Thursday, October 23, 2008

e-Learning Course on Green IT Strategies: Part 1 Where to start

David Lindley, Academic Principal of ACS Education, has asked me to write a "Green IT Strategies" subject for the Computer Professional Education Program (CPE Program). The subject would look at issues of sustainability and energy efficiency of ICT systems. This will be part of the masters-level program offered online by the Australian Computer Society (ACS) for graduate ICT professionals. This is the first of a series of postings about the progress of developing such a course. I would welcome comments and suggestions on how to go about this and what should be in the course.

Open Access for e-Learning and Blended Learning

The ACS has agreed that the course content will be freely available for use by others. My aim is, after the course has been tried out via e-learning by the ACS, to then run it in flexible "blended" mode at the Australian National University, where, as an Adjunct Seior Lecturer, I teach web design, ICT ethics, and e-commerce technology.

The ACS course is pure electronic learning: that is the students do the course via the Internet (although they are encouraged to get together in study groups). The ANU version would use the same materials, but also include face-to-face learning with some presentations, tutorials and other exercises in a computer equipped classroom. It is my view that the e-learning materials should be usable in a classroom in "blended" mode with no changes. I have some experience in this, having run two short courses for public servants, using e-learning technology in a computer equipped classroom; see: "How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving (parts 1 to 15)".


The licence I am intending to use for the course material is the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Australia License. This will allow the material to be modified, reused and sold, provided the original author is acknowledged and the versions produced are also available for reuse. But I would welcome comments and suggestions about licensing.

It should be noted that even were the course content is available, this doesn't necessarily allow a student to complete a course or obtain a qualification. The ACS, ANU and other organisations running courses provide additional assistance to the student apart from the course materials (particularly help with tutorials and assignments). Bodies providing a qualification, such as conducting an assessment or examination, also charge for that service, even where the course materials are available free.

In terms of the mechanics of the process, the ACS course will be delivered with their ACS Education Moodle based Learning Management System. I have used this system and my own Tomw Communications company Moodle system. The ANU currently uses Web CT, but is transitioning to a new system in 2009. There is now a reasonable level of compatibility between such systems and I am assuming that I can develop a system using Moodle and then port it to whatever the ANU selects, in the second half of 2009.

What is Green ICT?

My first task is to provide a description of the course, including learning objectives. This is made much more difficult, as there is, as far as I know, no set "Body of Knowledge" for sustainable ICT. Next month I am speaking on "Educating ICT Professionals on Energy Efficiency" at the Symposium on Sustainability of the Internet and ICT, University of Melbourne. My hope is that some of the other speakers and delegates will have some suggestions.

The Natural Edge Project, an Australian based independent Sustainability Think-Tank, has produced a series of five one hour lectures in their Sustainable IT Lecture Series. One TAFE is also preparing a course on sustainable ICT. The problem is to get a high level view of what would be relevant to an ICT professional and then what technical detail is needed.

In the last year I have looked at sustainable ICT. As founder of the ACS Green ICT Group, I have looked particularly at energy use issues. The ANU were good enough to buy me a Zonbu green computer and an Eee PC, to try out. More recently the Federal Environment Department commissioned a Personal Computer and Monitors Energy Efficiency Strategy. As a result I am reasonably aware of the issues. The problem is how to select what is important and set it down systematically.

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