Electrical and Computer Engineering Publications

Hybridizing Virtual- and Field-Based Service-Learning in Green IT

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Service-Learning in the Computer and Information Sciences: Practical Applications in Engineering Education

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Historically, service-learning (SL) projects can be classified two ways: (1) collaborations with a community group or nonprofit organization to provide specific problem solving around a community need, or (2) an internship-like experience with industry to address work requested by a client (e.g., in engineering service-learning). The limitation of both of these traditional SL approaches is that they do not prepare students to implement unprescribed projects. In contrast, in this chapter a pedagogical experiment is outlined in which students chose both the project and the partner for a self-directed SL experience. This chapter presents the findings of an ongoing investigation of this novel pedagogical exercise in which students acted as change agents for industry by implementing unsolicited energy-conservation measures (ECMs) in order to improve the organizations' environmental and economic performance. The ECMs were largely focused on green information technology (IT), but could be applied to any form of environmentally beneficial technical or behavioral change. The hybrid SL projects described had both virtual and field-work SL components. For the virtual component, the Appropedia Foundation provided an open-source education tool on Appropedia. org for the project so that faculty anywhere in the world can have free access. The student teams developed and published open-source ECM calculators on Appropedia.org, which is a free, open-source, wiki-based tool for collaborative solutions in such areas as sustainability, poverty reduction, and international development. For the field-work component, the teams self-selected industry clients and performed energy audits and IT audits. Applicable ECMs, which had been developed during the virtual component of the project, were then selected and tailored, forming the basis of recommendations to the organizations. The results of this pedagogical exercise not only resulted in overwhelming positive responses from the client organizations and verbal or written commitments to improve their performance following the recommendations of the students, but they also demonstrated the effectiveness of such hybrid SL projects in terms of improving student motivation, learning, and quality of work. © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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