Project in detail - Marie-Therese Barbaux
Do current professional development programs for blended learning in Higher Education cater for the needs of mainstream teachers? ...return to abstract
Despite the fact that e-learning (and its role as a change agent) figures highly, and sometimes even wistfully, in the aspirations of many policy-makers and senior managers, there is considerable evidence that most Higher Education Institutions are still struggling to engage a significant percentage of students and staff in e-learning, and real development beyond projects by innovators has so far been modest. Salmon (2004:208)
E-learning has often been presented as an agent of change that will have a transformative effect on higher education, and will help move from the still predominant “Sage on the Stage” teaching approach to the gradual inclusion of a “Guide on the Side” that fosters active. However the transition between the early adoption phase of e-learning and adoption by the majority has proven difficult.
The well-known model of innovation adoption by Rogers (1995), first published in 1960, suggests there are five categories of adopters of a technology: the innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards. These categories however are not stages in time, as first suggested by Rogers, and authors have reported a ‘crack in the bell curve’, a deep chasm between the innovators/early adopters and the mainstream teachers (early and late majority)(Moore (1991), Geoghegan (1998), Anderson et al., 1998; Zemsky& Massy, 2004). Adoption by the majority cannot be expected to naturally follow the innovators.
Early adopters and mainstream teachershave fundamentally different needs and approaches to e-learning. Early adopters are enthusiastic explorers, motivated by a vision of the innovation and experimental projects, whereas majority teachers respond to a more utilitarian motivation; they require a structured approach that is embedded within the normal curriculum development process and emphasizes pragmatism, ease of use and gradual familiarization in a “just-in-time” program. New educational technology is perceived as more adoptable if it offers congruence with existing practices and require moderate level of technical skill. Usefulness and effectiveness are more likely to be demonstrated within disciplinary professional support, with examples closed to people’s experience and relevant to their professional area.
Staff development programs,which have traditionally be seen to be the key to e-learning adoption, often seem to encourage the exploring and visioning styles of early adopters; they are rarely embedded within the natural curriculum design process, and are usually not discipline-based; they are therefore not attuned to the particular needs of the majority teachers who require proven effectiveness within their disciplines and a perception of usefulness and ease of use.
Purpose of the study
The aim of this project is to determine whether the characteristics of current models of academic professional development programs in blended learning engage mainstream teachers or are mostly aimed at early adopters of educational technology.
- First stage: literature review of studies related to the design and delivery of academic professional development programs in e-learning/blended learning; identification of patterns, or models, of characteristics in such programs and correlation with extent impact on adoption in the institution (if available).
- Second stage: survey and interviews of staff in professional development/learning and teaching centres to obtain their perception of the impact of the programs on the use of e-learning in their institution.
- Third stage: interviews of academic participants in the programs to gather their perception of the impact of the program on their current use of e-learning; correlation between their adoption profile and extent of adoption.
- the majority of professional development programs in e-learning, reported in the literature since 2000, do not present the characteristics required by majority adopters.
- the prevalent model is based on discrete workshops, with an interdisciplinary audience.
- one on one support is also a common form of staff development in e-learning but often focuses on the development of technical skills, rather than the design of a cohesive blended learning curriculum within the disciplinary context.
- universities consistently use the example of early adopters in showcases and best practice seminars to inspire the majority into e-learning and foster a community of e-learning practitioners; this is unlikely to happen because of the differences in attitudes and needs of the two groups.
Anderson, T., Varnhagen, S., & Campbell, K. (1998). Faculty adoption of teaching and learning technologies: Contrasting earlier adopters and mainstream faculty. The Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 28(2, 3), 71-98.
Geoghegan, W. H. (1998) Instructional Technology and the Mainstream: The Risks of Success. In Oblinger, D. G. & Rush, S. C. (Eds.) The Future Compatible Campus: Planning Designing and ImplementingInformation Technology in the Academy. Bolton, Mass, Anker.
Moore, G. A. (1991).Crossing the chasm: Marketing and selling technology to mainstream customers. New York: Harper Business.
Rogers. E. (1995). Diffusion of innovations (4th ed.).New York. NY: Simon & Shuster.
Salmon, G. (2004) E-moderating: the key to teaching and learning online. London: Routledge.
Zemsky, R., & Massy, W. (2004). Thwarted innovation: What happened to e-learning and why. The Learning Alliance at the University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved from http://www.irhe.upenn.edu/WeatherStation.html.