Barriers to Adoption of Technology-Mediated Distance Education in Higher-Education Institutions

Article excerpt

The purpose of the study was to empirically investigate the institutional approach to distance education, and examine whether the factors of concerns for program cost and faculty participation could statistically predict adoption of technology-mediated distance education (TMDE) among higher-education institutions. It is elusive to base the determination of institutional decisions merely on existing descriptive statistics. Therefore, the author used the logistic regression method to explore the hypotheses, with controls for extraneous explanatory variables, such as institution type, graduate program availability, and degree of urbanization. Specifically, a binary logistic regression was modeled to analyze a number of barriers that might keep institutions from starting or expanding distance offerings. Two categories of barrier factors were analyzed. The program cost factors include program development costs and equipment maintaining costs. The faculty participation factors encompass concerns about faculty workload, lack of faculty interest, and lack of faculty rewards or incentives.

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK

Access to postsecondary education is an issue of significant importance both to the individual and society in general. In the United States, estimates of the proportion of future jobs requiring postsecondary education range from 70 to 90% (Gladieux & Swail, 1999). The individuals with a postsecondary degree earn on average 50% more than high school graduates over the course of their lifetime (U.S. Bureau of Census, 1999). Also, increased educational attainments accrue benefits to society, including greater productivity, increased community services, enhanced civic life, and decreased reliance on government financial support (Institute for Higher Education Policy, 1998).

The rapid development of information technology and the Internet have generated broader opportunities for students to access postsecondary education. In the fall 2005 semester, more than 96% of the very largest highereducation institutions (more than 15,000 total enrollments) had online distance offerings, and the enrollment in online courses reached nearly 3.2 million, up nearly 35%» over the 2004 figures (Allen & Seaman, 2005, 2006). In 2007, approximately one-third of higher education institutions accounted for three-quarters of all online enrolments (Allen & Seaman, 2007).

While technology has expanded the opportunities for students to access higher education, it is interesting to note that a number of colleges and universities are still hesitant to offer technology-mediated distance education (TMDE), and there is a very uneven distribution of distance education offerings by type of institutions. The questions of interest for the current study focus on the institutional decision of distance education offering. What are the factors that impact a higher educational institution to adopt distance education? The factors in this study include concerns about program cost, faculty participation, and others.

Barriers to distance education exist both in the stakeholders of institution and faculty (Galusha, 1997). The primary institutional barrier is availability of funds, as cost will increase substantially due to utilization and maintenance of technology. Descriptive statistics show that the high cost for program development and maintenance is a significant barrier to widespread adoption of distance education (Allen & Seaman, 2007; National Postsecondary Education Cooperative, 2004; Waits & Lewis, 2003). In fall 2005, about two thirds of the very large institutions had online programs, compared to only about one sixth of the small institutions (Allen & Seaman, 2006). Moreover, the data from the Cost of Supporting Technology Services project show that for 2000-2001, the median spending on information technology was $1,299 for each student at the wealthiest colleges in the study. By contrast, the less endowed colleges showed a median spending of only $459 per student (Warburton & Chen, 2002). …