March 19th, 2012

Where Can Green IT/IS Education and Training Be Found Today? An Initial Assessment of Sources

By Ellen England and Summer Bartczak

CASE STUDY

The push toward sustainability & “greening” in organizations is evident in the Federal government as well as within the private sector.  A more specific focus on “greening” information technology (IT) and information systems (IS) can also be seen. As might be expected, a corresponding increase in green jobs is also occurring with many of those jobs focused on IT.  The trouble with filling green jobs, IT or otherwise, is finding educated and qualified workers to fill them.  As a result, there is a growing demand for green computing education. As early research has indicated, however, the demand for green computing knowledge by those in industry is only slowly making its way to the academic world. A recent study by Sendall (2010) identified a surprising “lack” of green IT/IS/computing and/or sustainability curriculum initiatives in institutions of higher education.  With this knowledge as background, this research efforts attempts to identify, even so: Where can green computing education and/or training be found today?

Executive Order 13423, Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management and Executive Order 13514, Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy and Economic Performance, assign responsibility to federal agencies for increasing their environmental sustainability and contain green information technology (IT) and green information systems (IS)-related requirements (Obama, 2010; Bush, 2007).  These executive orders indicate a commitment by the federal government to green information technology and information systems.  Select business entities have also dedicated themselves to the greening of information technology and systems to reduce costs as well as market their sustainability goals (Fanning, 2009).  Techniques and methods for the greening of information technology and systems must be taught or communicated to current and upcoming workers in both government and business. Finding such education or training opportunities can be a challenge.  Sendall et al. (2010), for instance, indicate only a handful of educational institutions offer courses in green IT. Even though the development of green IT education and training curriculum within academia may be slower than expected given the obvious trends and business drivers, forward-leaning organizations are looking for ways to educate workers today. This research attempts to both fill a gap in the literature and address a practical need by providing an initial assessment of the variety of options that exist today.

Sustainability and Green IT/IS/Computing: The Connection

A cursory investigation of green IT reveals a broad spectrum of terminology and ideas associated with sustainability, green IT, green IS, and even the more general, green computing. Although this research has helped to highlight the potential differences, it is important to point out they are all connected.  In order to establish a proper context for our research, we attempted to define each and their relationship to each other.  Sustainability (or environmental sustainability) can be viewed as the highest order and most general concept where the focus is on the “capacity to endure” (Wikipedia, 2011; Sendall et al., 2010).  With regard to humans, it involves the long-term maintenance of well-being and encompasses the concept of stewardship and the responsible use of resources. With regard to ecology, it describes how biological systems remain diverse and productive over time (Wikipedia, 2011; Sendall et al., 2010). A narrower focus on green IT (or green computing) has to do with “the study and practice of designing, manufacturing, using, and disposing of computers, servers, and associated subsystems efficiently and effectively with minimal or no impact on the environment” (Murugesan, 2010, p. 4). Finally, green IS has emerged as an extension of green IT where information systems—seen as a broader,  integrated and cooperating set of people, processes, software, and information technologies—are used to support sustainable business processes ( Watson et al., 2010).  In executing this research, it was necessary to use all the terms—sustainability, green IT, green computing, and green IS—in order capture the broadest collection of sources and offerings possible.

 

Business Demands for Green IT/IS/Computing Education

Environmental sustainability is an increasing concern worldwide. It follows that businesses are becoming more concerned as well; some from a genuine concern about the environment, some from the viewpoint of being seen as socially responsible, some in response to governmental mandates, and some a combination of two or more (Watson et al., 2010; Greenbiz, 2011; Bonini et al., 2008). Regardless of motivation, however, the end result is an increasing demand for “green-educated” workers to match the predicted growth in green jobs (BLS, 2011). Because green IT/IS is a key element of corporate social responsibility and often a starting point for recognizable sustainability-related efforts, the increasing need for related education and training is now prescient. In a recent survey of CIOs by Ovum, it was found that green IT is becoming a business priority as it is “shedding its image as an optional investment that delivers only vague benefits” (Ascierto, 2011).  Academia has been slow to respond to the need for such education despite the recognition by key bodies such as the College Student Educators International (ACPA) and initiatives such as the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) that reflect sustainability education as vital (Sendall et al., 2010).

Green IT/IS/Computing Education and Training

Literature related to the “greening” of IT/IS is sparse and even less information is available on related curriculum.  Sendall et al. (2010) appears to provide the most comprehensive work on green IT/IS curriculum to date.  In that study, a green computing college minor was identified at 11% of schools surveyed and a college major was identified at 16% of schools contacted.  Three institutions were identified that offered green computing courses while only 17 institutions offered green computing contained within other course content.  No difference was found between the mean number of US and non-US countries offering green computing course content (Sendall et al., 2010).

Watson, Boudreau, and Chen (2010) encourage the Information Systems (IS) academic community to take action to engage in the development of environmentally sustainable business practices. In doing so, they provide a thorough overview of universities that offer business-related degrees with a sustainability focus. Even though one of the key arguments of the paper is that “green” topics should be incorporated into IS curriculum, there is no mention of where that education may currently exist today.

From the Computer Science (CS) academic community, some specific attempts to incorporate green IT/IS in the classroom have been described. Qian, Lo, and Yang (2010) report on the use a portable lab to instruct students in the benefits and importance of green computing.  Their teaching method for green computing involves hands-on projects using a portable wireless sensor network (WinBox).  Roodt (2010) found that introducing green computing content into undergraduate computer courses increased their awareness of sustainability issues, contributed to their personal adoption of green techniques, and contributed to their projected use of green technologies in their future work environments.  Finally, Yu (2010) examined three sustainability integration strategies and found that integrating sustainable information into curriculums contributed to students’ understanding of sustainability in computer applications.

METHODOLOGY

The method used in this research was a literature review and internet search combined with content analysis (Krippendorf, 2004).  Both academic and practitioner literature and course/class information was gathered using internet and library searches from July-September 2011.  Key phrases such as “green IT course”, “green IS class”, “green computing”, “sustainable IT training” and “green curriculum” were used as well as exploring references/links found using a comprehensive internet search.  “Green computing course” was by far the most productive of the search terms used during the internet search while “green information technology” was the most productive during the library search.  The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) site was also used to identify colleges and universities with significant sustainable initiatives.  Course catalogs from these schools were examined to identify green information technology courses.

RESULTS

A number of green IT/IS offerings were identified through the internet search.  Courses/classes containing all or substantial portions related to green IT/IS were targeted during the search.  Undoubtedly, there is green IT/IS content contained within other college classes.  However, only courses that appeared to contain substantial content related to green IT/IS were examined in this work.  Green IT/IS content was found in degree programs, college courses, certification/training classes, and workshops/conferences/forums.

Certification and training courses outnumber college course offerings, perhaps indicating the providers see green IT/IS education as an emerging profit-generating activity. Similarly, it also reflects an attempt to meet the immediate needs of businesses as they hastily attempt to incorporate sustainable practices into business operations as demanded by the market.  A surprising number of conferences and workshops also offer a green IT/IS focus. The content of these offerings seems to mirror the different views on green IT versus green IS. The analysis revealed that a majority of the content is focused on green IT (i.e., the greening of computer systems during their design, use, manufacture, and disposal); however, some content was found to address the broader goals of green IS (i.e., the use of information systems to further green technology pursuits). In the following four sections (degree programs, college courses, certificate programs, and workshops/conferences/ forums), the specific sources and their varying offerings are highlighted.

Degree Programs:

Only two institutions were found that offered degree programs in green computing.  The University of Bradford has a master’s degree in Sustainable Computing currently in development (University of Bradford, 2011).  Courses such as Sustainable Computing Technology, Critical Contexts, Computing for the Environment, Developments for Sustainable Computing, and Frameworks for Sustainable Computing are offered within the degree.

Leeds Metropolitan’s MsC in Green Computing is designed to investigate green information and communications technology (ICT), assess the environmental impact of ICT and look at how companies can streamline their systems, increase sustainability and save energy costs.  Research and design of practical systems that provide sustainable computing for the future is the focus. The MsC in Green Computing is a collaborative project that brings together academic and technical colleagues from across Leeds Metropolitan University (Leeds Metropolitan University, 2011).

College Courses:

Numerous colleges and universities were found that offer at least one green IT/IS course.  Colleges and universities both in the United States and in other countries were identified that offered green curriculum.  Course offerings included a focus on green IT as well as some for green IS.

The University of California at Berkeley extension office offers a survey course called Principles of Green IT for Sustainability.  The course covers green information technology concepts and examines green IT from economic, environmental, and corporate social responsibility perspectives, covers the basic vocabulary of the emerging green IT industry, explores key drivers of current green IT investments, and addresses the typical barriers and challenges CIOs and IT managers face with respect to “greening” operations (University of California Berkeley, 2011).

The University of the South Pacific, Fiji, offers Advances in ICT (course IS413) which provides a comprehensive view of the advances in Information and Communication Technology (ICT).  Advances in ICT can enhance business services for economic, ecological and social benefits using cloud computing and green computing (University of the South Pacific, 2011).

The University of Massachusetts offers Green Computing Seminar (course 691GC).  This seminar focuses both on the greening of computing—the design of green servers, storage and networks—as well as on computing for greening (i.e., the use of sensor networks and computing for estimating and reducing the carbon footprint of physical infrastructure such as buildings.) Related topics such as green energy and smart-grids, and their use in the computing context are also incorporated (University of Massachusetts, 2011).

Arizona State University offers Topics in Green Computing and Communication (course CSE 591/494) which covers the topics of cloud computing, social networking, mobile telephony, datacenters and energy efficient and environmentally friendly desktop computing among many other topics (Arizona State University, 2011).

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign offers Green Computing: A Cyber-Physical Problem which covers the building of more energy-efficient computing systems as well as applying computing technology that increases energy-efficiency of other physical systems. Initiatives from HP’s Green Business Technology and IBM’s Smarter Planet are discussed. A holistic coverage is given ranging from single device issues to algorithms for reducing power consumption of data centers, transportation systems, and smart buildings (University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, 2011).

Linkoping University (Sweden) offers Green Computing (course TDDD50) which provides basic knowledge about the impact of the ICT on the environment, metrics to measure it, and some computational techniques that can reduce its impact. Global ICT footprint, the life cycle of the ICT, data centers, networks, mobile devices and applications are discussed (Linkoping University, 2011).

The Australian National University offers Green Information Technology Strategies (course COMP7310) which teaches students how to reduce carbon emissions and improve organizational efficiency (Australian National University, 2011).

Boston University Metropolitan College offers Green Information Technology (course CS504) which empowers students to reduce the energy use, waste, and other environmental impacts of IT systems while reducing life cycle costs, thereby improving competitive advantage.  Students learn how to measure computer power usage, minimize power usage, procure sustainable hardware, design green data centers, recycle computer equipment, configure computers to minimize power, use virtualization to reduce the number of servers, and other green technologies. Students also learn how to make green IT an integral part of organizational culture and planning in order to foster long-term sustainable information technology (Boston University Metropolitan College, 2011).

University of California Santa Barbara offers Green Computing (course CS 290N) which examines green IT from a systems perspective and draws from multiple disciplines such as mechanical engineering, industrial ecology, and economics. Energy efficient system designs ranging from data centers to embedded devices are explored and Life Cycle Analysis is completed on some of these systems, evaluating the carbon footprint of manufacturing, use, and disposal of each design (University of California Santa Barbara, 2011).

Saint Xavier University, Chicago, IL offers Green Computing and Technology (course CMPSC 107) which focuses on understanding the significance of technology and its positive and negative impacts on the environment. This course explores the many possibilities to lower the carbon footprint associated with technology use. Topics include power consumption, e-waste, recycling, information technology environments, and green design and usage. Practical considerations such as developing the green computing scorecard or conducting green computing audits are part of the coursework requirements (Saint Xavier University, 2011).

Calderdale College, UK, offers Green Computing which offers learning in how to ensure the longevity of their home personal computers (PCs), printers and other hardware. Students also learn about new tools being introduced into the computing world to help minimize the impact of computing on the environment, including cloud computing, telecommuting, material recycling, terminal servers, and power management (Calderdale College, 2011).

Swarthmore College, PA offers Socially Responsible Computing  (course CS91) which explores how computers can be used to ease suffering, reduce poverty, empower women, improve the environment, or just make life better. Topics include the technologies for the developing world, the open source software movement, access technologies for people with disabilities, computer literacy and the digital divide, reusing and recycling computers, and green computing (Swarthmore, 2011).

Certificate Programs

Organizational entities not related to academic institutions were found to offer significant amounts of green IT/IS training and certification courses.  Industry groups and select vendors were found to offer short-term training ranging from several hours to several days in duration. These programs cover a broad range of topics relevant to green IT/IS. Again, certificate courses and certifications appear to be more prevalent than courses offered at colleges/universities.  This echoes the idea found in Sendall et al. (2010) that the engagement of most institutions of higher education in sustainability practices are more optimistic than systemic.

Plus Green IT, a UK consulting/training company, offers the Foundation Certification in Green IT course which is a three-day, classroom-based, instructor-led, non-technical training course that provides a formal introduction to the concepts, principles and practices of green IT policy. Successful completion of the course leads to the British Computer Society (BCS) Information Systems Examination Board (ISEB) Qualification of Green IT Foundation Certificate. Knowledge on how to develop Green IT policy, formulation of an action list to identify the organization’s Green IT requirements, and how to address those requirements is presented (Plus Green IT, 2011).

RAPIDSTART, a Singapore/Malaysia IT solutions and service provider, offers a Mastering Green IT certificate.  Certification at the Green IT Associate, Green IT Specialist, and Green IT Professional level is offered.  The Global Science and Technology Forum Certification on Green IT and Sustainability addresses all aspects of Green IT including the data center, the office environment, working practices, legislation, certification and energy supply (RAPIDSTART, 2011).

Gatlin International, an international e-learning provider, offers Green IT Certification – Information and Communications Technology for a Sustainable Future which is designed to prepare working professionals and university-level students to be sustainability leaders of the future. Students are educated on the basics of sustainability and technology. They are taught practical tools used in managing the rapidly growing eco-footprint of the ICT systems and educated on how to use ICT as an enabling tool to drive sustainable development (Gatlin International, 2011).

Unitek Education, a Northern California IT training company, offers a four-day, green IT boot camp at any requesting business facility. Unitek approaches its green IT education from the perspective cloud computing and what benefits it has to offer (Unitek, 2011).

Offered in collaboration by the University of British Columbia (UBC) Continuing Studies and the University of Washington Professional and Continuing Education, The Certificate in Green IT is a professional development program that provides a comprehensive understanding about the planning and implementation of a Green IT strategy.  Delivered 100% online, the three courses in the program cover green computing essentials, such as energy and carbon management, life cycle assessment, creating Green IT baselines and metrics, measuring the environmental and social impact of IT operations, and how to foster stakeholder engagement for transformative change (University of British Columbia, 2011; University of Washington, 2011 ).

BicneT eLearning, a web services and eBusiness solutions provider based in Mumbai, offers The Certificate Course in Green IT which introduces the concepts of green IT, the reasons an organization should go green, different ways to go green and the advantages of going green. After completion of the course, successful participants should be able to implement energy saving measures that can reduce energy consumption of an IT infrastructure by up to 95% (BicneT eLearning, 2011).

The Australian Computer Society offers a Green Technology Strategies class as an elective in its Computer Professional Education Program.  The focus of the course is the study and practice of using computers and telecommunications in a way which maximizes positive environmental benefit and minimizes the negative impact.  The outcomes of this course include the ability to estimate the carbon footprint of the information communications technology (ICT) operations of an organization and asses ways to reduce the carbon footprint of an organization by changes to polices for procurement of ICT, changes to the ICT operations, and revising business processes (Australian Computer Society, 2011).

Tonex, a Texas-based education and training consulting service, offers a Capacity Planning Bootcamp that contains information on green computing.  Green capacity planning is explored and case studies on green data centers are analyzed (Tonex, 2011).

IT Governance Ltd, a UK-based company focused on the IT governance needs of today’s organizations, offers three courses: Accounting for Carbon, ISEB Foundation Certificate in Green IT, and the Green Personal Assistant/Office Manager. All three of these training courses are designed to help in achieving a mindshift by providing practical advice and guidance on the most cost-effective steps any organization can take to become greener, improve efficiency, save money and become more attractive to customers, partners and staff (IT Governance, 2011).

QA, a UK-based training company, has partnered with the British Computing Society’s Information Systems Examination Board (ISEB) to provide the ISEB Foundation Certificate in Green IT. In completing this certificate, delegates learn how to assist their organization in understanding the impact of Green IT regulations, legislation and policy, baseline their organization’s current Green IT credentials, advise the organization how to move forward in delivering greener IT, identify the political, environmental, social and legal drivers for Green IT, and understand the practicalities of energy efficiencies while learning to explain the business benefits of adopting a Green IT strategy (QA, 2011).

The Green Computing Initiative (GCI), with member offices around the world, act as the steward of the Eco-Friendly Green Computing Definition (EFGCD) and is the industry and community-acknowledged organization that is energetically involved in community building, education and public advocacy to promote awareness and the important significance of green computing across the globe. GCI is the owner and creator of the Certified Green Computing Professional, Certified Green Computing Architect and Green Computing User Specialist programs which are currently offered worldwide through a network of authorized training partners (Green Computing Initiative, 2011).

NetAssist, a Singapore-based advanced IT training and professional certification provider, offers three courses: Implementing, Maintaining and Optimizing Green Computing Technologies, Strategizing, Designing, and Optimizing Green Computing Technologies and Understanding and Utilizing Green Computing Technologies as part of a certification package (Net Assist, 2011).

Penn State Abington offers a green IT certification course for the business professional which will be offered through the Workforce Development office.  The nine-module course covers the definition of green computing, recognizes environmental leadership in the IT industry, advocates stimulation of green competition, raises business/professional/consumer awareness of green computing benefits and gives ideas on how to transform the IT field/process (Penn State, 2011).

Totuba/DBond IT Consulting, China’s first provider of green IT training, offers How ITIL Helps You to Green Your IT Department.  This certification is accredited by eco-net China and enables IT managers to develop creative solutions for lowering energy costs by applying the ITIL methodology. It is targeted at beginning IT professionals/students (Totuba/DBond IT Consulting, 2011).

Freescale, a global leader in embedded processing solutions focused on green innovations, offers a one-hour free course called Green Computing in Networking Applications. The need for going green in the computing space and the challenges of green computing are covered in the course.  Energy efficiency market drivers, opportunities from a networking equipment perspective, and current and future technology implementations are covered (Freescale, 2011).

NTUC LearningHub, a Singapore-based training company, offers The Singapore Certified Green IT Professional. This course provides participants with a basic understanding of green IT. The method used is a framework where existing IT techniques and skills can be employed, classified, and measured in the context of green IT in a practical way (NTUC Learning Hub, 2011).

Workshops/Conferences/Forums:

Conferences and workshops likely harbor the most current of information on green IT and provide a method for more quickly sharing that information.  GreenIT 2011, in its second year, is sponsored by Global Science and Technology Forum (GSTF) International Journal on Computing.  Green IT 20XX is a yearly conference that includes presentations on algorithmic efficiency, resource allocation, product longevity, virtualization, power management, materials recycling, and telecommuting (IT Event, 2011;GSTF, 2011).

A Special Interest Group of the Association for Information Systems on Green (SIGGreen), whose focus is to further the development of new applications of technology that support environmentally sustainable outcomes,  also started an annual workshop in 2010 on green IT (SIGGreen, 2011). The goal of the first workshop was to build a community of green IS researchers in the most effective and environmentally sustainable way.

Finally, The Green Grid, a non-profit, open-industry consortium of end-users, policy-makers, technology providers, facility architects, and utility companies collaborating to improve the resource efficiency of data centers and business computing ecosystems, offers a variety of on-line and classroom technical forums to include metrics and decisions on related business and sustainability issues and provided new technical content, training, and discussions on industry trends (Green Grid, 2011).

A summary of the sources for green IT/IS education and/or training content is provided in Table 1 on the following page.

Table 1.  Sources & Green IT/IS Education & Training Content Offered 

Source DegreeProgram Certification/Training Class College Course Workshop/Conference/Forum
Arizona State University x
Australian Computer Society x
Australian National University x
BicneT E-Learning x
Boston University Metropolitan College x
Calderdale College, UK x
Freescale x
Gatlin International x
Green Computing Initiative x
Green Grid x
Global Sci Tech Forum x
IT Governance Ltd x
Leeds Metropolitan University, UK x x
Linkoping University, Sweden x
NetAssist x
NTUC LearningHub x
Penn State – Abington x
Plus GreenIT x
RapidStart x
QA X
Saint Xavier University, IL x
SIGGreen x
Swarthmore, PA x
Tonex x
Totuba/DBond IT Consulting x
Unitek Education x
University of Bradford, UK x x
University of British Columbia1 x x
University of California – Berkley x
University of California – Santa Barbara x
University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign x
University of Massachusetts -Amherst
University of the South Pacific, Fiji x
University of Washington1 x x

1 Certification program offered jointly

LIMITATIONS

Although this research offers a starting point for finding a variety of sources for green IT/IS education and training, the nature of the methodology is such that all sources may not have been identified despite best efforts. It is possible that the use of different search terms and even different search engines may have provided “returns” beyond those presented. Additionally, this paper does not address the quality of the source offerings which is likely to span a considerable range. Finally, as the source content descriptions were pulled directly from web searches, there is a possibility that the content may not be delivered “as advertised” once the education and/or training begins.

CONCLUSIONS

This research confirms the findings of Sendall et al. (2010) in that very few institutions of higher education were found to have Green IT/IS degree programs.  On a more positive note, however, the increased number of college course offerings is encouraging & evident of an increasing attention to the need for sustainability/green IT/IS education and training. Most notably, is the availability of vendor provided education, training and certification. This availability echoes a growing business need that is not being met by more traditional education. Additionally, the fact that the vendors are found across the globe is also a strong reminder that sustainability, in general, is a global vs. local problem.  A final, interesting observation, is that many of the sources offer their education and/or training in completely on-line formats.

McDonough and Braungart (2002) call for the transformation of human industry through ecologically intelligent design.  Information systems are an integral part of these manufacturing and service industries and require forward thinking to reduce environmental impact throughout their entire life cycle.  Education of the designers, manufacturers, and users of these information systems is critical and begins with the availability of college courses and degrees as well as continuing education and educational certification programs. This research marks a first step in matching varying green IT/IS education and training needs with an overview of potential sources.

 

 

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