Optimizing learning in higher education from a carbon footprint perspective

Online course delivery could be an instrument to substantially decrease the carbon footprint of a higher education institution through its potential to reduce education-related student travel. With an interdisciplinary approach this PhD research investigates how learning in higher education can be optimized both from an educational and from a carbon footprint perspective. The travel behaviour of students in relation to their educational demands will be studied and will serve as input for design-based field research in which a configuration of High-Quality and Low-Carbon (HQLC) education will be designed and evaluated. The aim is to make a theoretical contribution to the understanding of the potential of online technology as a measure to reduce education-related student travel in a blended (mix of online and face-to-face) learning environment. The research takes place at Avans University of Applied Sciences (UAS) in The Netherlands.

About Marieke Versteijlen

Marieke Versteijlen is an external PhD candidate at the department of Social Sciences, Education and Learning Sciences Group of Wageningen University & Research. She is a lecturer in computer science at Avans UAS. She is also involved in an Avans program ICT and Education  In 2015 she conducted a research, commissioned by SURFsara, on the potential of ICT to enhance the sustainability of educational processes in Dutch higher education (Smart Education). In cooperation with the Open University of the Netherlands she explored this issue a step further focussing on student travel and online education, resulting in a published article. In her PhD research she focusses on educational quality, online and blended education, travel behaviour and carbon emissions.

Project team

This doctoral research is supervised by Prof. Dr. Ir. Arjen Wals. Second promotor is Prof. Dr. Bert van Wee (Delft University of Technology).


Versteijlen, M., Salgado, F. P., Groesbeek, M. J., & Counotte, A. (2017). Pros and cons of online education as a measure to reduce carbon emissions in higher education in the Netherlands. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 28, 80-89.