Building institutional capacity for mainstreaming e-learning innovations: a new methodology for a wicked problem

Author: Irena White

White, Irena, 2020 Building institutional capacity for mainstreaming e-learning innovations: a new methodology for a wicked problem, Flinders University, College of Education, Psychology and Social Work

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This PhD study investigates how universities can build institutional capacity for mainstreaming e-learning innovations in university teaching practice and maximise the adoption of transformational new methods of teaching and learning. The study focusses on digital technology-enabled learning, known as e-learning, innovations that originate in higher education teaching practice and go on to achieve mainstream adoption within the originating university. Previous research, as indicated in this thesis, suggests that teacher-originated e-learning innovations mostly fail to achieve local mainstream adoption, even where there has been considerable long-term investment in information technology infrastructure and support services in that university. Over the past two decades, studies of this problem around the world have mostly used single and multiple case study and large-scale survey research methods to identify causal and critical success factors, while continuing to view innovation adoption as a single linear process described in theories of diffusion of innovations. In this study, the problem of mainstreaming the diffusion of innovations is viewed through a complex, non-linear, dynamic, systems lens to investigate the multiple relationships between critical success factors associated with key roles played in innovation adoption by actors who represent key university institutional stakeholder groups. Interpretive Case-based Modelling, developed as a new bricolage methodology for conducting this study, applies this complex systems perspective by overlapping case studies with multi-agent computer modelling simulations, guided by an interpretive interactionism research design. The cases and models reported in the study result from interviews with 15 individual volunteer participants located in Australian and New Zealand universities. The computer modelling, conducted in-situ during each interview, uncovers the impacts of the relationships between institutional stakeholder roles in universities when enabling and inhibiting connections and levels of influence are applied using a model framework. The resulting participant insights, gained from modelling both real and ideal case-based scenarios during the interviews, revealed a range of diverse opportunities for harnessing stakeholder relationships for building institutional capacity to facilitate change within the specific context of each case. In this way, the study investigated mainstreaming of e-learning innovation adoption in higher education teaching practice from a new complex systems perspective. Findings from the study suggest Interpretive Case-based Modelling has potential applications in other studies of change in complex social systems, with possibilities for further extension to focus groups.

Keywords: e-learning, agent based modellin, diffusion of innovations

Subject: Education thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2020
School: College of Education, Psychology and Social Work
Supervisor: Professor Lindsey Conner