Toolkit helps colleges improve green credentials

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Teaching models in higher education are still not green enough, a study from The Open University (OU) has found, with institutions urged to look beyond greening campus buildings and teaching about sustainability in order to lower their carbon-based environmental impacts.

The SusTeach project run at the OU, and funded by Jisc, found that while there are some good sustainability programmes in operation in HE institutions, there is more that can be achieved by embracing online methods and using ICTs. The study examined the role of ICTs in higher education teaching models and their effect on carbon reduction.

The research project culminated in the design of the SusTeach toolkit – a resource available online offering tools and resources for lecturers, academic designers and students to help transform behaviour and make institutions greener.

The Open University is already embracing the use of ICT and online learning worldwide – through its existing teaching methods and new initiatives such as OU Anywhere and OpenLearn.

As well as adopting SusTeach findings to look at the design and delivery of teaching and learning on its full qualification programmes, the OU is widening the net to allow students to utilise a 'carbon calculator' and indeed the general public will be provided access to a study unit on sustainable learning via the OU’s award-winning OpenLearn website.

Andy Lane, professor of environmental systems at the OU and report co-author, said: 'The main source of carbon impacts in HE teaching is associated with travel to and from campus, residential energy consumption and the many campus site operations.

'We found that the use of online and ICT enhanced teaching delivery methods, as well as traditional distance teaching methods, reduced the above key areas of energy consumption and therefore achieved significant carbon reductions.'