2009 Volume 12 Issue 3

Editorial: E-Learning is Green Learning

Editorial: E-Learning is Green Learning

Enhanced distance learning opportunities can help sustainability efforts over the short and long term.

The schism between globalization and sustainable growth continues to widen. One strategy for helping to ameliorate this chasm is the delivery of “green-based” higher education. Universities can contribute to developing long-term, balanced solutions to globalization by incorporating sustainability as an integral part of the curriculum.[1]

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Calls for developing sustainable growth paradigms are on the increase worldwide,[2] including within the higher education sector.[3]

Institutions of higher learning are significant consumers of both direct and indirect energy and natural resources. Sustainable growth solutions for two indirect areas of energy consumption, the inefficient use of fossil fuel in commuting to and from campus and the considerable resources and energy associated with the production and delivery of print books, can be found under the rubric of e-learning.

Campus Sustainability Efforts Gaining Traction

Universities have begun to address the sustainability challenge with the founding of the American College & University Presidents Climate Committee (ACUPCC) and the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). The mission of AASHE is to advance the efforts of the entire campus sustainability community by uniting diverse initiatives and connecting practitioners to resources and professional development opportunities.

Student commuting, in particular, is an issue that both organizations are paying increased attention. The dramatic rise in gasoline prices in 2008 helped bring this energy-consuming and polluting activity to the forefront of the sustainability discussion.

Proponents of green-based education have also noted that the print book industry emits over 12.4 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, or approximately 8.85 pounds of carbon for the average book, with most of the impact connected to forest carbon loss.[4] Electronic books (e-books) represent an alternative to the traditional print book (p-book), and can be easily distributed via distance learning networks, which also helps in conserving energy otherwise lost through product distribution.


As the debate on what constitutes sustainable growth continues, so too does the demand for students who can compete in the expanding global marketplace. One approach that universities, in general, and business schools, in particular, are employing to meet this rapidly rising demand is increased Internet use. Here, the traditional method of knowledge transfer, with its constraints of fixed location, time, and learning pace, is being replaced with more user-friendly, customized, Internet-based learning environments.

Providing enhanced, distance-learning educational opportunities that include a focus on sustainability throughout the business curriculum represents a powerful approach to helping achieve sustainable growth in a globalized economy. In addition, many students who have been exposed to web-supported learning tend to favor this delivery method over the traditional classroom-centric model. Along these lines, one promising approach involves blended learning, which combines traditional classroom with Internet-based content delivery. The overarching goal of the blended paradigm is to improve learning outcomes, enhance resource sustainability, and provide increased convenience.

The search for balance between globalization and sustainable growth is picking up speed, and for globalization to be “win-win” in the long run, it must be based on both ecological and human sustainability.[5] Higher educational institutions have a constructive role to play in this regard. Universities can serve as a vehicle for shaping globalization plans around sustainability in the short and long term by educating the next generation of leaders through enhanced e-learning that includes strong sustainability components within the curricula.

[1] Richard Cooper, “Global Imbalances: Globalization, Demography, and Sustainability,” The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 22, i3 (2008): 93.

[2] Robert Forrant, and Jean Pyle, “Globalization, Universities, and Sustainable Human Development,” Development, 45, i3 (2002): 102.

[3] Martin Haigh, “Internationalisation, Planetary Citizenship, and Higher Education, Inc.” Compare, 38, i4 (2008): 427.

[4] Robert Wharton and Albert Greco, Eds., Book Industry Trends, (Book Industry Study Group, 2008).

[5] Phil Clegg, “Creativity and Critical Thinking in the Globalised University,” Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 45, i3 (2008): 219.

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Author of the article
Owen P. Hall, Jr., PE, PhD
Owen P. Hall, Jr., PE, PhD, holds the Julian Virtue Professorship and is a Rothschild Applied Research Fellow. He is a Professor of Decision Sciences at Pepperdine University’s Graziado School of Business and Management. He has more than 35 years of academic and industry experience in mobile learning technologies and business analytics.
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