Diffusion of Innovations

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  • Topic: Diffusion of innovations, Innovation, Educational technology
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The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology – TOJET April 2006 ISSN: 1303-6521 volume 5 Issue 2 Article 3

DETAILED REVIEW OF ROGERS’ DIFFUSION OF INNOVATIONS THEORY AND EDUCATIONAL TECHNOLOGY-RELATED STUDIES BASED ON ROGERS’ THEORY Ismail SAHIN Iowa State University The process of adopting new innovations has been studied for over 30 years, and one of the most popular adoption models is described by Rogers in his book, Diffusion of Innovations (Sherry & Gibson, 2002). Much research from a broad variety of disciplines has used the model as a framework. Dooley (1999) and Stuart (2000) mentioned several of these disciplines as political science, public health, communications, history, economics, technology, and education, and defined Rogers’ theory as a widely used theoretical framework in the area of technology diffusion and adoption. Rogers’ diffusion of innovations theory is the most appropriate for investigating the adoption of technology in higher education and educational environments (Medlin, 2001; Parisot, 1995). In fact, much diffusion research involves technological innovations so Rogers (2003) usually used the word “technology” and “innovation” as synonyms. For Rogers, “a technology is a design for instrumental action that reduces the uncertainty in the cause-effect relationships involved in achieving a desired outcome” (p. 13). It is composed of two parts: hardware and software. While hardware is “the tool that embodies the technology in the form of a material or physical object,” software is “the information base for the tool” (Rogers, 2003, p. 259). Since software (as a technological innovation) has a low level of observability, its rate of adoption is quite slow. For Rogers (2003), adoption is a decision of “full use of an innovation as the best course of action available” and rejection is a decision “not to adopt an innovation” (p. 177). Rogers defines diffusion as “the process in which an innovation is communicated thorough certain channels over time among the members of a social system” (p. 5). As expressed in this definition, innovation, communication channels, time, and social system are the four key components of the diffusion of innovations. Four Main Elements in the Diffusion of Innovations Innovation Rogers offered the following description of an innovation: “An innovation is an idea, practice, or project that is perceived as new by an individual or other unit of adoption” (Rogers, 2003, p. 12). An innovation may have been invented a long time ago, but if individuals perceive it as new, then it may still be an innovation for them. The newness characteristic of an adoption is more related to the three steps (knowledge, persuasion, and decision) of the innovation-decision process that will be discussed later. In addition, Rogers claimed there is a lack of diffusion research on technology clusters. For Rogers (2003), “a technology cluster consists of one or more distinguishable elements of technology that are perceived as being closely interrelated” (p. 14). Uncertainty is an important obstacle to the adoption of innovations. An innovation’s consequences may create uncertainty: “Consequences are the changes that occur in an individual or a social system as a result of the adoption or rejection of an innovation” (Rogers, 2003, p. 436). To reduce the uncertainty of adopting the innovation, individuals should be informed about its advantages and disadvantages to make them aware of all its consequences. Moreover, Rogers claimed that consequences can be classified as desirable versus undesirable (functional or dysfunctional), direct versus indirect (immediate result or result of the immediate result), and anticipated versus unanticipated (recognized and intended or not). Communication Channels The second element of the diffusion of innovations process is communication channels. For Rogers (2003), communication is “a process in which participants create and share information with one another in...
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