Sloan-C’s Virtual Attendance Option: Real or an Afterthought?

encountersIntroduction: The 15th annual Sloan-C Conference on Online Learning will be adding a new virtual attendance option to its October 28-30 event in Orlando, Florida. Hmmm. Will this online “addition” be anything to write home about? Or is it just an afterthought, a pale reflection of the “real” conference? -Jim S

John SenerJohn Sener, ETC writer, on 15 Oct. 2009, 3:54 am:

Sloan-C’s virtual conference option at its San Fran event in June was very well received by its participants. It’s certainly not intended as an afterthought; Sloan-C is very consciously and deliberately moving into this space of virtual conferences, which is driven in part by the high cost of travel and the budget crunch.

Whether or not it’s a pale reflection of the “real” conference depends on one’s perspective about virtual vs. f2f events, I suppose. Recently I’ve been hearing ads by British Airways touting the necessity of f2f contact to conduct business effectively. I interpret that as meaning that virtual meetings must be starting to cut into their business if they feel the need to counterattack the trend in their ads…

claude40Claude Almansi, ETC editor, accessibility issues and site accessibility facilitator, on 15 Oct. 2009, 5:08 am:

I agree with John Sener. Based on participating in 2 virtual conferences recently:

1. Oct. 3: about digital natives, both real-life in Lugano and online.

positive: brilliant moderator for the online part, quick in accepting chat messages, good at drawing speakers’ attention to them (they were all a bit too old and above all set in their ways to know how to multitask between their in-presence do and reading the chat)

negative: the do was only transmitted in streaming video, and at too high a definition, meaning that the moderator kept sending messages: “If the streaming stops, reload the page.”

2. today: work meeting between folks in Lugano, Luzern, Zurich, Brig and Geneva. Real virtual conference, say like Elluminate but as Web app, so no java applets to install.

positive: again, the moderator was good (though there was no connection to be made with a real-life meeting as there was none, and we were all used to video conference softwares, so her job was easier)

positive: the software allowed folks to indicate their connection type (hence speed), and actually everybody used just written chat and audio (not video)

positive: nice whiteboard for slides etc: much better than having them filmed onscreen in a video streaming

negatives: none

So based on these 2 recent experiences (and some older ones) I’d say that when offering an interactive conference both in real life and on the web, success depends on

  • having a separate moderator for the online part
  • using a real online conferencing software rather than just video-streaming the live event + a text chat.

thompson40John Thompson, ETC editor, green computing, on 15 Oct. 2009, 5:12 am:

A growing number of heretofore F2F ed tech conferences (e.g., TCEA, FETC) are now including a virtual attendance component. I suppose it provides another way to reach out to the ed tech community, and perhaps can be seen as a marketing tool, especially when the virtual conference is free. It also attracts attendees who might not otherwise have participated and provides another revenue stream for conferences, many of which are seeing the effects of the strained economy.

Having F2F conferences offer a virtual choice is similar to print media also offering an online edition. And there you’re seeing a gradual shift to online editions being more like the print edition, not “pale” versions. USA Today has recently initiated a free electronic edition for subscribers that is exactly like the print edition, plus add a reduced size Saturday electronic edition to subscribers. The NY Times and Chronicle of Higher Education are two other print pubs that now offer electronic versions to subscribers that are exactly like the print editions.

Interesting to see Sloan-C charging a registration fee for its virtual component, albeit at a significantly reduced level from the F2F conference registration fee. These are changing times for long time institutions such as print pubs and F2F conferences, and those times are exacerbated by the current difficult economic situation. At the very least, Sloan-C needs to be congratulated for taking the initiative.

Disclaimer – I’m presenting at the Sloan-C conference this month.

Green Computing – Clippings from the Web

thompson80By John Thompson
Editor, Green Computing

Green computing. Green IT. Whatever you call it, it still means the same thing – doing what you can to reduce the carbon footprint associated with technology use, whether using technology at home or on the office desk or in the IT department’s lair.

Here are a few snippets from recent Web sites, blogs, etc. Click on the associated link to finish reading “the rest of the story” (as Paul Harvey would say).

Green Computing – Laptop Only Offices

There are ways to go green in IT that might not be obvious. Some businesses may have already made the change to laptops for reasons other than portability and a traveling workforce. Laptops are power savers, and saving power is a green goal. Let’s look at how laptops can help you go green.

MIS 1 Assignment4: Green Campus Computing

The growing use of computers on campus has caused a dramatic increase in energy consumption, putting negative pressure on CU’s budget and the environment. Each year more and more computers are purchased and put to use, but it’s not just the number of computers that is driving energy consumption upward. The way that we use computers also adds to the increasing energy burden.

Seven Design Considerations for a Green Data Centre

greenexpresIT depart­ments are under increas­ing scrutiny and pres­sure to deliver environmentally‐sound solu­tions. Large data cen­tres are one of the most sig­nif­i­cant energy con­sumers in an organisation’s IT infra­strucure so any mea­sures that can be taken to reduce this con­sump­tion (and there­fore also car­bon diox­ide emis­sions) will have a pos­i­tive impact on an organisation’s envi­ron­men­tal foot­print.

Green Campus Computing

Green computing is the study and practice of using computing resources efficiently. The primary objective of such a program is to account for the triple bottom line, an expanded spectrum of values and criteria for measuring organizational (and societal) success. The goals are similar to green chemistry: reduce the use of hazardous materials, maximize energy efficiency during the product’s lifetime, and promote recyclability or biodegradability of defunct products and factory waste.

Google banks on data centre with no chillers

Google has taken a radical new approach when it comes to cooling data centres. The search giant has opened a unique data centre in Belgium that has no backup chillers installed but, instead, relies totally upon free air cooling to keep its servers cool.

The Sustainability Potential of Cloud Computing: Smarter Design

If you listen to venture capitalists and tech gurus, cloud computing is “the new dot-com,” the “biggest shift in computing in two decades” or even the “Cambrian explosion” of the technology era. Among its other heavenly attributes, the cloud is being touted for its ability to address the enormous need for energy efficiency of IT’s own footprint.

Greening the Internet: How Much CO2 Does This Article Produce?

Twenty milligrams – that’s the average amount of carbon emissions generated from the time it took you to read the first two words of this article. Now, depending on how quickly you read, around 80, perhaps even 100 milligrams of CO2 have been released. And in the several minutes it will take you to get to the end of this story, the number of milligrams of greenhouse gas emitted could be several thousand, if not more.

Sustainable Desktop Computing

To achieve a sustained reduction in energy consumption associated with desktop computers we recommend groups across the collegiate university to work through these five steps:

Step 1: Estimate. First estimate how much electricity your desktop computing infrastructure will consume if computers are (a) left on all the time or (b) switched off at the end of the day.

Step 2: Research. Many groups within the university and around the world have implemented projects to reduce IT-related greenhouse gas emissions and costs. OUCS is working with these groups to write up a variety of approaches in the form of case studies.

Step 3: Implement. There are many tools you can implement to reduce IT-related electricity consumption. How you achieve this within your group will depend on the needs and skills of your users, and the hardware and software infrastructure you own.

Step 4: Communicate. You will need to encourage as many people as possible to “do their bit.” Behavioural change is likely to be a significant and critical part of any initiative that aims to improve environmental performance.

Step 5: Share. In step two we suggest you read about the work of other groups. In this last step we encourage you to share your experiences by documenting your approach in the form of a case study.


Happy reading “the rest of the story.” Where/how did I find this material? Using Tweetdeck, I set up Twitter searches on “green computing” and “green IT,” although almost all the URLs were found in the “green computing” (without using quotation marks) search. Using “green it” (with and without quotation marks) yielded mostly junk results. There was redundancy in the resulting tweets as people send retweets of the same information, plus there were soft/hard sells for related products. But you also find such information as cited above. You also might want to view my archived “Webinar, Blueprint for Green Computing,” found at the inaugural Virtual FOSE show’s site, It is a free registration.

Besides all this material, I hope that the resulting comments to this blog posting will contain more such green computing sites chockfull of more good information.

Thoughts on the Green Computing Summit

thompson80By John Thompson
Editor, Green Computing

The conference, held in Washington, DC, on December 2-3, 2008, presented “incremental approaches to the greening of agency operations, within the bounds of government procurement, budget and regulatory requirements.” There were two tracks for participants – Track 1: Greening Federal Operations and Track 2: Virtualization – For the Data Center and Beyond. (Click here for the presentations.)

green_computing_summitMy panel presentation – “How Green Are Your Operations?” – was the first offering in track one. The other panelists included Juan Lopez from the Office of the Federal Environmental Executive, Dr. Ed Piñero from Rochester Institute of Technology, and Rob Pinkerton from Adobe Systems. A copy of my prepared remarks should be available at the conference presentations site shortly. The ensuing keynote was done by Dr. Daniel Esty, who is the Hillhouse Professor of Environmental Law and Policy at Yale University and the author of “Green to Gold.”

Day two started with another keynote, “Environmental Design and Energy Efficiency for Federal Facilities: An Executive Perspective,” by Kevin Kampschroer, Acting Director, Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings, Public Buildings Service, General Services Administration. He offered his insights into how to build green, energy efficient buildings. I spoke with him afterwards (and got his business card) as my college, Buffalo State College, is constructing a new science building and after that a new technology building. My department will be moved into the latter. I hope that these two pending structures will incorporate energy efficient designs. As pointed out by Kampschroer, energy saving design does not have to increase building cost. When asked how you can push for green design without being obnoxious about it, Kampschroer quickly advocated being obnoxious, if that’s what it takes. Unfortunately, I could not stay for day two’s concluding luncheon keynote as I had to go to the airport for my flight back to Buffalo.

Here are some selected notes from the keynotes, presentations, and table conversations:

  • The federal government prefers using “electronic stewardship” over “green computing.”
  • The federal government spends $60B (as in Billion) annually on electronics, making it the biggest IT user in the world.
  • There is an increased pressure for e-cycling at “end of life” for electronic equipment. Just discarding old tech stuff does not cut it any longer. One federal government program – Computers for Learning – directs excessed computers and related peripheral equipment (e.g., printers) from federal agencies be made available free to schools. All the necessary information is available at its Web site.
  • PC users can save $75-100 per PC per year using power management techniques on their desktop computers.
  • The green wave is not cresting. It’s more like a tsunami.
  • There is an underlying logic to eco-computing: save energy, reduce costs.
  • A lot of acronyms (a lot of federal employee presenters and participants in the audience) and green phrases like “carbon constrained future” were bandied around.
  • There is a price for inaction on green computing. Doing nothing can cost more than action.
  • There is a need for more efficient servers for IT.
  • Cool equipment, not rooms, in your IT operations.
  • Prioritize – what’s strategic, ROI (return on investment).
  • Kaizen – in chaos lies opportunities.
  • Government’s role is to incentivize, not control.
  • thompson28dec08Telework (aka telecommuting) agreement does not necessarily mean employees never go into the office. Barriers to telework include perceived loss of control (cannot manage who you cannot see), security, and negative impressions of past efforts.
  • Videoconferencing reduces pollution, speeds up decision making through increased communications, aids in recruiting and retaining employees, reduces travel costs and increases productivity, and enables real time face-to-face communication with remote employees.
  • Measure, measure, measure (e.g., energy costs, carbon emissions). What gets measured gets done. Conduct baseline of energy use with an energy audit. Implement your green initiatives. Measure again. Repeat.
  • Environmental Protection Agency has an energy savings calculator.
  • Green buildings:
    • Placing lights as close as possible to work sites reduces the amount of light needed.
    • Install waterless urinals.
    • Wireless sensors provide more local user control.
    • Install a green roof.
    • Challenge assumptions and “business as usual.” As the old saying goes, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got.”
    • Possible to put up buildings that achieve 50% reduction in energy needs with no additional capital expense.
    • Giving users control for lighting leads to less light used.
    • Use LED lights (less energy, less maintenance).
  • US government has approximately 445,000 buildings with three billion square feet (and leases another 57,000 building with 374 million square feet).
  • Paper represents 37% of trash that is thrown out. One ton of recycled paper equals one acre of trees.
  • Successful program needs supportive leadership.
  • The Business of Green.
  • Greenbuild International Conference and Expo.

When I got back home, I put all this in a report to those who subsidized my travel to DC. I explained that the Green Computing Summit was a very worthwhile experience. We’ll have to see what changes on my campus as a result. But I’m going to talk with my department to start making some changes (e.g., use less paper, PC power management). Every journey of a thousand miles . . .

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.