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Case Study Two Itec 5550


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Case Study Two Itec 5550

  1. 1. Instructional Reform Based on Innovation Diffusion Theory:<br />A Case Study of One Institution’s Struggle to Adopt Alternative Delivery Systems<br /> Through Instructional Technology<br />Jessica Hollon<br />University of Wyoming<br />Overview of the Case Study<br />Szabo and Sobon’s case study evaluated the implementation and diffusion of instructional technology and alternative delivery systems (ADS) in one Canadian Research University. They evaluated the implementation process the university employed with The Training, Infrastructure, and Empowerment System (TIES), “a theory-based system reform through instructional technology” (Szabo & Sobon, 2003, p. 1) which was developed and piloted at this university during this implementation process. Their findings concluded that the diffusion of ADS was slower than the faculty suspected, and they identified many barriers and factors that need to be addressed when any institution is implementing a resistant innovation. By doing so in their review, it led to “the formulation of the TIES Reform Theory” (Szabo & Sobon, 2003, p. 3). <br />Focus of Evaluation<br />By evaluating the Szabo and Sobon’s case study and TIES reform model using Roger’s structural characteristics and organizational innovativeness variables (centralization, complexity, formalization, and interconnectedness) I will shed light upon the factors that expedited and the factors the impeded the successful diffusion and adoption of ADS in the Canadian research university.<br />Evaluation<br />When the administration at the university decided to adopt ADS through the adoption of instructional communication technology they put into place a system that would later be refined into the TIES reform theory. This theory both in conception and in present time takes a view on disruptive change which argues, “extensive implementation trials should be conducted and the resulting system be used to inform policy development, not vice versa” (Szabo & Sobon, 2003, p. 13). <br />This concept embedded in the TIES theory is compatible with Roger’s thoughts on an organization’s centralization. Rogers (2003) states that “centralization is the degree to which power and control in a system are concentrated in the hands of a relatively few individuals. Centralization has usually been found to be negatively associated with innovativeness” (p. 412). Since the university did not give the mandate from the top-down, but rather allowed departments some control and room to re-invent the innovation to meet their needs, it was most likely more successful than had the institution’s authorities decided what the individual departments where going to do with the innovation. <br />This was also lending itself to Roger’s (2003) characteristic of formalization, “the degree to which an organization emphasizes it’s members following rules and procedures… such formulation acts to inhibit the consideration of innovations by organization members, but encourages the implementation of innovations” (p. 412).<br />The TIES theory hinges itself on two factors which need to be present in order to enhance disruptive innovations to diffuse. The factors are “(a) the development and communication of a shared vision for the future of the innovation in the institution by leadership and (b) empowerment of the faculty to interpret and develop that vision, and operate within a power base” (Szabo & Sobon, 2003, p. 3). <br />While some faculty members in the case study reported that they “were aware that a vision and strategies existed” (Szabo & Sobon, 2003, p. 7), others had no idea what the so called shared vision was. One faculty member attributed this to the “decentralized nature of the university.” Saying, “Administrators aggressively promote a research vision and empower faculties and departments to determine what research will be done to meet that vision” (Szabo & Sobon, 2003, p. 14). This culture of the university lends itself well to the second factor the TIES theory deems important (allow faculty to interpret the vision differently), but will in my opinion not be too effective if there is no shared vision in the first place.<br />Another large problem reported by faculty members was the lack of recognition for their technology efforts by administration and upper facility members. Since a shared vision is a major factor in the TIES theory, I think this institution may have fallen short in this area. <br />They may have also fallen short in regards to not recognizing staff for success with technology because those staff members were acting as change agents and champions for the diffusion process. Rogers (2003) defines a champion as, “a charismatic individual who throws his or her weight behind an innovation, thus overcoming indifference or resistance that the new idea may provoke in an organization” (p. 414). Having these individuals publically recognized would have made others aware of what was being done and could be done by them as later adopters.<br />Rogers (2003) also notes that an organization that adopts innovations easiest also has a high degree of complexity. He defines complexity as, “the degree to which an organization’s members posses a relatively high level of knowledge and expertise, usually measured by the members’ range of occupational specialties and their degree of professionalism (expressed by formal training)” (p. 412). Szabo and Sobon’s case study does point out that faculty was given training through professional development, as well as their being a leader, so to speak, in each department who faculty could turn to and whom had taken upon the role of facilitating the implementation and sharing information among administrators and fellow faculty members. This was an example of how this institution exhibited interconnectedness, which Rogers defines as, “the degree to which the units in a social system are linked by interpersonal networks” (Rogers, 2003, p. 412). <br />Personal Reflection on Case<br />While Roger’s points to these variables (centralization, complexity, formalization, and interconnectedness) as positively or negatively impacting innovations diffusion in an organization, I think it is important to remember that he refers to each as having a degree to which it is present. While TIES, an innovation in and of itself, was implemented in the Canadian research university to help with the diffusion of ADS through communication technologies, it was the university’s degree to which Roger’s variables were present that also aided in the diffusion process. The university was able to implement a resistant innovation into their culture that at times saw no real reason to change, because some faculty thought that their current system was working fine. They were probably correct, but so eloquently put by one faculty member, was the fact that what they needed to do was “cater to students who want to be in an institution where they’re close to the heat vents where knowledge is being created, they want to learn the skills, they want to be part of dialogue and if we don’t use instructional technology to enhance that unique mission, then we’ve missed it” (Szabo & Sobon, 2003, p. 7). This faculty member was certainly a champion in this diffusion process.<br /> <br />Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of Innovations. (5th ed.). New York: Free Press.<br />Szabo, M. & Sobon, S.A. ( 2003). A Case Study of Instruction Reform Based on Innovation Diffusion Theory Through Instructional Technology. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 29(2).<br /> <br />