*** NOTE ***
By Karen Herland
Biology chair James Grant insists that his department’s attempts to reduce paper use are “fairly modest.”
“All course outlines are on Moodle,” Grant said. “The computer age does help.”
The decision to move all outlines to the course management system Moodle was made at the end of the 2006-07 academic year. He said that more and more professors are encouraging students to submit assignments via Moodle as well.
Student work goes directly to the professor or teaching assistant responsible for marking. Comments can be integrated using track changes and returned to the students electronically. Reducing per-course paper use multiplied by the number of students multiplied by the number of assignments all starts to add up.
“Part of the impetus is that the budgets are not high. This is a situation where budgets and environmental priorities go together,” Grant said.
But the department is not just reducing course-related paper use. Candidates for posted positions are encouraged to apply electronically. “Last year we had 80 applicants apply for two positions.” Each application included the standard CV, publications, teaching evaluations and letters of reference. Usually, departments provide all members of hiring committees with complete application dossiers for each candidate.
Instead, the 20 or so applications that weren’t electronic were scanned and committee members received CDs of the relevant applications. Besides the paper reduction, committee members benefited by only having a single disc to carry around instead of stacks of heavy files. There is currently discussion of handling performance reviews the same way.
If paper must be used, double-sided copying is encouraged.
Many of these changes are not official, and a lot is left to the discretion of individual professors. Some are concerned that in high-stress situations like exams, students won’t think to turn double-sided copies over, and might miss exam questions or instructions. At the other extreme, some professors are offering their entire courses electronically.