The Environmental Benefits of E-Learning

Damian HehirBenefits, e-learning, Environmental

The Environmental Benefits of E-Learning

Decisions on training development and delivery strategies often focus on the business benefits – benefits such as reduced costs, better results, and improved return on investment. However, there is another category of benefits that doesn’t get the same level of attention: the environmental benefits of e-learning.

As organisations across all sectors work to minimise their environmental impact, it is worthwhile exploring how e-learning can help.

Reduction in Carbon Footprint

The main environmental advantage of e-learning compared to classroom-based instructor-led training is that e-learning has a lower carbon footprint. We can look to studies in the educational sector to see the potential scale of carbon reduction that e-learning can deliver.

For example, The Open University in the UK published research comparing the environmental impact of campus-based courses and online courses. The study found that online courses had 85 percent lower CO2 emissions than those conducted on campus.

How much of a CO2 reduction you will achieve with e-learning will depend on your organisation. It’s also important to take into account the CO2 emissions that come from the requirement in e-learning to use a computer/phone and the internet. Even with these considerations, however, using e-learning for the delivery of your training courses can help to reduce your carbon footprint.

Reduced Travel

One of the main ways that e-learning can reduce the carbon footprint of your organisation is because there is less travel involved. In fact, there is usually no travel requirement with e-learning, even in the course development process.

With classroom-based training, on the other hand, employees typically have to travel to attend, particularly if you have a remote workforce or teams based in different locations. Even when the most environmentally friendly travel options are used, there is still an environmental impact.

This point is even more important if air travel is involved.

Of course, there are significant cost benefits that come from limiting the need for trainers and/or learners to travel, but the environmental benefits are an important consideration too.

Reduced Energy Consumption

Reducing energy consumption is a priority for companies around the world, including in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Using e-learning to deliver training to your employees can help with this goal.

Less energy is needed for e-learning because of the reduction in travel, as mentioned above.

Training centres also require energy to run, whether the training is conducted at your location or in a third-party training centre. With e-learning, training centres are not required, so less energy is used.

Eliminates the Need for Paper

Paper is a common feature of classroom-based training as learners receive informational handouts, activity sheets, quizzes, etc. With e-learning, however, the use of paper is eliminated as everything can be done on the screen, from providing information to conducting activities and quizzes.

This elimination of paper helps reduce the environmental impact of the paper industry, including the impact of deforestation and the energy used to produce and recycle paper.

Helps Achieve Sustainability Goals

E-learning can also help you achieve your sustainability goals. The importance of this point should not be underestimated, as sustainability is becoming a higher priority in companies across all industries.

There are many drivers for this increased focus on sustainability. For many leaders, making their organisations more sustainable is the right thing to do. Customers are also more environmentally aware, so they take into account environmental issues when making purchasing decisions. This doesn’t just apply to consumers, either, as sustainability is also a factor in many B2B purchasing processes.

Sustainability is also an increasingly important consideration for employees, as most people want to work for organisations that have values that are aligned with their own. By improving sustainability in your company, you can increase its appeal to employees.

There can also be compliance drivers for improving sustainability, as governments across the MENA region and further afield continue to implement sustainability targets and goals. Using e-learning as a training delivery strategy in your organisation can help with this important compliance area.

Online Learning in General

E-learning is one method of delivering training to your staff online, but there are others that also offer environmental benefits.

This includes virtual instructor-led training, where instructors deliver training remotely rather than in a physical classroom.

Blended learning also has environmental benefits compared to fully classroom-based training. With blended learning, parts of the course are delivered using e-learning modules, while other parts are instructor led. The instructor-led elements can be in-person or virtual. The latter is better from an environmental perspective, but there are still environmental benefits when the instructor-led element is in-person.

The E-Learning Contribution to a More Sustainable Future

Effective training strategies usually include a variety of training delivery methods – e-learning, on-the-job training, mentoring, instructor-led training, etc. By choosing e-learning whenever it is an appropriate option for the training course you are developing, you can help reduce the environmental impact of your business operations.