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In the Green Classroom: Accelerating and Enabling Positive Change

Posted by Deborah Bigelow Crawford

Deborah Bigelow Crawford has more than 20 years of experience in business management and handles the operational and administrative functions of PM Solutions. Ms. Bigelow Crawford also serves as Co-CEO of the PM College®, PM Solutions' training division, where she is responsible for the fiscal management and quality assurance of all training and professional development programs. Prior to joining PM Solutions, she served as the Executive Director of the Project Management Institute (PMI), and was instrumental in providing the foundation and infrastructure for the exponential growth that the Institute has maintained over the last 10 years. In addition, she served as the Executive Director of the PMI Educational Foundation. Over the last decade, she has authored numerous articles in PM Network, Chief Project Officer, and Optimize magazines. Ms. Bigelow Crawford is also co-author of the book Project Management Essentials. She has presented a variety of papers as a speaker at international symposia and conferences, and is a member of the National Association of Female Executives and the Project Management Institute.

Lessons from a "Green Classroom" - Part 3

For the past two weeks,  I’ve been discussing the exciting “green classroom” initiative that PM College has been privileged to participate in with one of our training clients. As a result of careful examination of student feedback, together with our personal training observations, we have identified some key items that we have titled “accelerators” or “enablers” that are critical to success with this approach.

Strong Leadership Commitment – An effort that changes cultural norms requires clear, unwavering leadership. The director of the department hosting the training personally led the effort to develop the concept, and co-taught the first classes to demonstrate clear leadership commitment.

Strong Classroom Facilitator Skills – Because the green classroom relies so heavily on the use of laptops during training, the opportunity for students to become distracted is just a click away.  For this reason, excellent facilitator skills are an absolute must. Some specific key practices are:

  • Clear expectations. A clear set of expectations established before the class begins and reinforced at the start that underscore the depth of the commitment to this approach.  A statement we have started to use is: “We want you to know that the commitment to sustainability on the part of [the corporation] is real, and our commitment to making it work in this classroom is genuine. We believe you want it as well and we are asking for your support throughout the entire class.”
  • Group Norms. Establishing group norms (with the team participating in the process) is essential. Example norms might look be “No internet during class time except when required for learning. Laptops are for presentation and for note taking.” The norms should reinforce the notion that students should behave as adults and they should recognize that they will only get out of the training what they put in it.
  • Instructor mobility during class. A stiff, monotonous facilitator will enable the students to slip into their electronic distractions. For this class, it is especially important for the trainer to actively and frequently move around the room, this causes the students to follow the trainer and thus keeps them from peering into the electronic black hole. Additionally, a trainer who gets behind the students from time to time can see if they are following the presentation or playing solitaire!
  • Plan for effective team participation. Nothing spurs learning better than the opportunity to participate and network with the trainer and other students during class. In the paper-oriented world, team participation is often enabled though flip charts, handouts, etc. However in the green classroom, team participation can be more of a challenge. More exercises and activities should be built into green classes wherever possible. The key point here is that not only is the concept of the lesson important, but the methods of participation must be carefully crafted to effectively engage and enable creative sharing.

Technology – It is clear that the sustainable classroom of the future will be technology rich and for this reason the facilitator must be technology savvy.

Flexibility – Accept the fact that once in a while the best way to get a point across is to use paper. The overarching principle is always “What is the best for the students?” There are some instances when paper is still the best choice for the task at hand.

Class Size – A classroom full of students, traditionally 25 or more in a corporate environment is always a challenge to manage. Understanding that there could be other electronic distractions in a green class, it is best to keep the class size to 20 or less.

Managing Change – Each student will have a different personal response to the “new approach” to learning. Respect it, manage it, and understand it is part of the change process.

The best corporate training is typically described as engaging, thought provoking, current and infused with technology. Now, this standard is being redefined to include environmental responsibility. The emerging paradigm can be described as “less is more.”  Less paper, less transportation cost, less plastic material, all add up to cost savings as well as a reduction in the environmental burden. It is the confluence of effective training coupled with environmental responsibility. We must be environmentally responsible wherever, whenever and however we can be, and the classroom is an ideal place to implement such a change. It is full of paper, full of unnecessary extra pieces and parts that add cost and should be eliminated wherever possible without degrading training. The challenge is to get this done while sustaining a high level of educational excellence but the rewards are real and well
worth the effort.

As stated earlier, not every class may be suitable for these green efforts but we hope this description of the efforts and insights from an actual client site will cause you to consider the potential benefits for your organization.  We recognize that we still have work to do and are committed to build on our successes. At PM College, we are excited about the future of such efforts!

Interested in these topics? Check out the "Green Program Managers" Group on LinkedIn.

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