January 6, 2014, by Helen Whitehead

MOOCs are themselves sustainable

As we launch our ‘Sustainability, Society and You’ MOOC today through FutureLearn, it is heartening to think that the course itself is sustainable! Online learning, such as in MOOCs, is itself eco-friendly as evidenced in recent studies conducted by the Open University in the UK. Researchers found that distance learning courses consume 90% less energy than traditional courses.  Distance learning courses can be print-based but if they are elearning there are further small energy and emissions reductions.  The amount of CO2 emissions (per student) is also reduced by up to 85%.


Roy, Robin; Potter, Stephen and Yarrow, Karen (2004). Towards sustainable higher education: environmental impacts of conventional campus, print-based and electronic/open learning systems. In: Murphy, D; Carr, R; Taylor, J. and Wong, T.M eds. Distance Education & Technology: Issues and Practice. Hong Kong: Open University of Hong Kong Press, pp. 129–145. http://oro.open.ac.uk/6816/ [abstract only, but with useful links to other documents: accessed 3rd January 2014)

Roy, Robin; Potter, Stephen, Yarrow, Karen and Smith, Mark (March 2005). Towards Sustainable Higher Education: environmental impacts of campus-based and distance higher education systems. Report, The Design Innovation Group. http://www3.open.ac.uk/events/3/2005331_47403_o1.pdf  [accessed 3rd January 2014]

Posted in MOOCSustainability