Is Online Education Green Education?


Over the last couple of years there has been a huge rise in online education. More and more educational institutions are offering students the chance to participate in learning via online courses and there are some brilliant reasons for doing this. For example online education suits some types of people better. What this does is allow some people who may have been unable to go to school, college or university because of other lifestyle commitments get the qualifications they want.

However the most recent drive behind online education has not been about the opportunities that it creates, but how green it is. The argument being that online education is a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way of learning than traditional classroom teaching. Is this a fact? Now is the time to find out.

Online Education Saves Trees

Because online education is based on the internet there is less need for paper. Readings can be viewed as e-books and most work is now submitted and handed out electronically. This completely eliminates the need for paper at all, which has been argued to save trees.

This is true, you cannot argue that online education doesn’t use less paper than traditional classroom teaching. But you still need to account for the people who do still print their work out. Some people just aren’t fond of reading off back lit electronic devices.

Online Education Reduces Pollution

With online education, as long as you have an internet connection you can do the work anywhere. Since there is no physical classroom, the amount of traveling between home and the school is reduced (well, it’s completely eliminated). As a result, pollution is cut as less journeys in cars have to be made.

What you need to consider though is that even though less traveling is done, most students don’t have cars, and the public transport services such as buses and trains that they would use are still running. Just because some people are learning from home doesn’t mean a bus service is going to stop running. So you have to ask – is this really reducing pollution?

Online Education Saves Electricity

Your first reaction to this statement is most probably “No it doesn’t. Online education requires a computer and the internet, and so the use of a lot of electricity”. Parts of this statement are true. Online education does require a computer and the internet and this will use electricity. But “a lot of electricity” may be a little too far. This is because computers don’t use as much electricity as people think they do.

Another point to consider is that students in a classroom need to feel comfortable. This means having good lighting, heating and air-conditioning, which all use a lot of electricity and energy. Therefore it can be argued that online learning is the greener option as it does not require any of these things on such a large scale.

So Is Online Education Green Education?

The conclusion of this post is yes. Compared to classroom based learning, online education is by far the greener option. This is because less paper is used, on a whole less travel is needed reducing pollution and it also saves a lot in energy costs. Online education is a sustainable way of learning, which is only going to become bigger in the near future.

This is a guest post by Kate Simmons, a part-time blogger and student currently pursuing online studies at Kaplan University.

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3 thoughts on “Is Online Education Green Education?

  1. Pingback: How to choose between online/traditional education? | The Career Advisor

  2. Absolutely. I think the text books and the buildings are the biggest savings from a traditional learning environment.

    In 2007 we had around 18.2 million college students using over 315 million text books. When that translates to not only trees, but also energy, the numbers are in the arena of 27.1 million trees and 5.08 billion kw. That is enough energy to power over 423,000 American homes and enough trees to cover 88 square miles of forest, or 2.5 times the size of Manhattan.

    Buildings also use a lot of energy. Online schooling saves energy in the same way that working remotely does–and that’s not only the energy that it takes to run those buildings, but moreover, the energy it takes to build them in the first place. One reason that Amazon.com can compete with other retailers so well is their lack of the bricks and mortar stores. Online University work seems similar.

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