Rogers’ established model of the ‘Diffusion of Innovations’ (2003), is described by Sahin (2006) as being the ‘most appropriate for investigating the uptake of technology in higher education’. Rogers observes that diffusion of an innovation is the communication within a social system (here a higher education institution) of uncertainty (will it work?); specific information (how it works); and adoption, leading to social change (everyone uses it). This model appears relevant in the enhancement of educational experiences through technology enhanced learning (TEL). Uptake of new technologies varies widely; some faculty adopt new technologies for teaching purposes readily, others lag behind; some will reject new technologies entirely. Likewise, the rate of students’ adoption will vary.
Moving away from lecture-based teaching to student-centred blended learning is aided by appropriate use of technology. In prioritizing TEL use to enhance and support an educational experience, it is necessary to understand students’ and staff’s perspectives on its’ utilization across an institution, determining barriers and facilitators to its use. These subjects are addressed in a mixed methods study across national and international campuses of a higher education institute. Mixed methods are used to provide a more comprehensive understanding than each method alone.
Following ethical approval, the first study phase consisted of a series of student focus groups exploring expectations, their opinions of the current use and future enhancement of technology for their learning. Staff focus groups were also used to determine barriers and facilitators in their TEL use. All were recruited on a volunteer basis. This phase is complete. Transcribed data was uploaded to NVivo for thematic analysis. Familiarisation with the data has shown there are a wide range of adopters of technologies amongst both students and staff. Several barriers exist which disincentivise staff use and student engagement with new technologies. Analysis has determined the characteristics of the adopters at different points on the curve of diffusion of innovations, as well as identifying current and potential systemic facilitators and barriers for TEL uptake.
The second phase, currently underway, used phase one qualitative data to inform the development of a web-based, anonymous, self-completion survey, rolled out to staff and students within the institution. Data will be analysed using uni-, bi- and multi-variate analyses, providing insight into barriers and facilitators to the use of TEL for students and staff, based on student stage, location (for different cultural attitudes) and staff type (professional or academic).
This study will guide enhancement by TEL throughout the institution, providing a more grounded digital education practice with barriers removed and uptake of TEL innovations increased. Evaluation will be via staff-student committees for student feedback, and phase two data will be used as a baseline for future determination if TEL use has increased. This session discusses the results of the qualitative phase, reflects on the validity of the Diffusion of Innovations Theory, and possible generalisability to other institutions, as well as providing the audience with a description of challenges and successes in carrying out this type of research.
Rogers, E.M (2003) Diffusion of Innovations, 5th Ed. USA, New York, Simon and Schuster Free Press
Sahin, I (2006) Detailed review of Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations Theory and educational technology-related studies based on Rogers’ theory. Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology 5, 2, 14-23