Perceptions on the Diffusion and Adoption of SkillSoft®, an e-learning program: A Case Study of a Military Organization

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Virginia Tech

The purpose of this qualitative case study was to better understand how the diffusion (spread) and adoption (acceptance) of SkillSoft® (an e-learning product) occurred among employees of one military organization and to distill individual perceptions regarding influences that affected the process. This case study focused on the process and its challenges. Relating personal perceptions of the process and how various categories of influences (personal, organizational, technological, mandated policy, change) may have affected the process in a military organization provides a unique account that has been lacking in the literature.

The results of this case study resonate with earlier research by Rogers (1983), Weinstein (1981), Sherry (1997), and Schein (1985), which found that influences (personal, organizational and technological) can have a dynamic effect on the diffusion and adoption of an innovation such as SkillSoft®. The study findings revealed that interviewees preferred job related e-learning experiences which support prior research by Bonk and Wisher (2000), and research by Thomerson and Smith (1996) who found that change in the way training is delivered can have an effect on the individual’s willingness to adopt an e-learning program like SkillSoft®. The study augments previous findings by Berge, (1997) indicating that culture can be a barrier to the implementation of on-line learning.

The findings illuminated that awareness of the organization’ s environment (culture, mission, organization structure, decision-making process, communications channels, skills of employees), users’ requirements, as well as the product’s (SkillSoft®) fit with individual learning styles, are key elements to be considered when implementing an e-learning product in a military setting.

Post Script: With the acquisition of SMARTFORCE®, SkillSoft® Corporation was able to diversify its e-learning training opportunities (course library) to better meet the learning requirements of military personnel since the initiation of this case study. Currently the 2003 SkillSoft® SMARTFORCE® library of courses is available free of charge on-line and is enhancing the knowledge and skills of active duty, reserve military personnel and Department of Defense government civilians.

Distance Learning, Diffusion, Perceptions, e-learning, Adoption