E-learning adoption: Bridging the chasm

Irina Elgort
University Teaching and Development Centre , Victoria University of Wellington, NZ

Despite the wide use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in university teaching, research on e-learning adoption suggests that it has not reached its full potential.
This paper considers possible reasons for this seeming contradiction, using models of adoption of innovations and relating them to recent studies of e-learning adoption. It also puts forward an original explanation of the e-learning 'paradox'. The main focus of the paper is on the university teacher as a practitioner, whose decisions underpin effective implementation of e-learning.

Moore's model of adoption of innovations
Moore (1999) considered the question of adoption of innovations from the high-tech marketing perspective.
'cracks in the bell curve'
Moore refers to this gap as a dividing chasm, because of the fundamental differences in the two psychographic groups: while early adopters are inclined to view innovations as an opportunity for a dramatic change (or even revolution) in their industry or field; the early majority are not interested in revolutionary approaches and seek evolutionary ways of improving the productivity of their operations. They want innovations to work properly and to integrate appropriately with their existing technological base.

In order to explain this lag between the two sets of adoption cycles within e-learning, we need to turn to research on teaching theories and teachersí values and beliefs, addressed widely in the empirical studies in the 1990s (for overviews, see Kember, 1997; Ramsden, 2003). This research shows that people form their personal theories about teaching and learning reasonably early in their lives, mostly implicitly, and do not change them easily when they become university teachers themselves. Recent research by Robertson (2004) also indicates that university teachers use ICT tools only if they are aligned with their beliefs about teaching and learning, and in the way that aligns with these beliefs.

To overcome the e-learning chasm it is important, therefore, for university teachers to articulate their personal theories and beliefs about teaching.
McNaught (in press, p. 16), for example, argues that academic development can build ìawareness in teachers about a wider range of strengths, weaknesses, potentials, and strategies of eLearningî and enable them to ìconstruct better eLearning environmentsî. This task should be given high priority by academic developers who work in the area of e-learning.