The chasm

The following is the next section for the People component of the Ps Framework for chapter 2 of my thesis. It starts the trend away from specific roles/groups within e-learning to some more abstract descriptions of the people involved. This one talks about the chasm.

Remember, this is a cut down version for the thesis that is in rough first draft stage. I think the idea of the “chasm” has a great deal of applicability to say about the current practice of e-learning within universities.

Apologies for the “insert cross reference” place holders. They are there for when I join chapter 2 all back up again.

The chasm

The creation and early adoption of technologies to address major educational problems, rather than being the greatest challenge, is the easiest stages to negotiate with the slow, difficult and time-consuming road to mainstreaming being considerably more difficult (Holt & Thompson, 1998). An observation supported by the technology-mediated hype cycle identified in the Past Experience section (insert cross reference) and its long history of technology-based revolutions in learning and teaching that have minimal uptake and impact. An observation also supported by the evaluation of the quantity and quality of industrial e-learning (insert cross reference) that shows less than universal usage of less than good quality learning practices. A finding that holds with the broader practice of learning and teaching at Universities and Wiemer’s (2007) observation that while many individual faculty members have changed their practice, the overall change is nil. This section outlines the social and psychological explanation for this lack of mainstreaming provided by Geoghegan’s (1994; Gilbert & Geoghegan, 1995) use of the chasm identified by Moore (2002).

Moore (2002) draws on the work of Rogers (1995) on the diffusion of innovations to offer insights into the marketing of innovative technology projects. In turn, Geoghegan (1994; Gilbert & Geoghegan, 1995) uses this to explain problems limiting the mainstreaming of information technology to support learning and teaching. In particular, the presence of “the chasm” between the visionaries – the innovators and early adopters who form the first two of Rogers (1995) categories of adopters – from the pragmatists – the remaining three adopter categories. Figure 2.2 is a representation of these adopter categories and Moore’s chasm.

Moore's technology adoption lifecycle

Figure 2.2 – Moore’s Technology Adoption Lifecycle (Chelius, 2009)

In order for an innovation to be mainstreamed, it must successfully cross the chasm and be adopted by the pragmatists. This is made difficult due to the observation that the two groups – visionaries and pragmatists – have extensive differences and require completely different approaches. Table 2.3 is Geoghegan’s explanation of the differences between the categories of early adopter and early majority as shown in Figure 2.2. Echoing observations made above, Geoghegan (1994) that, despite massive technology expenditures, the widespread availability of technology and a growing comfort level with that technology, there remain only isolated pokckets of successful applications of instructional technology. By no means achieving the instructional technology revolution long anticipated by advocates (Geoghegan, 1994).

Table 2.3 – Geoghegan’s (1994) comparison of early adopters and early majority
Early Adopters Early majority
Like radical change Like gradual change

Visionary Pragmatic
Project oriented Process oriented
Risk takers Risk averse
Willing to experiment Need proven uses
Self sufficient Need support
Relate horizontally (interdisciplinary) Relate vertically (within discipline)

Geoghegan (1994) identifies four reasons why the gap hasn’t been bridged: ignorance of the gap, the technologists alliance, alienation of the mainstream and the lack of a compelling reason to adopt. Ignorance of the gap or chasm manifests itself in a homogeneity of approach to technology implementation and support. Institutions and decision makers are simply not aware of the differences and this shows up in policy and practice. From this perspective different staff simply have differing levels of resistance to instructional technology and all that is required to address this is better arguments, incentives and support, rather than different arguments, incentives and support (Geoghegan, 1994).

The technologists’ alliance refers to the combination of vendors, early adopters and university instructional technology support units that are responsible for the small number of successful applications of ICTs. The technologists’ alliance form a community with common language and interests and offer reciprocal support to each other (Geoghegan, 1994). A community that appeared to have a naïve assumption that what worked for the early adopters would work for the mainstream, and one that focused on disruptive innovations at the expense of incremental advances. A community that alienated the mainstream through that emphasis on disruptiveness and a range of associated negative impacts (Geoghegan, 1994). In particular, the inability to produce an application of technology that is of absolutely compelling value in pragmatic, mainstream terms that provides the compelling reason to adopt.

In the decade and a bit since Geoghegan’s work it is possible to find evidence of the chasm and the technologists’ alliance. The discourse around globalization, and knowledge and learning societies creates an environment in which commercial and political opportunism have flourished and established the myth that computing is inherently beneficial in education (Selwyn, 2002). Subsequently, commercial entities see universities as important sites within which future consumers can develop a taste for their products (Goodyear & Ellis, 2008). The perception of the importance and benefits of ICTs to education has seen increases in government investment and the establishment of government technology agencies to promote and evaluate ICT innovation (Convery, 2009). Increased government funding and associated requirements for increased accountability result in teleological approaches to the implementation of e-learning (insert cross reference to process section), approaches that encourage standardization, commodification and homogenization and an on-going ignorance of the chasm.

References

Chelius, C. (2009, 9 August, 2009). Technology (or solution) adoption process, as described in Geoffrey Moore’s book Crossing the Chasm.   Retrieved 9 August, 2009, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Technology-Adoption-Lifecycle.png

Convery, A. (2009). The pedagogy of the impressed: how teachers become victims of technology vision. Teachers and Teaching, 15(1), 25-41.

Geoghegan, W. (1994). Whatever happened to instructional technology? Paper presented at the 22nd Annual Conferences of the International Business Schools Computing Association, Baltimore, MD.

Gilbert, S., & Geoghegan, W. (1995). An "online" experience: discussion group debates why faculty use or resist technology. Change, 27(2), 28-45.

Goodyear, P., & Ellis, R. A. (2008). University students’ approaches to learning: rethinking the place of technology. Distance Education, 29(2), 141-152.

Holt, D., & Thompson, D. (1998). Managing information technology in open and distance higher education. Distance Education, 19(2), 197-227.

Moore, G. A. (2002). Crossing the Chasm (Revised ed.). New York: Harper Collins.

Rogers, E. (1995). Diffusion of Innovations (4th ed.). New York: The Free Press.

Selwyn, N. (2002). Learning to love the micro: the discursive construction of ‘educational’ computing in the UK, 1979-89. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 23(3), 427-443.

Weimer, M. (2007). Intriguing connections but not with the past. International Journal for Academic Development, 12(1), 5-8.

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