Printing in a Pandemic | Pittwire

Zoom fatigue is real, but there is one benefit to putting more aspects of our lives online: a reduction in the amount of printing and paper used on campus.

In September 2019, there was almost always a student standing at the Pitt Print stations in laboratories, dormitories, and academic buildings. That fall, students printed more than 6.1 million sheets of paper, while Ricoh multifunction devices in Pitt offices processed a whopping 15.5 million sheets.

What a difference a year and a pandemic make: In the fall of 2020, students printed fewer than 1.5 million and departmental printers spit out fewer than 5.5 million sheets – a reduction of more than two-thirds.

The number of students using Pitt Print has decreased by over 53% in the last semester compared to the typical fall semester. Not surprising when you think about it: fewer students on campus and restrictions in facilities that limit the number of print locations available mean fewer jobs are hurtling through the machines.

More revealing is how much each student printed on campus. The average user printed half as much (125 sheets) last fall compared to fall 2019 (250 sheets). Typically, about 1.5% of students exceed their Pitt Print quota of up to 900 sheets. In autumn 2020 it was only 0.3%.

“Pitt Print is an important service for our students, and we expect it always will be,” said Jeff Rhoades, 24/7 IT help desk manager. “But it’s also exciting to see the university community using digital alternatives that help them work more efficiently and effectively. It is clear that many of the ways we used technology during the pandemic will become the norm in the future. “

The pandemic’s printing habits have changed not just for students. Since most offices work remotely, most departmental printers were not in use. The departments also sent fewer jobs to the university’s printing services, which resulted in a 73% reduction in postcards, posters, newsletters, flyers, classroom materials and other articles.

The question that Pitts Information Technology and Sustainability Bureau are currently investigating is whether changes in printing behavior are likely to continue once things get back to normal.

Pandemic or permanent habit?

Even before the pandemic, pressure had steadily decreased for many years as both students and professors became familiar with educational technologies like Canvas and Turnitin, not to mention email and social media platforms. But Flex @ Pitt has brought this trend into full swing. Instructors accepted assignments and papers electronically, published editable worksheets that could be completed digitally, and provided classroom materials that students could download and mark up electronically.

Andrius Petrauskas, a senior civil engineer who has worked in the Student Computing Labs for the past four years, has definitely seen a decrease in pressure with less personal activity. “Because everyone is far away, they are turning to online alternatives instead of printing everything out,” said Petrauskas. “Students still print things like curricula or lab manuals – things they often need to refer to – but they don’t print papers, homework, or readings.”

Jacob Beaudway, a freshman major in neuroscience, agreed. “I printed out things like lab worksheets and study guides that I wanted to look at while connected to my class. I also printed out things that I wanted to take notes on, ”he said.

Units outside of the classroom have also developed digital workflows to enable remote operations. The eSignature Service (DocuSign) and Pitt Worx enable online transactions, while Electronic Lab Notebooks (LabArchives) and Microsoft Teams facilitate virtual collaboration. Meanwhile, online calendars like Pittwire Live, e-newsletters and social media have been used to post events and share information.

The Sustainability Office staff hope that the digital habits of students, faculties and staff will continue. “The reduction in printing has a positive effect on the university’s sustainability goals. When we reduce pressure, we not only use less paper, but also the associated chemical and plastic waste from toners and printers, ”said Aurora Sharrard, director of sustainability.

“We are grateful that the campus community supports our sustainability efforts and is ready to change their habits. Reducing printing and choosing carbon neutral or 100% recycled paper for printing can be an important step in this direction, ”said Sharrard. Pitt print stations already use Tree Zero paper, which is also the cheapest 8.5 x 11 Pitt office option to buy from Panther Express.

Overall, Pitt IT assumes that the pressure will increase after the pandemic restrictions are lifted, but not to the previous level. The pandemic was a digital working crash course – and they expect it will have lasting effects. “We built these habits over the course of a year, so I think the pressure will continue to ease after the pandemic,” predicted Petrauskas.

No matter how students, faculties, and employees work in the future, Pitt IT will support the tools they need.