Going Green in a Paperless Classroom
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Going Green in a Paperless Classroom Vesta R. Whisler Abstract: An instrumental case study examines perceptions of a professor and students in four university classes where the printing of course documents was drastically reduced. The initial purpose for implementing a nearly paperless classroom was to assist with cost- reduction efforts during an economic downturn that had institutions scrambling for ways to serve students with fewer budget dollars available. Based on student perceptions, “going green” in the classroom was a worthwhile effort when related to saving natural resources, helping the university in general, and helping students. The professor observed no significant difference in outcomes when comparing final grade averages of the “going green” classes to final grade averages in the same classes taught previously. The professor did note that it took more time to grade typing and writing assignments electronically; however software saved the professor time in other areas. Recommendations for implementing “going green” efforts in the classroom are included. About the author: Dr. Vesta R. Whisler is an assistant professor at Valdosta State University. She is the coordinator of the Online Bachelor Completion Option of the Office Administration and Technology Degree Program and co-director of the Valdosta State University Center for Economic Education. Keywords: paperless classroom, going green, instructional technology, hybrid courses
Introduction outcomes from courses taught prior to the “going green” effort. Budget cuts on a university campus call for extreme measures from all The Problem constituents. Hiring freezes, furlough days, super-sized classes, reduced or eliminated To control printing costs beginning professional travel, and even trimmed down with the 2008/2009 academic year, the campus maintenance top the list of University installed ID card readers on strategies incorporated by one regional printers in its open computer labs. Each university (the University). Supply and student was allowed a $12.50 print credit per expense budget cuts have filtered down to semester before being charged for printing at departments, creating an environment of “current print rates”. At the time of the innovative cost-cutting initiatives by staff study, the current print rate was $.05 for and faculty. This study addresses an effort black and white 8-1/2 by 11 single-sided by one professor to reduce costs and help the printing, or 250 printed pages for the $12.50 environment at the same time. credit (Information Technology, 2008). After determining that normal paper Printers in classroom labs used for this study usage for her four university classes could do not require students to swipe their cards exceed 42 reams of paper for one semester, as long they are in class, which means they the professor decided to take immediate can print during class without charge, with action to reduce printing costs for both the department paying for the printing. students and faculty. This study examines Savvy students have learned that they can the perceptions of the professor and her print for free in certain classrooms, so they students in four university classes where the save up their printing (even for other printing of course documents was drastically classes) for the times when they have access reduced. Such a study works from a to these “print-for-free” labs. This increases substantive theoretical base using an the print costs for the department. instrumental case study approach, in that (1) Table 1 displays estimates of the setting is restricted and limited in scope, printing that might be done by 88 students in (2) the case is secondary to the issue of four classes during one semester. Students paperless classrooms, and (3) evidence can are often observed printing homework in the be found in the literature to support the classroom labs, where the printing does not question about the effects on students and count against their print credits. The four faculty of going paperless in a classroom classes studied were word processing and (Baxter & Jack, 2008; Camp, 2001). communications classes, all of which are The professor gathered data to learn homework intensive. The total estimate of about the effects that going paperless had on student-printed pages for the semester students, the professor, and the department equals 14,784 (nearly 30 reams of paper), as a whole. Students volunteered their for a cost to the department of $739.20 perceptions at the end of the semester, and (Table 1). With 14 full-time professors in the professor contributed her observations as the department, printing costs for student- well, including a comparison of student printed pages could reach $10,000 each semester.
Reprints when Lecture homework PowerPoints 3 Homework was not pages per wk 6 pages per right the x 16 wks wk x 16 wks first time Totals Total enrollment in four classes n=88 Pages per document for 16 wk semester 48 96 24 168 Pages per document x 88 (enrollment) 4,224 8,448 2,112 14,784 Current print rate $0.05* Total cost at current print rate $739.20 *Price set by IT Table 1. Estimate of Printing by Students in Four Classes during One Semester The data in Table 2 roughly estimate the pages per week in a 16-week semester number of printed copies generated by the equals 4,224 more printed pages. The total professor in four classes with a total estimate of pages printed by the instructor enrollment of 88 students. The syllabus alone adds up to 6,336 pages, or nearly 13 (course outline and tentative assignment reams of paper. At current print rates using a schedule) for each class averages 8 pages fast-speed copier in the University Copy per student, or 704 printed pages, handed Center, the cost of this printing is estimated out the first day of class. Each of four exams at $126.72. With 14 full-time professors in might approximate four pages, for another this particular department, the estimated cost 1,408 pages printed for the semester. A totals $1,774.08 per semester. conservative estimate of handouts at three Hand-outs Exams (4 (3 pp. per pp. per week for Syllabi exam) 16 wks) Totals Total enrollment in four classes 88 Pages per document 8 16 48 72 Current print rate $0.02 Pages per document x total students 704 1408 4224 6336 $ Total cost at current print rate 126.72 Table 2. Estimate of Printing by One Professor for Four Classes during One Semester Based on these estimates, the students and full-time faculty. These figures department could spend over $11,000 a are conservative estimates, as they do not semester just for the printing generated by include printing done in classes taught by
part-time or contract faculty, and they do not been implemented at all educational levels include other departmental printing costs. around the country for several years. These estimates illustrate only the monetary The U. S. Navy has taught operation considerations of printing. While budgetary and maintenance procedures in paperless issues may have precipitated an attempt to classrooms since the mid-1990s, touting an reduce printing in classroom labs, this study estimated annual savings of $2.4 million for addresses other impacts such action might submarine training (Jurgens, 2000). In have on students, faculty, and the addition to the cost savings, Jurgens reports department. After a brief literature review that learning was enhanced through the use that explores “going green” efforts on other of automated review modules and campuses and a description of the study simulations: population and methods, the results of this Since 1994, Sailors have been professor‟s paperless classroom labs are "graduating" 30-35 percent faster shared. from the most advanced electronic classrooms than they did previously Literature Review from paper-based courses-primarily because they are acquiring the “Going green” efforts are becoming necessary knowledge and skills for more prevalent on many campuses. The their operation and maintenance Career and Technology Education Center tasks not only more quickly, but also (C-TEC) of Licking County, in Newark, with greater proficiency and Ohio, opened in 2006 as the first public comprehension (p. 40). building in Ohio to be certified as “green” According to Brown (1994), Duke (Krall, 2009). The construction of C-TEC University used PowerBook computers and included fumeless paint, chairs made of wireless networks in engineering classrooms recycled products, waterless urinals, and as early as 1994. Jadali, in 1999, wrote technology to monitor classroom air about his paperless experience in university- quality—all designed for three main level Industrial Technology courses in purposes: (1) long-term financial and energy Arkansas, where he provided his savings, (2) healthier environment, and (3) presentations, exams, feedback, and grades environmental stewardship (p. 31). Most online. At that time, students were still institutions have no funds to go completely saving the electronic files to floppy disks. green, as C-TEC did, but many have Jadali focused his study on (a) benefits for investigated ways to reduce the use of students (increased interest, constant access natural resources. In a list of suggested to content, and instant access to feedback), methods for reducing greenhouse emissions, and (b) benefits for faculty (less manual Sungard Higher Education asked its IT grading, more efficient recordkeeping). The department to initiate such tactics as time saved by the use of electronic grading installing power conservation software, and recordkeeping software allowed Jadala replacing monitors with lower-energy LCD more time for prep, research, and student screens, eliminating desktop printing, and interaction. implementing pay-to-print programs In 2001, Waskowitz piloted a laptop (Schaffhauser, 2009). program in a seventh grade English class. A review of the literature shows that The students retrieved, analyzed, and edited “going green” in the form of paperless documents on laptops. Based on the classrooms is not a totally new idea—it has program, Waskowitz observed that the
ability to make literature more relevant disadvantages, so he plans to continue the through Internet searches outweighed any practice. technical glitches his students encountered. From the published literature, it is As students wrote about a topic, they had apparent from the wide variety of instant access to online information related institutions (the U.S. Navy, large research to it, allowing them to make immediate universities, and middle schools) that the connections to people and places. interest in “going green” is widespread. The In a 2006 blog post, Indiana levels of participation in the effort vary, as University Services Development Specialist some, like C-TEC have invested large sums C. Marc Wagner believes “It‟s time for the of money to turn entire campuses green, „paperless‟ university,” based on financial while others are taking smaller steps within implications as well as the longevity their realms of influence to reduce the use of provided by digital media. Wagner states, paper in the classroom. . . . over it‟s (sic) lifetime a $2,000 printer will consume $40,000 in The Study paper and toner. One has to ask… How many textbooks could be This study relates to the smaller steps digitized and placed on a central taken to “go green” in the classroom, by server for that same $40,000? And, examining the perceptions of one professor how many more students could be and her students in four university classes served by that information where the printing of course documents was compared to those who will be practically eliminated. This section served by the output of that $2,000 addresses the research question, nature of printer? Add to that the fact that the study, background, and research once digitized, the contents of those methods. textbooks is not lost through wear and tear and the advantages become Research Question clear. (n.p.) Kupetz (2008) teaches his graduate- Based on student and faculty level “Managing Technology” course in perceptions, how will the elimination of Florida with an (almost totally) paperless printing in university classrooms impact format. His goal was not to totally eliminate students, faculty, and the department? paper, but rather “to take advantage of technologies that truly help cut print costs, Nature of the Study ease distribution of materials, and facilitate learning” (p. 36). Students purchase the The research took place in the online version of the textbook and use context of an existing program where the laptops in the classroom for accessing professor delivered all four courses to content, recording notes, and taking exams. university students. Based on the literature Kupetz reports that while going paperless reviewed, the idea of going paperless has cut costs and allowed added flexibility, been studied in various contexts, which some students still printed out the online shows that the particular context is not as textbook because they did not like reading it important as the wider concept of paperless online. Based on his experience, Kupetz classrooms, making this an instrumental believes that the advantages outweigh the case study rather than an intrinsic case study (Stake, 1995). Such a study works from a
substantive theoretical base using an PowerPoint. The Word and Excel files were instrumental case study approach, in that (a) converted to .pdf format using the free .pdf the setting is restricted and limited in scope, converter downloaded from Microsoft for (b) the case is secondary to the issue of Office 2007 (Figure 2). paperless classrooms, and (c) evidence can be found in the literature to support the Document Software question about the effects on students and Syllabi Word 2007 converted to .pdf faculty of going paperless in a classroom and uploaded to WebCT (Baxter & Jack, 2008; Camp, 2001). Content Participants were undergraduate Lectures PowerPoint or Word 2007 university students enrolled in four classes uploaded directly to WebCT in one department. The researcher, by acting Content as the professor for the four courses, took Assignments Word 2007 copied and on the role of participant observer. Yin pasted into Content or (2009) describes a “participant observer” as Assignments. someone who has “the ability to perceive Hand-outs Word or Excel 2007 reality from the viewpoint of someone uploaded directly to WebCT „inside‟ the case study rather than external to Content it” (p. 112). Exams ExamView exported to WebCT Vista Exam Feature Background Table 3. Documents Provided Online for Students All four of the classes studied were semester-long 2000- and 3000-level classes For the keyboarding classes, software from delivered in university classrooms equipped the textbook publishers was installed on the with computers connected to the Internet. networks. Students in the Beginning The professor delivered one class as a Keyboarding classes used Keyboarding Pro hybrid section, meeting two days out of the Deluxe (Keypro) (South-Western three in the classroom and one day online. Educational Publishing, 2008), and students The other three classes were traditional, in the Intermediate Keyboarding class used face-to-face sections. A teaching station in Gregg College Keyboarding & Document each classroom includes the capability to Processing (GDP) (Ober, Johnson,& project the teacher‟s computer monitor on a Kimmerly, 2006). large screen. Three of the classes were The professor involved students in Keyboarding (beginning and intermediate) the “going green” effort Day 1 of each class. and one was Communication in the They were oriented to WebCT with Workplace. Total student enrollment in the demonstrations of where to find the syllabus four classes was 88. and presentations on the first day of class, The professor utilized WebCT Vista and they practiced downloading the as the course management system for all documents to their own media (USB drives) four courses. She constructed a learning for viewing offline at their convenience. module for each course every week, where They also practiced using “Show Windows all documents normally printed were instead Side by Side” command in the Windows uploaded to the appropriate course sections Taskbar for viewing two documents on the in WebCT. Most documents were created screen at the same time to eliminate the need using Microsoft Word, Excel, or for printing or moving back and forth
between screens to see the electronic WebCT. Most exams involved multiple- versions of documents. choice and true-false questions, scored In the keyboarding courses, students automatically by the testing software in accessed the keyboarding software that WebCT. In the Communication in the accompanied their textbooks. Following the Workplace class, the professor graded short lecture and demonstration of specific essay questions online with feedback keyed content via the overhead projection device, in and returned to students via the WebCT students were able to complete lessons testing software. In the keyboarding courses, electronically. The software saved practice the professor administered production tests drills, timed writings, and documents where the students completed documents automatically to the network; and it using Microsoft Word 2007. The department evaluated speed and accuracy, providing keeps sets of jump drives that can be students with immediate feedback and distributed to students for saving their individualized practice drills. documents during exams, where the In addition to walking around the documents can be viewed and marked up for classroom to observe students, the instructor grading. could access each student‟s online portfolio provided by the software for further Research Methods evaluation and feedback. Students in both keyboarding courses also had access to a At the end of the semester, students publisher Web site with additional resources in the four classes were asked to voluntarily such as online interactive tutorials, games, complete a short survey about their “going and quizzes. green” experience. The survey consisted of Students in the Communication in ten questions administered through Survey the Workplace class received access to the Monkey (2008), a Web site that allows users Guffey Premium Website (GPW) with the to compose brief surveys at no cost. Several purchase of a new textbook (or purchased it questions provided an area for comments. separately online if they had a used The professor emailed all students through textbook) (Guffey, 2008). In addition to the WebCT during the last instructional week of content posted by the instructor in WebCT, the semester, and asked them to offer their students could access many learning anonymous opinions of their experiences opportunities provided at the GPW, with “going green”. A live link to the including online interactive tutorials, games, survey, which directed students to the quizzes, grammar/mechanics review, and Survey Monkey Web site, was embedded in online documents for editing. During that message. Responses were collected on interactive PowerPoint lectures, students the Web site without any identifying completed application exercises in small information, where the professor could groups using Microsoft Word 2007, with retrieve the results. In addition to the their documents uploaded to a student- surveys, the professor observed students in access drive on the network. Their work all four classes, and she noted changes in her could then be displayed to the class using own behavior based on the paperless the computer projector, which allowed for experience. discussion and immediate feedback from classmates and the professor. The professor administered objective exams in all four classes online through
Percent Findings Answer Choices Frequency (%) Very important 14 61 The findings include a combination Important 6 26 of (a) student perceptions from the Somewhat anonymous surveys and (b) participant important 2 9 observations of the professor. Not important at all 1 4 Student Perceptions Total 23 100 Table 6. Importance of going green Of the 88 students in the four classes, 23 voluntarily responded to the survey (26 Question 4 of the survey asked, percent). Most of the respondents were ”How important is it for the university to upperclassmen (Table 4). implement „going green‟ efforts to help minimize the use of natural resources?”. Of Percent the 23 responses (Table 6), 87 percent Class Frequency (%) responded with “Important” (26 percent) or Freshman 1 4 “Very Important” (61 percent). Sophomore 1 4 Most respondents (83 percent) felt Junior 9 39 that the university benefitted from the “going green” effort in this class. When Senior 12 52 asked about the impact going green had on Total 23 100 them as students, 86 percent responded Table 4. Respondents by Class positively (68 percent marked “helped” and 18 percent responded that it “mostly helped, Table 5 illustrates the breakdown of but hurt in some ways too”). respondents by college majors. For a Most respondents (83%) recommend majority of the respondents (52 percent), the that other professors adopt a “going green” course they were currently enrolled in was policy, based on this experience. the first course ever taken in this The survey asked students if they department. printed the syllabus for this class, or if they pulled it up on the screen when they needed Percent to use it. Of the 43 percent who printed the Majors Frequency (%) syllabus, 30% reported that they found Business 22 themselves retrieving it to the screen when Administration 5 they needed to use it, rather than referring to Dental Hygiene 3 13 the printed copy. Early Childhood 1 4 To the final question asked, “Did General Studies 2 9 „going green‟ in this class save you Nursing 1 4 money?”, 57 percent responded positively Office Administration 39 and 43 percent responded negatively. & Technology 9 Comments made by students focused mainly Speech 9 on the high cost of textbooks. Communication 2 Total 23 100 Table 5. Respondents by Major
Professor Observations sections of the three classes (Fall, 2006 through Summer 2008), the mean score was As a participant observer, this 82 percent. The average final grade for all professor recorded several issues related to a students in the “going green” classes (Fall, paperless classroom, the most notable of 2008) was 81 percent. which was the amount of time devoted to the preparation of electronic documents for Limitations posting in WebCT, as well as electronic grading and feedback required for the The sample size for the study was courses. The nature of the classes relatively small (88 students) and all (keyboarding and communication) requires a students were in courses taught by the same lot of hands-on practice by the students that professor. In addition, only 26 percent of the requires formative feedback from the students responded to the survey. The two professor. classrooms where these classes met had Although software in the printers where there was no need for keyboarding classes reported speed and students to swipe their ID cards to print, so typographical errors to the students, there is they would not have been charged for still a need for the professor to monitor and printing in these classes even without the provide feedback related to document “going green” effort in place. The four formats. Annotations need to be keyed into classes studied were homework intensive the documents, which are then returned to courses—other courses that require less students electronically. This professor printing may not see the same amount of estimates that the time grading documents cost reduction by eliminating paper. The electronically for format was roughly four “going green” effort was limited only to times that of grading by hand, which is one printing done by the faculty and students, reason that she broke from the paperless and did not take into account the use of classroom idea, and chose to have students printed textbooks or other printing done by print their production test results instead of the department. saving them electronically to the departmental USB drives. Conclusions No grading software was used in the communication class for writing The initial purpose for implementing assignments, so those assignments were all a paperless classroom was to assist with reviewed online in WebCT, with feedback cost-reduction efforts during an economic returned to students online as well. The downturn that has most institutions textbook‟s web site provided online chapter searching for ways to continue to serve quizzes and interactive grammar/mechanics students with fewer budget dollars available. tutorials that students were able to complete This professor agrees with Jadali‟s (1999) without the professor‟s intervention. These research, that students appeared to have all provided students with instant feedback. benefitted from 24/7 access to content and The software graded the students‟ objective instant feedback from software-driven tests, with immediate feedback provided to activities, and the professor benefitted from them; however, the professor evaluated the less manual delivery and grading of those essay test questions. activities. Although preparing documents for When this professor averaged the WebCT was time intensive, those grades for all students in all previous documents can be migrated from semester to
semester, saving time when the course runs discovered. The extent of going paperless in again. the classroom depends on the resources that Based on student perceptions, “going teachers and students have available to green” is a worthwhile effort when related to them. Because the courses studied were saving natural resources, helping the taught in computer labs, students had access university in general, and helping students. to computers and the Internet during class. They seemed to value the idea of saving This is certainly not the case in many paper, and they enjoyed the convenience of classes, but the following recommendations submitting work from anywhere. Students take that into account. without computers and Internet at home felt Teachers can research the publisher‟s they were at a disadvantage, since they had Web sites to see what online ancillaries are to come to the campus to complete and available for their textbooks. Many, such as submit their work. the Guffey Premium Website used in the The professor observed no Workplace Communication course in this significant difference in outcomes when study, provide online instructor manuals, comparing final grade averages of the test banks, presentations, suggested syllabi, “going green” classes to final grade averages videos, and other resources. Free site in the same classes taught previously. licenses for instructional and assessment The professor did note that it took more time software are often available with the to grade typing and writing assignments adoption of textbooks. electronically; however software that Many institutions provide a secure provided students with immediate feedback course management system, such as Angel, through error checking, online interactive Blackboard, WebCT, or Moodle (which is tutorials, and online quizzes saved the free) where teachers can post lectures, professor time in other areas. assignments, presentations, exams, In agreement with Kupetz (2008), feedback, grades, and much more (Jadali, who teaches his graduate-level “Managing 1999). Free Web space is available with Technology” course in Florida as an (almost most Internet Service Providers, where totally) paperless format, this professor sees documents can be posted. Some schools are how the practice that students gain in turning to Googledocs or Live@edu as a managing electronic communication in free space to share documents. paperless courses will help them adjust to The most impact will occur in communication trends they will find in the classrooms where students have constant work force. This professor intends to access to computers, such as in the situation continue to strive to reduce paper in the of Waskowitz (2001), who was able to classroom, but the experiment with going procure a classroom set of wireless laptops. totally paperless brought forth the With today‟s mobile technology, cell phones realization that the increased time required and iPods could be put to use for accessing to grade some assignments online was a online resources—instead of being banned heavy price to pay for “going green”. from the classroom. During class, these students could use digitized textbooks Recommendations (Wagner, 2006; Kupetz, 2008), take advantage of automated review modules and Through the literature review and the simulations (Jurgens, 2000), access textbook case study of “going green” in a university companion Web sites (Guffey, 2008; Ober, classroom, several ways to save paper were 2006), find related content through online
libraries and search engines, take online computers. Schools might consider leaving assessments, collaborate on classroom computer labs open before or after school PowerPoint presentations, and check for for students to use, possibly asking parent feedback and grades. volunteers to staff them. A classroom without computers or mobile devices can still make steps toward Future Research becoming paperless. The teacher can use a computer and projector, Smartboard, Elmo A similar study on a broader scale document camera, or even an overhead should be administered to provide more projector with acetates to share documents generalizable results. Data need to be and worksheets. Clickers, or classroom collected to determine printing costs response systems, are becoming popular at currently incurred by faculty and students, to universities, especially with super-sized be used as a baseline before implementing classrooms. They can be used during paperless classrooms so that actual cost lectures to poll the students for comparisons can be made. Professors in all understanding, and some can even be used departments could be surveyed to determine to replace Scantron tests. how many have already implemented At the postsecondary level, students paperless classrooms, and how many need have access to institutional computer labs assistance in implementing paperless and libraries where they could access the strategies across campuses. Both faculty and previously mentioned resources as student perceptions should be gathered, and homework assignments. K-12 students student learning outcomes should be might be guided to Boys & Girls Clubs or carefully tracked. Public Libraries of they don‟t have home Referencee Baxter, P. and Jack, S. (2008). Qualitative research. Journal of Vocational case study methodology: Study Education Research, (26)1. design and implementation for Retrieved September 14, 2009, from novice researchers. The Qualitative http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/JV Report, (13)4. Retrieved September ER/v26n1/camp.html 14, 2009, from http://www.nova.edu/ssss/QR/QR13- Guffey, M. E. (2008). Communication in the 4/baxter.pdf Workplace: Process and Product. South-Western Cengage Learning. Brown, J. (1994, May). Duke U. goes paperless. Computer Reseller News Information Technology, Valdosta State (580). p. 71. Retrieved November 2, University (2008). Campus print 2008, from ProQuest: ISSN solution. Retrieved November 2, 08938377. 2008, from http://www.valdosta.edu/it/labprintin Camp, W. G. (2001). Formulating and g/index.shtml evaluating theoretical frameworks for career and technical education
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