Adoption Patterns and Characteristics of Faculty Who Integrate Computer Technology for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education

A Doctoral Dissertation

By Dawn Michele Jacobsen

Department Of Educational Psychology

Calgary, Alberta

September, 1998

© Dawn Michele Jacobsen 1998


The integration of technology for teaching and learning appeals to some faculty in higher education, and not to others. This exploratory investigation builds and extends upon Rogersí (1995) theory of the diffusion of innovations and adopter categories in order to describe current faculty innovativeness, as well as to explore the differences between early adopting faculty and mainstream faculty. A mixed-method research design, using both quantitative and qualitative methodologies, was employed to investigate the difference between those who readily adopt technology for teaching and learning, and those who do not. This study employed a new method for conducting educational and psychological research; an on-line, World Wide Web-based version of the survey instrument was designed and piloted for this investigation. Collecting data using the Internet is a relatively new research methodology. As such, data collected using this procedure was compared to that collected using conventional methods to determine whether equivalent results can be obtained.

Seventy-six faculty from across disciplines at two large North American universities completed a 195-item survey about computer use patterns, self-rated expertise, technology adoption patterns, generalized self-efficacy, changes to classroom environments, incentives and barriers, preferred methods for learning about technology, and methods for integrating technology and evaluating the outcomes. In-depth interviews were conducted with faculty who have adopted technology for teaching and learning. Survey results were used to establish baseline data for future comparisons, to identify trends, issues, and concerns unique to post-secondary instructors, to differentiate between two adopting groups, and as a source of demographic and attitudinal data used in descriptive and exploratory statistical analyses. Qualitative data was analyzed for emergent categories and themes, and was used to explore faculty memberís innovation-decision processes.

As expected, some differences were found between early adopters and mainstream faculty for self-rated computer expertise and total adoption of technology for teaching and learning. Some differences were found between faculty who used the web-based and paper-based survey. Recommendations are made for campus-wide technology integration plans based upon findings that early adopter and mainstream faculty prefer different methods for learning about technology, different types of support and training, and report different motivators and impediments to integrating computer technology.

Table of Contents
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6

Examination Committee

Supervisor, Dr. John Mueller, Educational Psychology
Dr. Anthony Marini, Faculty of Education
Dr. William Hunter, Faculty of Education
Dr. Jeffrey Caird, Department of Psychology
External Examiner, Dr. Terry Anderson, ATL, University of Alberta

Table of Contents

The Gap Between Early Adopters and Mainstream Faculty
Expert Teaching and Early Adoption
A Campus-Wide Vision for Integrating Technology
Purpose of the Present Investigation
Significance of the Study
Chapter Outline
What Differentiates Early Adopters From Others?
  Diffusion of Innovations
    The Innovation
    The Innovation-Decision Process
    Adopter Categories
      Innovators (INs)
      Early Adopters (EAs)
      Laggards (LGs)
  Rogersí Diffusion Theory: Related Contexts
  Newbies and Enthusiastic Beginners
  Early Adopters of Instructional Technology
Excellent Teaching and Early Adoption
  Addressing a Gap in Rogersí (1995) Theoretical Framework
    Global Characteristics Versus Personal Stories
    Case Studies of Expert Teachers
    Motivation To Become Expert at Integrating Technology
  Links Between Diffusion Research and the Present Investigation
Developing Long-Term Plans for Campus-wide Diffusion
  Critical Mass and the Chasm Between Early Adopters and Mainstream
  Institutions as a Change Agencies
  An Application of Rogersí Innovation-Decision Process
    (1)Knowledge of an Innovation and (2) Persuasion to Adopt
    (3)Making a Decision to Adopt or Reject, and (4) Implementation
    (5) Confirmation of Decision to Adopt
  Alternatives to Campus-Wide Plans That Build From Pioneers
    Rely on Natural Diffusion Patterns
    Rely on Cross-Disciplinary Research
Present Investigation
Chapter Three - METHODOLOGY
Rationale for Research Methodology
Study Instruments
  Survey Item Selection and Construction
    Subscale 1: Patterns of Computer Technology Use
    Subscale 2: Computer Experience
    Subscale 3: Generalized Self-Efficacy
    Subscale 4: Participant Information
    Subscale 5: Changes to Teaching and Learning
    Subscale 6: Incentives to Integrate Technology
    Subscale 7: Barriers to Integrating Technology
    Subscale 8: Learning About Technology
    Section 9: Methods For Using and Integrating Technology
    Section 10: Evaluating the Outcomes of Using Technology
Study Participants
  Survey Sample
  Interview Sample
Data Collection Procedures
  Web-based Survey Pilot Study
  Web-based Survey Considerations and Administration
  Paper-based Survey Procedure
  Interview Procedure
Survey Results
  Participant Information
    Sample Representativeness
  Method of Participation
  Faculty Innovativeness
  Patterns of Computer Technology Use
  Computer Experience
    (a) Faculty Expertise
    (b) Computer Use in Classrooms
       Adoption of Word Processing For Teaching
       Adoption of E-mail For Teaching
       Adoption of the World Wide Web in Teaching for Searching and Browsing
  Generalized Self-Efficacy
  Changes to Teaching and Learning
    Selected Response Items
    Open-Ended Responses
       Changes to Teaching
       Changes to Learning
  Incentives to Integrate Technology
    Selected Response Items
    Open-Ended Responses
  Barriers to Integrating Technology
    Selected Response Items
    Open-Ended Responses
  Learning About Technology
  Methods for Using and Integrating Technology in Teaching and Learning
  Evaluating the Outcomes of Using Technology for Teaching and Learning
Case 1 to 7
Contribution to Knowledge
  Answers to the Research Question
    Early Adopter Characteristics
    Patterns of Computer Use
    Overall Faculty Expertise
    Classroom Use
    Changes to Teaching and Learning
    Motivators and Impediments
    When The Rubber Hits The Road
On-line Research Methodology
    Method of Survey Participation
Limitations of the Present Study
    Sample Size and Selection
    Time of Adoption Variable
    Single Interview Sessions
  Future Research Directions
Bridging the Gap Between Early Adopters and Mainstream Faculty
  Implications for Higher Education
    Blaming Faculty
    Blaming Institutions
    Getting Beyond Blame
  Recommendations for Individual Faculty
  Recommendations for Institutions


Appendix A. Survey Instrument
Appendix B. Letter to University of Calgary Departments
Appendix C. Letter to University of Calgary Faculty
Appendix D. Book Draw and Request for Results
Appendix E. E-mail Letter to Educational Listserv at the University of Alberta
Appendix F. Frequency Data for First Computer Purchase
Appendix G. 27 Statistically Significant Differences For Year First Used Types Of Computer Software And Tools For Early Adopters Versus Mainstream Faculty
Appendix H. A Sample of On-line Research Projects at the University of Calgary and Elsewhere
Appendix I University of Calgary Assessment Criteria Pertaining To Teaching and Research Performance And Computer-Assisted Learning Techniques


This dissertation is the result of the collective efforts of a number of important and valued people who have directly or indirectly assisted and supported me during doctoral studies and in this present endeavor. To these people, I owe my gratitude and thanks.

I would like to thank Terry Thoresen, my soul mate and best friend, for his love, understanding, unselfish support, constant encouragement and for providing the needed balance and perspective on life outside of graduate school.  I would like to thank Bonnie Vandenberg and Karen Maniaci, my sisters, and Michael Vandenberg, my nephew, for their cheerleading, constant support, faith and love.

I would like to thank my supervisor and mentor, Dr. John Mueller, for facilitating and joining my journey, for his wisdom and caring, and for being a cherished friend who shares the adventure spirit.  I would like to thank Anthony Marini, for providing inspiration, encouragement, guidance and support throughout my graduate experience. I would like to thank Bill Hunter and Jeff Caird, for supporting and encouraging my writing, and for challenging me to strive for excellence. I would like to thank Terry Anderson, who shares an interest in early adopters, for agreeing to be on my dissertation committee and for providing valuable advice and support. I would like to thank Mildred Shaw, for providing pertinent and valuable advice, coaching, and inspiration. I am also grateful to Dagmar Walker, for her unconditional friendship and support, and to Brad Johnson for his assistance with data conversion and analysis.

I would like to thank the Change Agents in Galileo Centre at Banded Peak School,  Brant Parker, Pat Clifford, Sharon Friesen, Jeff Stockton, and Brenda Gladstone, who work heroically on the edge, for opening a space for me to witness and take part in images of excellence in teaching and learning with technology.

I am grateful to the participating faculty members who gave their time and provided information through the survey and interviews, and to Don Kozak and other staff of The University of Calgary Faculty Association for their assistance with this research.

Finally, I would like to thank the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for their financial support of my doctoral research.

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My Parents

Michael Anton Jacobsen
Agnes Fern (Keller) Jacobsen

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