed with input on dimensions, calculate the calories burned during a Downward Dog, or plot a graph of this month’s daily revenues.

4. Commission a wheel or slide chart.  Flexigroup offers both print and electronic versions, such as the one I created to compare footprints for eLearning vs. face to face training

  • The electronic version comes with an optional PDF that can be downloaded and put together by the user.
  • My “put it together yourself version” was a huge hit at a trade show.  I ran out the first morning!

Make sure your contact information, logo, and tagline are on every piece.

Additional Reading (and lots more links!) on Sustainability

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