Aside from the environmental sense, sustainability can be looked at through a variety of different lenses. It’s important we future proof the resources we create, as it can save time, money and effort in the long run. Here are some of the considerations you might want to take into account:
Scale and Time
How scalable can you make the resource? With a few minor tweaks, can your online resource be shared across multiple subject areas or even institutions?
Similarly, time is a key consideration. Staff need to be given adequate time to develop their own resources. Try to get a group of your colleagues together to test and review the resources too. This way, you’ll identify any errors and have an idea how long it might take a learner to complete the activity.
It is thought that learner-centred resources can be more sustainable and relevant to learners. Think about creating a resource where the knowledge comes directly from the learners. Such an activity can be repeated year after year with new results every time.
If you are interested in the environmental impact that educational technology has on the planet, I’d recommend reading this article from Selwyn (2018). Whilst I am very pro edtech, I do think it is important we are aware of our environmental footprint. At the very least, we should consider how we can reduce unnecessary energy or hardware use.
In Wales, Jisc are currently working in partnership with a number of FE Colleges to produce a toolkit on sustainable IT infrastructure practices. The project will look at the lifecycle, distribution and management of devices, including procurement and other practices that could maximise return on investment in end-user devices.
Ease of Access
Have you tested the accessibility of the tool? Jisc offer some practical guidance on the steps you can take to meet accessibility regulations.
How easy is it to access the resource you have created? Ideally, learners will just have to click on the resource to gain instant access. Try to avoid using sites where learners have to sign up and give their data to another company.
One of the first things I do when I am experimenting with a new online tool is to check out the ‘pricing’ page. Some tools such as Mentimeter and Padlet are what can be classed as ‘freemium’, where you receive a small amount of access for free, but if you require more you will have to pay.
Something to be wary of is a lot of start-up educational companies will initially offer free unlimited access to their tool for the first year or so, then change their pricing model. Similarly, some companies offered their services for free at the height of the pandemic but have now reverted to their old pricing model. It’s always worth asking your colleagues if they have used the tool before and what their experiences were. Sites such as Edtech Impact also allow you to compare different technologies on factors such as affordability.
What about Open Educational Resources (OERs)?
If you’ve decided to search the web to see what’s available as an OER instead, Daniel (2002) suggests taking the 4 As into account:
- How accessible is the resource? From an accessibility and an ease-of-use perspective.
- What are the accreditations of the online resource? Has it been developed from a trustworthy source? Do learners get any benefits such as online badges for engaging with it?
- Is it appropriate for your learners? Has it been designed for a particular qualification/ level? Does it allow for differentiation for learners at different levels? Culture is something to consider here too, a resource developed in another country may not always suit the context of UK learners.
- Affordability: by definition, open educational resources should be free to access, but you might want to consider the digital divide amongst students. For example, can this resource only be accessed with a laptop and not a mobile phone? In the recent Jisc students insights survey, 14% of FE learners lacked access to a laptop or PC.
For a full set of questions to consider, take a look at our sustainability checklist.