The Diffusion of Technology into the Classroom


Moore’s Technology Adoption Life Cycle (1999, p. 17) This simple bell-shape curve denotes the stages of innovation adoption. The gap between early adopter and early majority suggests an adoption barrier.

The degree of adoption of an innovation in teaching and its maturation process can be determined by its diffusion or rate of adoption. According to diffusion theorist, Everett Rogers (1995), “Diffusion is the process by which an innovation is communicated through channels over time among members of a social system” (p. 5). The social systems of any institution include its human resources management infrastructure. Rogers posits that innovations can be characterized by a classification scheme that comprises five attributes: relative advantage, compatibility, complexity, trialability, and observability. Relative advantage describes “the degree to which an innovation is perceived as being better than the idea it supersedes” (Rogers, 1995, p. 212). Relative advantage is the perception that a particular innovation will bring some improvement. The improvement may bring an economic, social, or prestigious benefit. Compatibility describes “the degree to which an innovation is perceived as consistent with existing values, past experiences, and the needs of potential adopters” (p. 224). The innovation will be perceived as being congruent or incongruent with existing institutional values and goals. Compatibility, or the lack thereof, influences the adoption rate of the innovation in question. Complexity is the relative perception of the degree of difficulty involved in adopting an innovation. The more complex the innovation is perceived to be, the slower the rate of adoption. According to Rogers, trialability is “the degree to which an innovation may be experimented with on a limited basis” (p. 243). The more a potential adopter is able to try out the innovation, the greater the likelihood of its adoption. Observability is visibility of the innovation. The more the potential adopter is able to observe the innovation, the greater the likelihood of its adoption. In addition to Rogers’ (1995) five attributes, this study added two additional attributes: institutional support and institutional codification. Institutional support is the extent to which an institution sustains and maintains innovative practices. Institutional support may include technology support in hardware and software, the granting of financial incentives, and the addition of specialized employees dedicated to the implementation of the innovation. Institutional codification is the extent to which an institution recognizes, legitimizes, and authorizes the adoption of innovative practices by codifying these practices in its official documents and thereby granting the innovation an official and permanent status.

The Sociocultural Innovation Continuum.
This continuum shows, that in the first generation of technology adoption,
practices are uncodified and become codified as diffusion progresses.


The innovators and developers of online teaching have defined the characteristic features of the products utilized in online teaching. The dominant product design has emerged. Online instruction customarily involves a system of Internet-based content delivery, predominantly in the form of text. The dominant design for online instruction also includes the use of e-mail for communications between students and teachers. Newsgroups are used for virtual classroom discussions. Web-based resources are utilized as a virtual library. For institutions with sufficient bandwidth, video-streaming features are included. Synchronous chat rooms are possible. Class registration and the reporting of grades are accomplished electronically. Student support services, while not universal, are available. The emergence of the dominant design for online instruction creates an implicit understanding of the performance requirements to be met by the product. For instance, no one needs to inquire whether an online class uses e-mail. It is expected that this capability is inherent in the product design. According to Utterback (1996), a dominant design has emerged in online enterprise solutions to online teaching. Hence few substantive product innovations have entered the marketplace in the past 3 years.
        Utterback (1996) further stipulates that when the innovations of products reach a plateau, the innovations of process become the major impetus. “Product innovation and process innovation are interdependent; as the rate of product innovation decreases, it is common to observe a growing rate of process innovation” (p. 83). Hence, few capabilities have been added to the online teaching environment in the past 3 years because the period of product innovation has slowed with the emergence of a dominant design.

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