While virtual universities and remote classrooms have captured the headlines, there has been a quiet revolution in university education. Around the globe, the information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure needed to support Web-enhanced learning (WEL) is well established, and the Internet and the World Wide Web (the Web) are being used by teachers and students in traditional universities in ways that complement and enhance traditional classroom-based learning (Observatory of Borderless Education, 2002). The Web is most frequently used by traditional universities to provide access to resources—as a substitute for, or complement to, notice boards, distribution of handouts, and use of the library (Collis & Van der Wende, 2002). Therefore, most of the change has been incremental rather than transformational. Adoption of WEL has yet to meet its potential—some would say the imperative (Bates, 2000; Rudestam & Schoenholtz- Read, 2002)—to change the nature of learning at university and to transform the university itself.
WEL makes a difference when it is used to improve learning, for example, when it is used to enable collaborative learning (Hamilton & Zimmerman, 2002; Klobas & Renzi, 2003; Rudestam & Schoenholtz-Read, 2002). Nonetheless, computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) that makes a difference does not require expensive technologies (Hazemi & Hailes, 2002; Hiltz & Turoff, 2002).
To achieve effective, substantial, system-wide change through the adoption of new educational technology, universities must pay attention to more than the ICT infrastructure. Attention must also be paid to educational values, resources, and transformation of educational processes and organizational structure. Thus, WEL is more than new software and systems—it is organizational innovation.
Observers of the effect of technological change on universities emphasize the factors associated with effective change. These factors include reexamination of assumptions about pedagogy (Leidner & Jarvenpaa, 1995; Rudestam & Schoenholtz-Read, 2002), vision and leadership to implement large-scale organizational change (Bates, 2000), adequate financial resources (Surry, 2002), attention to development of human resources and reward systems (Collis & Van der Wende, 2002; Pollock & Cornford, 2000), student aptitude and preparation (Palloff & Pratt, 2002), and professional management of suppliers as well as internal ICT infrastructure (Klobas & Renzi, 2003). Less is known about the process of change.
Rogers (1995) proposes a generic model of the process of organizational innovation. Innovation is initiated through identification of organizational problems and the matching of potential innovations with problems. The relevant innovation may be an idea, a process, a technology, or a combination of these (Spence, 1994). The end of the initiation period is marked by a decision to adopt (or reject) the innovation. Subsequently, during the implementation period, the innovation and the organization undergo some mutual redefinition (Orlikowski, 1992), the organizational role of the innovation is clarified, and its use finally becomes such a familiar part of the organization’s activities that it is no longer recognizable as an innovation. Figure 1 summarizes these aspects of the innovation process.
Rogers’ (1995) model of organizational innovation
In this article, we study the process of WEL adoption at a traditional university using Rogers’ (1995) model of organizational innovation as the organizing framework. More detail of the case study described here can be found in Klobas and Renzi (2003).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Innovation: (noun) A new technology, idea or process; (verb) The process of identifying, adopting and implementing a new technology, idea or process.
Collaborative Learning: Learning that occurs through the exchange of knowledge among learners.
Implementation of an Innovation: The process of mutually fitting innovation and organization to one another until the fit is so good that the (former) innovation is routine.
Routinizing: The final stage in the innovation process; the innovation becomes part of the organizational routine.
Web-Enhanced Learning (WEL): Use of the World Wide Web (Web) to provide students studying in the classroom with access to electronic resources and learning activities that would not be available to them in traditional classroom-based study.
Matching: The process of finding a fit between an organizational problem and an innovation to resolve the problem.
Redefinition: The process by which an innovation is redefined to fit the organization during its implementation. See also Restructuration.
Restructuration: The process of structural change associated with an organization’s implementation of an innovation.
Agenda Setting: Recognition of a problem that may be solved through innovation.
Adoption: The decision to implement an innovation.