Instructional Technology Adoption in Higher Education: An Action Research Case Study

Article excerpt

Meeting the challenge of technology literacy has been established as a critical goal for the American Educational System (U. S. Department of Education, 1996). Technology is transforming nearly every aspect of society. Not only is technology a part of the culture from which it arises; it also impacts the culture that created it (Mehlinger, 1996). Much like the societal changes earlier in this century, such as the Great Depression and the civil rights movement, the technology revolution is challenging and redirecting all forms of education, including higher education. Journals and newspapers can be accessed just as easily from the computer terminal as from the mailbox. The challenges faced by higher education faculty for this technological impact is daunting. Higher education faculty needs to prepare professionals who are competent in the design and use of current and emerging technologies. Yet, how are college faculty and staff, who are responsible for preparing future professionals, utilizing instructional technology in their own teaching?

Much as the overhead projector was once considered a cutting-edge tool in the classroom, the use of new technology delivery systems (e.g., computer-generated multimedia instruction) for teaching is now viewed similarly. However, to be effective, these delivery systems must be a means of facilitating teaching and learning rather than an end in itself (Kershaw, 1996). This may be illustrated by trends shifting from a teacher-focused "sage on the stage" to a more student-centered "guide on the side" orientation or philosophy in higher education (Johnson, 1995). For example, in a teacher-focused course, a handout might be distributed to students. In a student-centered course, students would establish criteria for their own handout as well as design and evaluate it.

The incorporation of technology into the teaching-learning process is an important component across all areas of higher education. The diffusion of innovation model (Rogers, 1983) and subsequent acceptance of such innovation (Kershaw, 1996) provides a context for understanding technological change. The flow of innovation acceptance is an S-shaped curve through time with early innovators readily embracing change, two large groups successively and subsequently adopting the innovation, and a small group of laggards who resist to the end (Figure 1).


Faculty may take advantage of technology to relate content more closely to practice and to provide opportunities for knowledge application. For example, students in an international marketing class could propose a project for a company outside the United States. Personnel from that company could provide ongoing consultation by asynchronous communication (e.g. e-mail) and real-time videoconferences via the Internet (e.g. CUSEEME[C]). Faculty may also use technologies to extend discussion, to mentor and coach, to add practice exercises, and to provide more timely and individualized feedback (Deden & Carter, 1996). For example, student teachers in the public schools could maintain online reflective, analytic journals of their classroom experiences to communicate with their off-site university supervisor.

The extent and rate of technology adoption is related to availability of resources and acceptance of innovations by faculty and teaching assistants. Yet, college teachers often feel unprepared for the demands of using technology in their teaching because they have had little instruction in its use. What is the picture that can be painted of the adoption and use technology in teaching within a large public university?

Faculty and graduate teaching assistants/associates (GTAs) from one college at a Carnegie I university in the southeastern United States were surveyed to determine use of, interest in, and attitudes toward technology in teaching and learning in order to assess current adoption of innovation. …