In my last blog entry, I elaborated on the constructs surrounding technology acceptance in relation to adoption of technologies for use within the context of e-learning in medical education. The reason for doing so was to enable a micro-level view of the issues that influence individuals’ repeated use of technologies. Being aware of these issues, gives decision-makers an opportunity to examine the use of different technologies before adopting them on a wider scale. In resource-constrained settings, this is even a bigger priority. One needs to make decisions that will ensure that the investment to be made can be sustained.
In an ideal world, decisions about what kind of technologies are needed within an academic environment result from systematic needs assessments and analyses at multiple levels. In the real world, we follow a much more rapid, and at times messy, approach to making such decisions. Decisions on adoption of technologies that have not been thoroughly assessed may be inconsequential in the short term, since it is unlikely that, apart from typical maintenance, major issues will arise. However, in the long term, it may be that the consequences of such decisions have a tremendous impact and not always a positive one. For example, life-cycle, asset management, and other support issues may not be sustainable a few years into implementation due to budgetary implications, staffing expertise, etc. So, in this blog entry, I chose to focus on providing a suggested process for field testing technologies from a technology acceptance perspective with the hope that such field testing will mitigate some of the long-term unwanted consequences.
Let’s consider the following scenario:
You have ascertained that many of your students do not have computers of their own; however, you have increased your reliance on electronic resources. Therefore, you have determined that an affordable solution would be to provide tablets to all incoming students so that during their tenure in medical school they would be able to gain easy access to the local area network and internet resources. It is the expectation that, since you have established increased e-capacity through investment in digital libraries and a learning management system, the students would utilize the tablets for their basic science coursework and clinical work as needed. To integrate this solution within the teaching practices of the faculty, you have also decided to provide tablets to faculty as well. However, you know that some faculty may not be as comfortable with the use of technology and others may be but do not see the value added.
What do you do next? Before rolling out a solution for all, conduct a field test to determine the most “accepted” tool for all including the support team and identify the implications for a full-scale implementation.
What follows is an outline of a process for field testing new technologies that you may choose to adapt for your own context:
- Purpose of the testing
- Note that the purpose may vary from one user group to another. For example, the support team will be testing the technologies from one particular lens while faculty from another, etc.
- Identify the specific tasks
- Agreement form for participating: Demographics (e.g., age; university role)
- Asset Management acknowledgement
- Obligation to report back on activities outlined in testing plan
- Instrument creation/identification to capture technology acceptance before, during, and after the testing
- Activities identified for collecting feedback such as focus groups, surveys, etc.
- Baseline information on applicant experience with technologies using the instrument created or identified
- Communication expectations throughout the testing period
In my next blog entry, I will provide a completed sample of such a protocol so that you can see how this could be operationalized. Until then....