Moving towards greener learning

Being ‘green’ is everywhere these days – as our planet’s population grows, our environmental impact on it has become a very important consideration.  Often the focus is on what we can do at home and the ‘big picture’ things organizations can do, but what about what we can do in our work as learning professionals? In an online article I read the other day called “Going green—are learning professionals ready?", author Silke Fleischer states that although classroom training declined from 76% in 2001 to 65% in 2006, according to the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) 2007 State of the Industry Report, it still makes up the majority of learning hours delivered and has a significant impact on the environment in the areas of travel, facilities and materials. So how can an organization move towards greener learning?  

According to the ASTD 2007 State of the Industry Report, “Tailored blended learning saved one organization $2.8 million in travel and accommodation costs by cutting travel time for a 14-week program from 28 to 7 days.”  Moving face-to-face training on-line reduces the need for paper-based materials as well as the energy required for travel and classroom facilities (e.g., lighting, heating, cooling, etc.). According to Public Works and Government Services Canada, we produce more than 30 million tonnes of garbage each year – more than one tonne per person.  Of this waste, more than 36 percent is paper.  A blended learning solution using a combination of e-learning, online discussion forums, blogs, web seminars, wikis and podcasts as well as providing online resources will reduce your organization’s printing costs and other environmental impacts associated with face-to-face training.

Sometimes, however, face-to-face training is simply the best option for your organization and learners. Here are some ways you can make that training greener:

  • Design courses that require fewer printed materials. Instead, provide online resources that support the learning.
  • If you need to print, use recycled paper and print double-sided. Print only the most critical information.
  • Provide training in centrally located areas to shorten travel distances.
  • Upgrade your training facilities using such things as energy-efficient hardware, lighting, cooling and heating.
  • Provide recycling bins in your training facility - encourage participants to recycle.
  • Purchase recycled and environmentally friendly training supplies.
  • Support carpooling for off-site participants/training sessions.

 We make choices each day that potentially impact our environment. If we all consider even small changes we could be making in the way we develop and present learning, we can do our part to contribute to a greener world. To learn more about green learning, check out a good article from ASTD Learning Circuits, “E-Learning = Environmental Learning”.

Using Course Authoring Tools

Although a Learning Content Management System (LCMS) has more robust content management capabilities, an alternate course development solution is to use an e-learning authoring tool to create stand-alone courses.  Courses created in this manner can be delivered in a variety of ways, for example imported into a Learning Management System (LMS), hosted on a website or delivered on a CD or DVD.

Most authoring tools allow you to add animation, audio and video while some are also capable of creating tests/ evaluations and tracking results.  The final result and the level of skill required to use these tools ranges from template-based and entry level to highly customizable and complex. Some examples of authoring tools are Articulate, Captivate, Lectora, ToolBook, and Outstart Trainer.

Content created in authoring tools can be imported into most LMS and LCMS products and content can usually be exported out of an LCMS to be used elsewhere, but it may not be editable.  Whether you use an LCMS or an authoring tool to create training content, be aware that revisions to course content must almost always be made in the source authoring tool. 

Stay tuned to our website.  We'll be posting a white paper called "Inside Learning Management" in the next few days that provides more information about LMS, LCMS and custom learning management solutions. In the meantime, if you’re interested in finding out more about learning management, contact us here at Limestone Learning Solutions.

Check out a great blog article

One of the blogs I subscribe to is eLearning Technology by Tony Karrer (www.elearningtech.blogspot.com). Dr. Tony Karrer, considered one of the top technologists in e-Learning, is the CEO/CTO of TechEmpower, a software, web and eLearning development firm out of L.A.  His blog post on Monday, January 18th, 2010, titled “Top 10 eLearning Predictions for 2010: eLearning Technology” is a really interesting read.

My favorite prediction is #2: Convergence Ramps Up Big Time which focuses on the huge growth of mobile devices and how they’ll have an impact on workplace learning solutions as an alternative platform.  Stephanie and I have worked with clients who are challenged by workforces that are diverse and scattered around the globe. We’ve seen the potential for using smartphones, such as the Blackberry, as a vehicle to push bite-sized just-in-time learning content to their employees 24/7. If you’re interested in learning more about mobile learning, contact us here at Limestone Learning Solutions.

In the meantime, grab a cup of coffee or tea and check out the article.  It’s a good read – and don’t miss prediction #10.