Environmental Benefits of Computer-Based Testing

April 12, 2016 KRISTEN HICKS

Higher education is known for being progressive. Universities and colleges are often incubators for forward-thinking ideas—places where professors and students help move the bar forward on social, economic, and environmental issues.

So why do schools still use so much paper?

Specific numbers on how much paper a university uses vary among institutions. To give one example of what college paper use can look like, Clark University calculated that it used 100 cases of printer paper every month from 2000-2005, which equals about 720 trees. And that’s only the printer paper. Things such as napkins and toilet paper increase the amount of paper used considerably (although they’re harder to cut down on).

Why Environmental Initiatives in Colleges Matter

Clark University calculated those numbers as part of an initiative to reduce paper usage on its campus. Many colleges have implemented similar initiatives, sometimes as part of a broader effort to reduce the negative influence their campuses have on the environment.

The effects of climate change are starting to show, and even earlier and harsher than many scientists expected. While the power that individual people and institutions have to curb those effects is limited, that’s no reason to continue to contribute to the problem any more than necessary. And paper use does make a big contribution, both in the form of deforestation and in emissions made during the production of the paper.

If students already own a tablet or computer (which the vast majority of students do), then using that instead of paper for any school-related purposes will net a positive impact on the environment.

How Computer-Based Testing Helps

Many schools still use paper for testing, which can require reams of paper just for one course throughout the semester. If a professor has a class of 100 people, typically has tests that require two to three pages of paper, and gives those tests multiple times each semester, think of how all that adds up.

Computer-based testing, on the other hand, allows students to use the same resource over and over to take each test, using an item most of them already have. The process of creating tablets and computers isn’t neutral in terms of its environmental effects, but by using the same device for every test over several years (devices also likely used for textbooks, note-taking, and paper writing as well), the comparison quickly shows computer-based testing to be the better environmental choice.

As an added bonus, using less paper means less spending. When you add up the costs of paper, ink, Scantrons, and the time it takes to do the printing and collating, it’s very likely you’ll end up saving money, possibly even in the thousands, by switching to computer-based testing.

Computer-based testing is just one part of the larger equation, but it can make a big difference. Every tree that remains alive and well in its native environment soaks up some of that carbon our atmosphere has too much of and helps keep local ecosystems running as they should. If doing your part to keep a few more trees alive also saves money and time, what’s the downside?

If you’re ready to learn more about how to get started with computer-based testing, our representatives are happy to discuss any questions you have.  Just ask.

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