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En Route : Student Mobility, Housing Choices and Online Teaching : Investigating current Dynamics in (digitized) Higher Education

  • Education-related travel accounts for 7% of all journeys in Germany (Nobis and Kuhnimhof, 2019). At Higher Education Institutions (HEI), student and staff mobility significantly contributes to overall CO2 emissions, with studies reporting shares of up to 91% (Helmers, Chang and Dauwels, 2021). Thus, both urban planners and HEIs are actively seeking effective policies for sustainable educational mobility to harness environmental, social, and health benefits (Delmelle and Delmelle, 2012). In this context, online education emerges as a promising solution to avoid traffic. Similar to remote work models like home office, online education facilitates location-independent learning processes, potentially providing university students with more flexible study programs and greater freedom in choosing their place of residence, while reducing travel-related CO2 emissions and individual costs. The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the feasibility of moving significant parts of HEI operations online, challenging the necessity for physical presence and commuting. Consequently, there have been calls to increase the share of online education as an effective strategy for sustainable mobility at HEIs (e.g., Versteijlen, van Wee and Wals, 2021). However, some researchers come to a different conclusion. They imply that while online education may lead to an overall decrease in total commutes, there could be a simultaneous increase in the average commuting distance. Additionally, a shift towards less sustainable modes of transportation may occur as students relocate from urban centers to more peripheral areas with limited mobility options (e.g., O’Brien and Aliabadi, 2020). Our submission contributes to this discussion by presenting new evidence from the EN ROUTE research project at Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences (HSOS), which investigates strategies to enhance the sustainability of university-related travel. Building on data from an online survey conducted among students attending the HSOS (n = 1057), we examine university-related mobility patterns of students in a mid-sized German city in relation to their residential locations and explore potential effects of online education. Particularly, we focus on three key aspects: • How does university-related travel at HSOS look today? • How is it related to questions of students‘ housing and transport infrastructure? • How might mobility and housing patterns change in the wake of online education and how will this affect settlement structures? The results highlight strong connections between aspects of mobility, housing and studying. Promoting sustainable mobility in digitized higher education is highly complex due to observable tensions between various environmental and social factors. In addition, the heterogeneity of students leads to a range of possible responses and reactions regarding mobility and housing patterns. While online education undoubtedly has great transformative potential, we advocate for a realistic assessment of its ecological value, including a detailed examination of potential rebound effects.

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Author:Christopher Jutz, Johanna Schoppengerd
Title (English):En Route : Student Mobility, Housing Choices and Online Teaching : Investigating current Dynamics in (digitized) Higher Education
Document Type:Conference Proceeding
Year of Completion:2024
Release Date:2024/07/19
Tag:Commuting; Housing; Online teaching; Student mobility; University
Page Number:25
36th AESOP Annual Congress 2024, July 11th 2024, Paris, France
Faculties:Fakultät AuL
DDC classes:900 Geschichte und Geografie / 914.3 Geografie, Reisen (Deutschland)
Review Status:Veröffentlichte Fassung/Verlagsversion