Academic journal article Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline

Improving the Chances of Getting Your IT Curriculum Innovation Successfully Adopted by the Application of an Ecological Approach to Innovation

Academic journal article Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline

Improving the Chances of Getting Your IT Curriculum Innovation Successfully Adopted by the Application of an Ecological Approach to Innovation

Article excerpt

Introduction

Just because you believe that the information technology (IT) curriculum innovation you are proposing would be of benefit to the students, would be valued by their potential employers and would greatly improve the learning process is no guarantee that others will see it this way or that it will be successful. For any of these benefits to occur the curriculum innovation first needs to be accepted and adopted, and there are many cases in which this has not occurred. Innovation diffusion theory (Rogers, 1995) suggests that the acceptance and use of a new product or process is due mostly to the characteristics of this product or process. It has been used to describe things like the "diffusion of hybrid corn in Iowa" and "black music in white America" (Rogers, 1995). The prime concern of diffusion studies is identification of factors that affect the speed with which an innovation is adopted, or that cause it not to be adopted at all. Davis (1989a, 1989b) has applied similar explanations to adoption of IT in organisations. Ecology, on the other hand, attempts to offer explanations relating to interactions and adaptations to change. In 1859 a small number of rabbits were released into the Australian environment by a farmer, homesick for his native England. The rabbits quickly adapted to their new environment and their numbers increased rapidly until they reached pest status. Ecology has been used to explain why this occurred and the high degree of 'successful adoption'. In this paper we will show how an ecological approach leads to a richer understanding of the process of innovation, and how its application enhances the chance that an IT curriculum innovation will be adopted and used.

Models of Curriculum Development

Curriculum change can be modelled in many different ways and we will here consider just a few of those we consider most relevant. In the context of higher education curriculum Nordvall (1982), building on the work of Havelock (1969, 1971), identifies several models for curriculum change that he suggests all have relevance at the subject, course, and institutional levels: research, development and dissemination models; problem solving models; social interaction models; political and conflict models; and diffusion, linkage or adaptive development models (Tatnall, 2000). Models of change based upon a process of Research, Development and Dissemination are probably the most common way of attempting an explanation of the process of university curriculum development (Nordvall, 1982). In models like this, relying on logical and rational decisions, curriculum change depends on the use of convincing arguments based on programs of research. A rational and orderly transition is then posited from research to development to dissemination to adoption (Kaplan. 1991).

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Models like this could be considered as 'manufacturing models' as they follow a fairly logical and straightforward mechanical approach with one thing leading directly to another. They do not allow for or consider other influences, such as those due to human interactions. If we were to accept a manufacturing model like this as describing IT curriculum innovation then we might expect some of the following curriculum outcomes to be apparent across the world:

* A single programming language, the one most supported by research, would be implemented in all courses requiring programming.

* Programs of study with similar outcomes would be identical everywhere.

* The classroom delivery of all material would be moving towards the researched ideal and hence all delivery methods would be working towards this ideal.

* A graph could be produced showing the dissemination of ideas from centres of research throughout the world. The dispersion would depend only upon standard factors and could be predicted from previous dispersals of knowledge from such knowledge centres. …

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