NFB: NYU, Northwestern and Other Schools Adopting Google Apps Discriminate Against the Blind

Claude AlmansiBy Claude Almansi
Editor, Accessibility Issues
ETCJ Associate Administrator

The National Federation of the Blind is requesting the US Department of Justice to “investigate civil rights violations . . . against blind faculty and students” by New York University and Northwestern University and four school districts in Oregon.

Motive:  their adoption of  Google Apps for Education,  a limited series of Google applications  (mail, calendar, docs, spreadsheets and sites) that educational bodies can put under their domain name, and where they can  control what their staff and students do, but which present serious accessibility issues for the blind. Continue reading

e-Book Readers: Attempting to Bugger the Blind Is Bad for Business

Accessibility 4 All by Claude Almansi

DoJ’s and DoE’s letter to college and university presidents on e-book readers

On June 29, 2010,  Thomas E. Perez (Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice) and Russlynn Ali (Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education) sent a joint letter on electronic book readers:

Dear College or University President:

We write to express concern on the part of the Department of Justice and the Department of Education that colleges and universities are using electronic book readers that are not accessible to students who are blind or have low vision and to seek your help in ensuring that this emerging technology is used in classroom settings in a manner that is permissible under federal law.  A serious problem with some of these devices is that they lack an accessible text-to-speech function.  Requiring use of an emerging technology in a classroom environment when the technology is inaccessible to an entire population of individuals with disabilities–individuals with visual disabilities–is discrimination prohibited by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) unless those individuals are provided accommodations or modifications that permit them to receive all the educational benefits provided by the technology in an equally effective and equally integrated manner.(…)

Continue reading

College Prepared to Go Online When Disaster Strikes

Totally Online, by Jim ShimabukuroThe title of this press release caught my eye: “Ancilla College Ready to Go Completely Online as Part of Emergency Preparedness Plan”[1]. In case of emergency, the college can break the glass and press the red button that says “Campus closed. We’re now completely online.”

Ancilla is in Donaldson, Indiana, about 90 miles southeast of Chicago, and the college has hired The Learning House, Inc., to develop OPEN, which is an acronym for online preparation for emergency needs.

With OPEN in place, the college is now prepared for anything and everything that spells disaster, including flu pandemics, snow storms, floods, hurricanes, and heavy rains. Officials can now shut down the campus without worrying about disruption in learning. Like an emergency generator, all the classes shift into online mode and continue with learning as usual.

What happens if the campus shutdown lasts for months? Not a problem. From the moment OPEN, the emergency backup system, kicks in, it can function until a couple of weeks after the official end of term.

The heart of the OPEN system is Moodle, or modular object-oriented dynamic learning environment. It’s open-source and free, and it serves as a CMS, or course management system — aka as a learning software platform, LMS (learning management system), or VLE (virtual learning environment).

University of Iowa - building on campus flooded

Faculty “pre-load” what are called Moodle “course shells” with all the stuff that’s associated with learning, such as lessons, schedules, readings, lectures, assignments, activities, discussions, resources, etc.

Students, instead of reporting to their classrooms on campus, use their computers and internet connections from home or other locations to log in to the online counterparts of their classes and continue their education.

Interestingly, nowhere in this article does the writer say, directly or indirectly, that the online classes are in any way inferior to F2F (face-to-face) classes. The implication is that nothing in the way of quality is lost, and students continue to receive an effective education.

Don’t get me wrong. No one, including me, wants to see Ancilla shut down by a disaster. However, suppose it does happen in the first week of instruction and extends to a week after the last day of instruction, and suppose learning continues completely online without disruption and student achievement and satisfaction with the online classes are neither more nor less than with F2F classrooms.

Would the college pour millions into reconstructing the F2F campus and continue with business as usual, returning to the classroom-based model of learning and abandoning the online model until the next disaster strikes? Or would it pause to take stock of online learning as a viable alternative?

My guess is that it might take a disaster of this magnitude to change the way colleges view totally online classes. And once they do, they’ll never return to the mindset that classrooms are the only way to teach effectively.

BTW, this article is the first for this column, “Totally Online,” and in coming weeks and months, I’ll be publishing others that touch on the subject of completely online instruction. Other editors and writers are also debuting their columns this week in ETC: Jessica Knott, “ETC, Twitter and Me,” and John Adsit, “Meeting the Needs.”

Interview: Steve Cooper of TechUofA

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro
Editor

Steve Cooper is founder of Tech University of America (TechUofA) and a former Army education trainer. The following interview was conducted via email from September 8 to 12.

JS: How did you come up with the idea of offering college courses for a flat monthly fee (e.g., $99 for all the classes a student wants to take) and how long have you been doing this?

SC: All of the courses that we are developing will be free and open to everyone. However, only when students want to begin a transcript and earn an academic certificate or degree is there  a $99/month that allows them to take ten courses per year. We only use free etextbooks/resources so there aren’t any other major fees associated with earning a degree.

While building several online university programs I watched as they artificially raised tuition to the student loan cap. I was one of the few for-profit CEOs who didn’t have an MBA or wasn’t a banker so I looked at things much differently. In 2007 when I took over as CEO of a for-profit university, I decided to lower tuition in order to make higher education accessible to more people. We immediately began to enroll students from Africa and several other countries. I found that if you have the same quality of faculty as other well established schools and run a transparent program then people will attend your school if you lower your tuition. At the same time I started to see the popularity of social networking sites explode while the economy started to weaken. I then realized that three things were hot: social networking sites, online learning, and lower or zero-tuition.

Steve Cooper1

Early in 2008, I used to drive over to University of Phoenix Online and sit in the parking lot in search of inspiration. I would sit there for hours watching the sunset, hoping to soak up some of their creative energies, while asking myself, “What would Dr. John Sperling, the founder of University of Phoenix, do today if he were to do it all over again?” I concluded that the first thing he would do is take education to the masses as he did years ago by bringing education from the ivory tower to the community in office buildings then eventually via distance learning. I think one of his greatest keys to success was leveraging existing resources rather than trying to force people to change. For example, he didn’t try to make the corporate offices where they held classes look “academic” nor did he develop some goofy learning management system to deliver their distance learning courses. Rather, they used the existing business offices and Outlook Express. People were familiar with regular office buildings (not intimidating like a college campus) and it was convenient. Also, most adults have used Outlook or Outlook Express so they lessened the learning curve by using systems students would be familiar with — and if they weren’t, chances were that someone they knew could help them — as opposed to building some esoteric and irrelevant elearning system that wasn’t intuitive to adult learners.

So, I eventually thought that if Dr. Sperling were to start over he would bring higher education to the masses. However, today the masses are in social networking sites. At this point I still had not seen a social networking site but realized that if they were generating that much buzz there had to be a reason. I logged into one and instantly said to myself that this is the ideal online classroom! A week later I directed one of my staff members to teach a course in a social networking site, PerfSpot.com, since I knew their leadership and found them to be dedicated to a global reach — and it was absolutely amazing! Social networking sites allow the faculty and students to control their online learning environment (end-user innovation) and can do all the things that conventional learning management systems can’t or won’t allow such as video, audio, showing photos of the users, widgets, etc.

Moreover, using social networking sites to deliver college courses greatly reduces our cost of delivering education since we pay neither learning management fees, which can be as high as $120 per student per course, nor technical staff for support. In essence, it’s a win-win-win because the social networking sites benefit from having more users (our students), we as a college gain by not having any learning management fees, and our faculty and students win because they get to control their learning environment.

JS: Are TechUofA courses accredited? If yes, by whom? If not, is lack of accreditation a problem?

SC: No. Tech University of America is not accredited. We must be operating for two years before we are eligible to apply for accreditation, and we intend to apply as soon as we are eligible in 2011. Since we are a start-up school we have a lot of R&D, yet, at the same time, we are a business so we have to actively seek ways to grow our student body. In order to better serve new schools as well as their prospective students, I believe that accrediting bodies should have a provision that allows for new schools to be conditionally accredited before they start offering courses and then heavily monitor them until they are accredited. In the meantime, we have to operate for two years prior to seeking accreditation, which does offer us time to improve our academic processes while fine tuning the operations of our university.

JS: Are TechUofA classes completely online? Or are students required to participate in F2F (face-to-face) activities at some point during a course? If not, is this lack of F2F contact a problem?

SC: All of our courses and programs are delivered 100% online, and we do not plan on any residency requirements. Recent studies have shown that online learners can attain the same, if not higher, learning outcomes than their F2F counterparts. Having said that, I do think that F2F interaction is obviously valuable. To this end we are exploring several ways that we can integrate various optional study programs that will bring some of our students who live around the world together for meaningful experiential and F2F learning.

______________________________

Steve Cooper: While I fully agree with Chris Anderson, author of Free: The Future of a Radical Price . . . that anything that becomes digital inevitably becomes free, I do think that we will see a hierarchy emerge within online learning: we will have free or very low priced schools, then more expensive programs, and finally exclusive online programs for the very wealthy . . . .

______________________________

JS: Is it possible for a student to complete a degree or certificate at TechUofA? Would this be a TechUofA degree or a degree offered by a college that relies on TechUofA courses?

SC: We will be offering certificate programs as well as associate, bachelor, and master degree programs in business management with several concentrations in fields such as criminal justice, sustainability, construction management, computer science, and sports management. However, we are beginning to partner with several colleges that are interested in using our courses — in these cases students who are enrolled in a partner school and complete our courses would receive credit/degrees from their school, not Tech University of America. In this case we will serve as a blackboard, if you will, with our courses hosted in Facebook, and partner schools will use them at their discretion.

JS: What is the instructor-to-student ratio for your classes? If the ratio is far greater than for F2F classes, how do TechUofA instructors manage the large number of students?

SC: Our student-to-faculty ratio is 1:20 for most courses, and 1:25 for the rest, which is about the average for most online schools, and considerably less than large research universities where ratios of 1:500 are not uncommon.

JS: If students enter a course at any time and exit at any time, I’d imagine that record keeping may be a major problem. Does the instructor monitor all of her/his students? Or is this managed by someone else?

SC: Non-degree seeking students, those who are just using the course materials, may come and go as they please. For our degree-seeking students we have definite start and end dates for each course, and each course is eight weeks in length. Since our courses have less than 25 students, our faculty are able to manage each course.

JS: Are TechUofA instructor salaries comparable to that of F2F institutions? Do you have full- and part-time instructors?

SC: We engage adjunct faculty members to teach our courses. They must have a graduate degree from an accredited school, with practical work experience in their field of study. We also require that our faculty have teaching experience at a regionally accredited school. This allows us to demonstrate that the quality of our faculty is comparable to that of accredited schools.

We use a variable pay model, with each faculty member earning $50-$75 per student. This incentivizes faculty to teach more students per course and is fair because the more they work, the more they earn. At the same time it helps us contain our costs since we are not paying faculty $2,000 when there are only four students in a course. The fact that we do not cap the amount faculty can earn means that they can do quite well. Also, our model encourages faculty to use their own videos in YouTube, social networking sites, etc., which can increase the likelihood that they will be able to secure a textbook contract because faculty who can demonstrate a substantial following these days are highly sought after by publishers. Finally, given that we charge $99 per month, you can see that 50-75% of our revenues go to faculty pay as they are the most critical part of our team.

JS: Does TechUofA rely on staff from countries where salaries and wages are much lower? If yes, is there a problem in quality?

SC: No. However, as we grow our international student body, we will explore hiring staff who reside in countries where we have a large student base so that our staff can relate well to our students, thus serving them better than we can here in Phoenix, Arizona. I must add that I personally am not convinced that outsourcing labor to other countries always saves a considerable amount of money, especially when you consider the inevitable travel, loss of business from language barriers, rising costs associated with outsourcing, etc.

JS: Is TechUofA international? In other words, do students come from many different nations? In U.S. TechUofA classes, are international students charged a higher fee?

SC: We are proud that we have had many inquiries from international students, and in our model everyone pays the same fees. However, we are working on raising money so that we can offer scholarships to people in developing countries so they do not have pay anything to earn a degree from Tech University of America. Also, we are working on building a networking system that allows more fortunate students to sponsor (pay for tuition) for students who cannot afford the $99 a month to earn a degree. We believe this will lead to several meaningful relationships between our students.

JS: Are services such as TechUofA growing in numbers and popularity? Do you foresee a time when the TechUofA way of providing classes will be the dominant means of earning a diploma, degree, or certificate? Will this be at the K-12 or college level? Or both?

SC: Absolutely. Click here for the best overview of this movement which refers to us as EduPunks. Yes, I do see a day when the Tech University of America model will be the prevailing way of providing online courses, and by this I mean using social networking sites as the learning management system rather than Blackboard, using free etextbooks rather than traditional textbooks, etc., but I do not think all schools will have all their courses offered for free and only charge $99 a month for degree seeking students. While I fully agree with Chris Anderson, author of Free: The Future of a Radical Price, and his assertion that anything that becomes digital inevitably becomes free, I do think that we will see a hierarchy emerge within online learning: we will have free or very low priced schools, then more expensive programs, and finally exclusive online programs for the very wealthy that are as expensive as, if not moreso, than Harvard. At the same time I predict that we will only have 50 state schools – one for each state – that has football teams, fraternities, etc., and the rest of the students will attend private, for profit schools, either onground or online, especially given the rise of online high schools. I have been told there are more than one million online high schools students in America.

JS: Is student cheating a problem in TechUofA classes? If not, how is it handled?

SC: Student cheating, plagiarism, program integrity and student authentication are all serious challenges for all schools. The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) of 2008 requires that a school that offers online courses have procedures in place to ensure that that students who enroll in a course are the same students who take the course and ultimately receive credits. While the HEOA doesn’t apply to us since we will not utilize Title IV funds (federal student loans), we are fully committed to ensuring program integrity. In addition to having a required assignment on personal accountability and plagiarism in our introductory course, have engaged CSIdentity’s Voice Verified product to ensure that the student who enrolls in Tech University of America is the same student who is in a particular course, completes course assisgnments, and ultimately receives academic credit. This is done by randomly verifying the biometrics of their voice throughout their entire course of studies, and the Voice Verified solution is more accurate than a fingerprint.

JS: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

SC: Sure, I think it is important to point out that Facebook, which is central to our model at Tech University of Ameirca, was created by students, for students, and it is fitting that Facebook is finally becoming the leading learning management system. I predict that within 2-5 years, Facebook will buy Blackboard and move all of its users into Facebook..

Review of ‘At-Risk’: A Simulation Training Program for College Staff

heeter80By Carrie Heeter
Editor, Games Development

I vividly remember the day I received email from a graduate student who had gone missing from my online class, announcing that he had “just gotten back from the loony bin.” He wrote that he had checked himself in to a mental hospital and was now back and ready to start making up late assignments (with one week left in the semester). Over the years as professors each of us comes to realize our students are enrolled in classes other than just the ones we are teaching, and beyond that they have real lives, jobs, and families. Our official job is to teach well, to inspire, and to grade fairly while juggling our own impossible to meet demands of work and life. Unofficially, the unfolding joys and concerns experienced by everyone’s whole self may enrich or undermine teaching and learning.

At-Risk is a simulation training program designed to addresses one specific, potentially lifesaving dimension of this complex milieu.

At-Risk was created by Kognito, in partnership with the Mental Health Association of New York City (MHA-NYC). MHA-NYC programs help raise awareness about mental health problems and encourage people to seek treatment. The At-Risk training simulation teaches college faculty to identify mental health problems among their students and to refer mentally distressed students to the college counseling office for assistance.

poster with 3 small people in front of 1 taller person and the words: at-risk - identify students in mental distress - refer them to the campus counselling center

In the simulated 20 person class, 6 students have been flagged as potentially experiencing mental distress. As the instructor, your goal is to talk with each of those students and, if appropriate, refer them to the counseling center. You can review each student’s grades, behavior in the class, and appearance. You are told at the beginning that three of the six are at-risk, but you are not told which three. The training simulation lasts approximately 45 minutes. It is 2D web based and includes many lengthy narrated explanations before and after the interactivity.

At-Risk uses “conversation menus” organized by category to offer choices of what to say next. The animated student responds, choices of what the instructor says next are presented, and the simulation offers encouragement or criticism about the conversation choices.

I played through the free online demo of one of the six students. Wendy’s problems were exaggerated and extreme. She is a 4.0 student who is so nervous she comes in to talk about every assignment. Heart palpitations caused her to go to the health clinic, causing her to skip the class presentation. As I played through the simulation, I argued with myself about whether it is reasonable for professors to call a meeting with 4.0 students who are nervous about speaking in class, even if the student is very nervous. I made a note to myself to check whether my university counseling center still exists, after the latest round of budget cuts, and what services they offer.

I also found that experiencing the simulated conversation was helpful and informative, even though I was trying to figure out what the simulation expected me to choose. It was useful to choose and hear spoken exactly how to bring up the counseling center. If sending students there has a chance of helping them cope better with life and with school, that’s something I would be willing to do. And now I have a better sense of how it’s done. The simulation was more useful in convincing me of the importance of identifying mental health problems and in showing me how to refer people than reading a brochure would have been.

clip-art-like image of a class where students at risk are marked by a white triangle above their heads

I also naively expect socially useful serious games to be free. At-Risk is definitely not free. Licensing fees are way beyond what any individual faculty member would consider paying. I am not familiar with how universities prioritize nontrivial expenses like this for 45 minutes of online simulation, especially in times of deep budget cuts. The online free demo for one of the six students was informative and useful. Playing the other five conversations would not add five times more value — just playing one was enough to get the most important message: referring students is not hard to do and could help them a lot.

Serious game design needs to be accompanied by research to determine whether the serious goals have been met. Kognito has taken this important step. They are studying their own product and using the findings in marketing. And yet, product specific efficacy studies are not an expected domain for academic scientific research. The research findings offer a window onto desired and achieved impacts of the At-Risk simulation. I contacted the company for details about the sample size that I didn’t see online. They responded that 42 colleges and universities (who were not paying customers) were invited to use a trial subscription. The first 35 individuals who completed the training at each institution were automatically invited to complete an anonymous online survey. Respondents who were full time practicing psychologists were excluded from study results which, instead, focus on faculty and staff reactions. A total of 375 respondents are represented in the results. No response rate percentage is known.

Key findings from the Kognito.com online research report:

  • Over 80% reported that At-Risk increased their awareness that identifying and referring students is part of their job role and that At-Risk made them more likely to engage in identifying and referring at-risk students.
  • 87% of respondents indicated they were better prepared to identify, refer, and approach at-risk students, and 82% felt better prepared to help a suicidal student.
  • 99% of respondents said the simulated conversations were realistic representations of conversations they were likely to have with at-risk students.

If I had been a respondent, I would have answered the way the majority of respondents did, based only upon playing the demo.

For more information about the simulation see http://www.kognito.com/atrisk/

Needed – A Professional Approach to Teaching

adsit80By John Adsit
Staff Writer

I approach the subject of Rhee and the reactions of the teaching “profession” with a sadness bordering on despair for I enter a battlefield on which I have often fought. My few small victories pale in comparison with my many painful defeats.

I put “profession” in quotations because I am not sure teaching can be called a profession. In what other profession can its members practice with no training whatsoever, as happens frequently at the college level? In what other profession can its members start with basic training and learn nothing new over a 40 year career, as frequently happens at the K-12 level? If a doctor were to start bleeding patients rather than use the results of the latest medical research, he or she would be hauled before a medical tribunal, but in education ignoring research results is the norm.

adsitdec1508Nearly 20 years ago I was a highly regarded teacher. Although I was somewhat innovative, I used a largely traditional approach, imitating the best of those who had in turn taught me. All my graduate work was in my content area so I had little education training beyond my initial certification. One day I was sent to a workshop introducing a very different educational approach. Most of what I heard sounded perfectly wrong, and I was close to dismissing it.

I was intrigued by some points, though, that made me fear some of my practices might be harmful to student learning. I took some of the more interesting ideas back to my classroom and gave them a go. I first completely changed some of my favorite lessons into authentic learning projects, and I started experimenting with a mastery learning assessment process at the same time. (For more on the “mastery learning assessment process,” see my earlier article, “Old School Thinking Blocks Quality Online Science Classes.” In upcoming articles, I’ll delve deeper into these approaches.) The level of immediate success was shocking. I implemented one change after another and watched student achievement soar beyond my wildest dreams until I was a complete convert.

One year I had more students get top scores (5) on the AP exam than all the other AP teachers in the school combined had students pass (3). I also taught a remedial writing class, and its average score on the district writing assessment was higher than most of the regular classes. Despite objective measures of success, my colleagues angrily accused me of lowering standards because so many of my students were getting A’s and B’s! I was not teaching the right way, the way teaching had always been done.

When I was brought into the central administration to help teach these methodologies, I became an education literature junkie, learning many things that the general education community evidently does not wish to know. Longitudinal studies, for example, have shown that some teachers have significantly superior student achievement than their colleagues in the same school, year after year, and some teachers have consistently poorer student achievement, year after year. If an elementary student is blessed with three consecutive years of good teaching, his or her achievement scores will be about 50 percentile points higher than a student cursed by three consecutive years of poor teaching. The most effective and least effective methods of instruction have been identified. Processes by which whole schools can be turned from failure to success are known.

adsitdec1508bNone of this is a secret. All of the nation’s top theorists are largely in agreement. Outline the main concepts before a meeting of district curriculum leaders, and they, too, will nod in agreement.

But talk about it in a meeting at the school level, and you’ll be lucky to get out alive.

Only a few weeks ago I watched a school leader outline the steps her school would take to improve its miserable failure rate, and I saw the same failed ideas that have been used for decades. I asked if they were planning to investigate the latest research on successful schools, and she said no, they were sticking with “tried and true” methods.  I was reminded of how George Washington’s doctors bled about half of the total blood volume from the choking ex-president  (the tried and true cure) and refused to allow another doctor to perform a new procedure, the tracheotomy that might have saved his life[1].

Change can happen. Individual teachers can change instructional methods and vastly improve student achievement. Schools can adopt processes that have been proven successful. This will not happen, though, as long as the majority of educators stick with the “tried and true” methods that have brought us to where we are today. This will not happen until education becomes a true profession, with members who view the educational process as worthy of study in and of itself.

Green Computing: How to Reduce Our Personal Carbon Footprints

thompson80By John Thompson
Staff Writer
22 November 2008

“I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.” That quote sounds quite timely as President-elect Obama made “green energy” part of his vision for America’s future, including using clean energy as an engine to create millions of new “green collar” jobs. So over the course of the 2008 presidential campaign, the general public has heard about his vision for clean energy and should be primed for that issue to be addressed in his new administration. But apart from what government and business can and should do to address the energy situation, what can and should individuals do to support this initiative? Specifically, what can individual computer users do to reduce their personal carbon footprints?

However, it seems somewhat self-defeating to embark on new, costly initiatives to reduce energy costs without also first examining ways in which we can make cost saving adjustments on the personal level. With over 300 million people in the USA, if each person, or even each office or household, made a conscious effort to examine his or her own use of energy, it would seem that the multiplier effect of millions of small daily changes would yield significant results on a national scale. What are some changes that individuals can make to support green computing and reduce their technology carbon footprints? Let’s look at some ways to start making a difference by picking just a few low-hanging fruits.

thompson01Power management. Keep computers and printers turned off unless you’re using them. Or at least set computer and monitor power management controls to enter low power “sleep” mode when your system is not actively in use. And while a PC does use some power in sleep mode, it’s very small—maybe 10% of what’s needed when it’s running at full power. Also, cut down on the time a computer operates unattended before it goes into sleep mode. The US Department of Energy estimates that a PC wastes up to 400 kilowatt-hours of electricity a year just by functioning at full power even though it’s not being used. Dell reportedly has saved almost $2 million and avoided 11,000 tons of CO2 emissions in one year through a global power-management initiative that calls for its employees to say “nighty-night” daily to their PCs by changing the power management setup so their PCS enter sleep mode each night.

E-mail. Look at our use of e-mail, which continues to explode. Personally, a quick count shows that I have sent close to 400 personal and business-related e-mails this month, and there’s still a week left in the month. And that number is a small fraction of the hundreds that I receive each day and of the estimated several hundred billion sent daily worldwide. Use e-mail to minimize paper use, but don’t routinely print them. Add a message at the bottom of your e-mails requesting that recipients save paper by thinking twice before printing them off their screens. I’ve seen administrators who have their administrative assistants print out all e-mails so they can read and maybe reply to them. Suggest outsourcing your organization’s e-mail to Gmail as Google probably runs its data centers much more economically and greener than you do. And switching can generate cost savings and maybe increased e-mail features for users.

Online learning. By clicking to enter your course instead of driving to campus you do away with commuting and parking hassles while also eliminating your car exhaust emissions. A 2005 report on the environmental impact of providing higher education courses found, “on average, the production and provision of the distance learning courses consumed nearly 90% less energy and thompson02produced 85% fewer CO2 emissions” (p. 4). Online courses also typically reduce paper use since traditional classroom courses still use large amounts of paper (e.g., handouts). Unless your instructor assigns a textbook (many of the online courses I teach have not used a print text in years), everything is digital through e-mail or using the Internet. So if you have a choice between taking a college course in a traditional campus setting or accessing your course from work or home, consider the online choice. No campus presence equates to less energy use, but be sure to use the power management settings on your computer system and resist the temptation to print out all your online reading assignments.

All these suggestions sound doable to most folks. In addition, there are many other simple ways to reduce your personal energy use. But we aren’t talking about going totally “green” and parking your car and walking everywhere. We’re simply looking at ways you—the person reading this blog online right now—can start making a small but significant difference.

Then why are most of these simple strategies not being implemented? Why are computer users not seeking to achieve the TBL—triple bottom line (economic, environmental and social)—and save money, help protect the environment, and do what’s right for society? Is it strictly an “I didn’t know” reason, or are there other obvious and not so obvious reasons that individuals are not taking personal responsibility to reduce their own carbon footprints? Is this a nation (world?) of people with little awareness of these small yet effective changes or just plain lazy folks waiting for government and business to light the light and lead us to reduced energy consumption? What do you think?

Oh, that opening quotation? That’s from Thomas Edison—in 1931. One would hope that there is more progress on sustainable energy in the near future than in the past 77 years.  Don’t leave it up to government or your boss. Little things YOU can do can make a big difference. Making small, almost seemingly insignificant changes can yield huge cumulative results. Green computing is just a change of habit.