Best Practice Criteria for Sustainable E-Learning

An exploratory workshop examining the sustainability of e-learning from economic, pedagogic and environmental perspectives.


  1. Overview

  2. Participants heard three short presentations discussing the issues associated with economic, pedagogic and environmental best practice within e-learning, each of which suggested a series of criteria for best practice.  The presentations were followed by roundtable discussions allowing participants to evaluate and refine these criteria.  This summary provides an overview of the issues raised by these presentations.
  3. Best Practice for Sustainable e-Learning Workshop
    Best Practice for Sustainable e-Learning Workshop
  4. JISC and Best Practice E-Learning

  5. Rob Bristow provided an overview of the JISC Greening ICT programme and some of the projects that JISC is currently funding in this area.  
  6. Bristow outlined the different strands that projects fall into, including growing a knowledge base, technical innovation and work with estates departments.  
  7. Bristow also described the work of specific projects, including the Procurement and Scope 3 Emissions work at De Montfort, which is examining the issue of embedded carbon.
  8. Economic Best Practice Criteria

  9. Best Practice for Sustainable e-Learning Workshop
    Best Practice for Sustainable e-Learning Workshop
  10. Andrew Lane, Professor of Environmental Systems at the Open University and the Director of the SusTeach project provided us with a brief introduction to the SusTeach project, before examining the economic factors effecting the sustainability of e-learning in more detail and proposing his draft criteria for best practice in this area.
  11. Lane discussed relevant costs and how these balance against the revenue streams available to institutions.  He observed that the economics are diverse and wide ranging, including the physical infrastructure costs, the cost of proving the content, and the support and utility costs, balanced against revenue from grants fees and other sources.
  12. Lane focused particularly on the changes wrought by the emergence of e-learning resources, and the new models this has brought about.  He described the OU's approach to oping with the costs associated with the demand for high quality e-learning resources, which involves a large student body using those resources over several years to help recoup the high upfront costs of developing the materials.
  13. As this last tweet indicates, it is not just e-learning which demands digital educational resources.  Lane discussed the emergence of open educational resources (OERs) and the role that they may play in changing the economic models of learning.
  14. Examples of the freemium model include the OU's Open Learn service, which makes some materials available for free but requires students to sign up on a course to learn more, and the Flatworld Knowledge project in the US, which uses a freemium model to reduce text book costs within the system.
  15. Lane concluded by outlining his suggested criteria to help establish economic best practice in e-learning, based on these observations.

    Suggested Criteria:

    * Use similar staff:student ratios to scale up teaching and support to student module/course populations

    * Use asynchronous communications technology to reduce the costs of meeting at the same time and place

    * Use open source software wherever possible to reduce purchase costs for HEIs and students alike

    * Collaborate on the development of educational resources to share some of the costs

    * Use high value (e.g. rich media) open educational resources wherever possible to save on direct and indirect costs

    * Use HE wide digital collections of open educational content
  16. Hear Andy Lane reflect on the main issues raised by the workshop in his own words...
  17. Reflections on issues raised by workshop - Andy Lane
  18. Pedagogic Best Practice Criteria