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Friday, February 11, 2011

Reuse, reduce - reduce!

Can faculty use less paper to free up resources for other areas?

This term, I am serving on a team that is tasked with validating program review documents for all administrative units on our campus. Yes, it's a lot of reading and meetings, etc., thank you very much. But it's also an opportunity to stumble upon information that comes as a big surprise. For me, one of those was data that DVC still makes 1.5 Million (!) copies per month (!) in the Central Services area alone. That means, those are numbers that do not include the individual copy machines all across campus.

Central Services mostly serves faculty. So, just to play with the number some, let's assume all 1.5 Million copies are destined for students' use. Since we have about 20,000 students, that is 75 copies for each and every students each and every month. There is something really wrong with that.

Yes, at the beginning of the semester we provide syllabi, and that's still important, I believe, to provide in hard copy since that's the contract between students and teacher. Assuming that the average syllabus is 10 pages, and that the average student takes 3 classes (both are high numbers), that total is 30 pages at the time of highest student use of copied paper.

Where do the copies go? I really have no idea. During the last couple of years, as we were struggling to come out from under the accreditation commisssion's long shadow (and we did!), lots of time and effort and resources have been spent on creating a productivity model for DVC's instructional units. Funding will be tied to productivity numbers; new hiring will be tied to productivity numbers; growth will be tied... you get the idea.

Can we tie our use of copied paper to productivity? Can we encourage faculty to ask and answer the question of productivity (to themselves) before we make copies? I certainly will from now on.

Also, I am starting an experiment. I will post more of my handouts to WebCT, and ask the students to review them before the next class. Instead of asking them to print it - at a community college, we will encounter students who find the cost of printing their own copies a considerable challenge to their budget - I ask them to write down questions they have about it. No hard copies required. At least for project assignments and other homework, this has worked in my four f2f classes without a glitch.

This will only work as long as we can keep computer labs and libraries open, of course. But maybe we can use some of the saved money from the copies to fund those services.