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4 Ways Colleges and Universities are Using Tech to Go Green

by Maryalene LaPonsie on June 5, 2013


A change of pace from the usual instructional technology content – a look at ‘ed tech’ from an eco-friendly perspective.

When you think of colleges and universities going green, you might think of recycling centers or solar panels affixed to dorm roofs. Certainly those are initiatives being undertaken on campuses across the nation. However, with the emerging tech trends, going green can be as easy as firing up the laptop.

Here are four ways colleges and universities are using technology to save resources and promote a green college experience.

College Go Green image


1. Sending good (or bad) news virtually

We may quickly be approaching a time at which high school seniors will never experience the anticipation and anxiety that comes with watching the daily mail for college acceptance letters. A 2012 report from the National Association for College Admission Counseling found 37 percent of colleges sent acceptance letters via email and 43 percent used a web portal during 2010.

Sending acceptance — and denial — letters via email or online may seem like a small way to go green but consider this: The Washington Post reported a record 29,000 students applied for the 8,530 freshman spots available at the University of Virginia this year. And the school wasn’t alone in terms of record applications. In addition, the 2012 Cooperative Institutional Research Program Freshman Survey found 27.5 percent of freshman applied to seven or more institutions.

That translates into a significant amount of resources to deliver acceptance and denial letters. Moving to an online notification system means saved paper, ink, energy and fuel for transit. According to The Washington Post, prominent institutions such as the College of William and Mary, the University of Maryland and George Washington University are all utilizing email or online portals for acceptance and denial letters.

2. Using mobile apps to save resources

Once students are accepted to George Fox University in Oregon, they get access to a suite of Google apps including gmail, a calendar, groups, sites and a cloud drive. The university is one of numerous institutions that have teamed up with Google to move IT services off-site and into the cloud.

Google reports that not only does using their Apps for Education streamline administration, it is also one way schools can be a little greener. The search engine company says moving email hosting alone from on-premise to the cloud can make a school 80 times more energy efficient. According to Google, 66 of the 100 top colleges, as ranked by U.S. News and World Report, are currently using Google Apps for Education.

However, Google apps aren’t the only ones that can help a school go green. Many colleges and universities, such as Ashford University and Stanford University, maintain their own apps. These programs do everything from provide a platform to study virtually to find the local bus schedule. The end result is more information at students’ fingertips and less need to print information and distribute it through more energy-intensive means.

3. Replacing textbooks with tablets

Some schools may be going beyond apps to supplement student studies and moving to tablets as a core component of their curriculum. Seton Hall University took the plunge in 2010 by passing out iPads, as well as laptops, to every student.

The university is one of several that has either considered or implemented the use of tablets. For example, Buena Vista University started handing out laptops to students in 2000. In 2011, it piloted a program to use iPads. Nonprofit association EDUCAUSE also reports Oberlin College, Oklahoma State University and Reed College are among other institutions to test iPads in the classroom.

From a green standpoint, tablets have the potential to replace notebooks and textbooks. A 2011 study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project found 62 percent of college presidents believe more than half of their undergraduate’s textbooks will be entirely digital in the next 10 years. And that means less energy and resources used to print and update books and other classroom materials.

4. Holding classes remotely

Finally, online programs put it all together and offer a learning education that is totally tech and totally green. Rather than require students and facility to commute to a classroom that must be heated and lit, students can work from the comfort of their own home.

Some schools such offer a fully online education while other universities may offer hybrid degree programs which combine some online classes with campus-based requirements. In addition to private online colleges, public universities such as the University of Illinois and Michigan State University have embraced online education as not only a convenient way to learn, but also a green one.

Technology offers a variety of means for schools to be creative and innovative in their teaching methods, but emerging tech trends can offer so much more. They also offer a way for colleges and universities to be a little greener.

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
Exciting Developments in Uses of 3D Printing in Education
Salman Khan’s Inspiring One World Schoolhouse
6 Higher Education Institutions Leading the way with Mobile Learning Apps


Maryalene LaPonsie has been writing professionally for nearly 15 years. Her work has been featured on FoxBusiness, AOL and MSN Money as well as numerous other sites. Among her areas of expertise are personal finance, marketing and education.

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