Here’s the situation: Your association’s continuing education program depends on great instructors and quality content. Every year, you wonder, as the course books are printed and shipped, about the environmental impact of all that paper and ink. So many of your learners already have tablets, smartphones, or eReaders. Would it be better to offer only digital copies of training materials?
Environmental impact is just one of many factors that goes into your decision on content distribution, though. Avid readers of the blog will remember that we recently released the results of our independent survey of over 500 young professionals (age 22-33). Their answers showed their preference for print when asked about professional and educational materials, also stating that printed materials are better for reference and easier to learn from than digital materials. (For full survey results, download the white paper.)
A growing body of research supports the notion that reading print leads to better retention. Where your association’s continuing education program is concerned, this should be your primary concern, above environmental concerns, cost, and reader preference. We’ve said it before, and we believe it’s true: Print is a best practice for educational materials.
Which is not to say that online versions of printed materials are completely devoid of merit. Convenience is an oft-cited selling point of online distribution of content, as is the flexibility of dynamic content. Once a printed course book is off the press, there’s nothing to be done about that typo or a research-based claim that has recently been called into question.
On the environmental front, an article from The Huffington Post sheds some much-needed light: It’s basically a wash, and certainly not enough of a distinction to play a large role in decision-making. The environmental impact of eReaders and smartphones depends on how often you upgrade your device and how often you use them to read. Unless you read somewhere north of 100 books before trading your device in for a newer model, print has no bigger a carbon footprint than its digital counterpart.
As you determine how to deliver continuing education content to learners, keep your ultimate goals in mind. If your mission includes the professional development of your association’s members, and their implementation of what they learn in your continuing education courses in their daily work, the choice is easy: Printed training materials are best.