Diffusion of Courses with World Wide Web Features: Perceptions of Journalism and Mass Communication Program Administrators

Article excerpt

Journalism professionals, university administrators, educators, and students, are participating in or are at least witnessing a transition between traditional print and broadcast emphases in journalism training and a profession that is increasingly influenced by the Internet, the World Wide Web (Web) and media convergence.1 The Internet is transforming how communication professionals and journalists go about their work.2 The new generation of students will need to combine basic skills in writing and thinking with new media coursework that emphasizes all aspects of human communication.

This study examined perceptions of top administrators concerning courses with Web features at Association of Schools of Journalism and Mass Communication (ASJMC) programs. ASJMC promotes itself as an organization of leaders whose purpose is to take a "catalytic" role in education in the journalism field. This project studied the imperatives/pressures to implement courses with Web features and resistances to implementation. The study also examined administrators' perceptions of conditions that facilitate implementation of educational technology innovations.

Background

Some academics and professionals have criticized schools for being slow to respond to the need for new technology training for both faculty and students.3 Research shows that educators at accredited journalism and mass communication programs in the United States agree that programs without a significant Web presence are ignoring the impact of technology on the field.4 Universities today face many external and internal pressures to become more actively involved in the educational applications of new technologies.5

A number of universities are now examining the potential benefits of using Web-based technologies as a way of offering pedagogically viable solutions to challenging instructional problems. Political and economic factors, however, not educational priorities, can drive technological innovations in higher education.6 The Internet and the Web in education overcome many of the constraints imposed by traditional educational infrastructures.7 Some examples of such constraints include time of instruction, geographical space, and lecture-based teaching. Recent communication research has focused on the potential benefits or pressures to adopt and implement Web courses, from administrative and pedagogical perspectives.8 Administrators, for example, are enthusiastic about marketing opportunities of the Web courses to attract untapped pools of students and/or to bolster flagging enrollments. Pedagogically, there are potential Web course benefits of active learning, empowerment of the student, real world simulations, and faster feed-back.

There are eight main conditions that facilitate the implementation of educational technology innovations.9 Ely developed this information based upon 50 structured interviews he conducted with educators in Southeast Asia and Latin America. Dissatisfaction with the status quo is the first factor that facilitates change. Second, knowledge and skills concerning the technology must be present for the change to occur. Third, adequate resources must be available. Fourth, there must be adequate time to implement. Fifth, there should be rewards or incentives for participation. Sixth, active participation in the adoption decision is expected and encouraged. Ely noted that often in education, decisions are made by others and then handed down for implementation. Seventh, there needs to be commitment by those involved. Finally, leadership must be evident in terms of the executive in charge and a project leader who is more involved on a daily basis. The absence of any condition will probably reduce the effectiveness of the implementation process.

Theoretical Base

A diffusion of innovations (DOI) theorist, Everett M. Rogers, stated that while some innovations, such as the Internet, do not face much resistance, certain areas such as education and religion tend to offer strong resistances to innovations. …

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