A Case Study of Adoption and Diffusion of an Existing Asynchronous Distance Learning Program

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Virginia Tech

This case study examines an asynchronous distance learning program to identify characteristics critical to the diffusion and adoption process necessary for effective implementation. These attributes extrapolated from the review of literature and case study examination are both insightful and timely, since many educational institutions are currently implementing distance learning programs without a formal plan or vision. The study specified how an asynchronous program dealt with the diffusion and adoption process by providing a thorough examination of secondary documentation and archival record review, coupled with program interviews.

Media for communicating information has expanded from simple print, voice, and face-to-face communications to include fax, voice mail, computer-assisted instruction, email, video and other technologies. These technologies are central to the mission of education. Institutions have entered the distance learning arena with the intent of capturing and attracting nontraditional students, as defined by age, marital status or employment status, to the academic market.

Adoption and diffusion mechanisms focus on societal and customer needs. At institutions of higher learning, students are the customers and their academic needs should come first. The corporate sector is indirectly shaping education by hiring students who have acquired the skills needed to compete in the information age. Distance education must have an integrated strategic plan that successfully aligns all vital programs to support academic, industry and societal needs. Students and faculty must have easy access to information resources, support services, policies and procedures for distance education.

The information resulting from this examination may facilitate adoption and diffusion of asynchronous distance learning programs. Based upon identified characteristics, the ancillary product of this case study was a compiled list and discussion of lessons learned, composed from the review of literature and case study examination. Key recommendations from the study, and substantiated in the review of literature, follow:

• The case study had an adaptable infrastructure that changed with the times. • The purchase and use of distance learning technology was consistent with the strategic plan. • Participants had easy access and training to distance learning technology.

Adoption, Diffusion, Distance Learning