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What Learning Innovation Has to Do With Electric Cars, Solar Panels, E-Bikes, and Batteries

Clean energy and institutional differentiation.

July 19, 2018
 
 

My new favorite website is https://electrek.co/.  The site’s about page reads: "Electrek is a news site tracking the transition from fossil fuel transportation to electric and the surrounding clean ecosystems."

Why this fascination with all things electric? Why can’t I get enough Tesla news, even though the chances that I’ll ever buy one of their cars is slim to none? How come I want to read about every new advance in solar panels and home battery storage, even though I have neither?

You tell me. Are you also obsessed (or at least highly interested) in the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy? Do you dream about never buying another car powered by gasoline and an internal combustion engine?  Do you find yourselves in conversations with those brave enough to have installed solar panels, calculating scenarios where it may make sense at your house? Do you get incredibly excited when new solar panels go up on building on your campus?

My hypothesis is that higher ed people have an above average probability of being electricity nerds and clean energy geeks.

In particular, I’d wager that anyone involved in learning innovation is also likely to have an active fantasy life involving electric cars, power-assisted bikes, and rooftop solar panels connected to building-sized batteries.

Under “learning innovation people”, I’m counting anyone who works in online, low-residency or blended learning. I’m thinking of instructional designers and educational technologists. Learning professionals connected to centers for teaching and learning (CTLs), academic computing units, and innovation labs. Academics who consume and contribute to the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL). Librarians who are advancing learning by re-inventing the academic library. Faculty who are in the process of evolving their teaching to align with the research on learning.

Anyone who is working to build new structures, incentives, and cultures to move higher education towards a learner-centric environment.

Basically, I’m guessing that if you are totally in to active and experiential learning - and if you are excited about how higher education is changing to advance student learning - then you will also be excited about electric cars, solar panels, e-bikes, and batteries.

If I’m right, and if academics committed to learning innovation are also renewable / portable energy enthusiast, then there may be some implications for higher education.

One way that colleges can differentiate themselves from each other is by demonstrating leadership in energy.

If I were running a university, I’d be very aggressively putting solar panels on every roof, and batteries in every basement. Not only would I be pushing the switch to clean energy, I’d be marketing my school as existing in the future.

What else? How possible would it be to move towards having all university owned vehicles be battery powered? There seem to be real savings in maintenance and fuel costs with battery powered vehicles, at least in the long run. (And higher education is built for the long run). Again, I’d market the heck out of a switch to electric vehicles.

How about battery powered lawn mowers?  Not only are they sustainable, they are quiet. Who has not been driven crazy by the sound of a lawn mower outside the classroom in which they were teaching, or the office where they were trying to do research?  Plus, electric lawn mowers are just cool.

Shuttle busses. Every campus seems to own shuttle busses.  These should all be battery powered. Or hydrogen powered.

Too expensive you say?

I’m not sure. The marketing and branding power of going electric has got to be worth an awful lot.

There is something about transitioning to electric that signals a willingness to be an early adopter. To think globally.  To take seriously the threat of climate change, and to make the investments necessary to be a good global citizen.

I wouldn’t be surprised if a school that prioritizes renewable energy also prioritizes learning innovation.

Do you dream about electric cars and solar panels?

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