ED 650: Overcoming Barriers to Tech Adoption

Overcoming Barriers to Instructional Technology Adoption:
ED 650 Current Issue Paper 3

Library faculty have a wide range of technology skills and comfort levels. It can be challenging to work effectively with faculty who fall on the less-skilled and less-comfortable end of the spectrum when the projects involve technology. They use technology exactly as much as they have to to get by and do not seek to adopt new technologies, regardless of its potential positive impact on student learning.

Both the Library and Higher Education editions of the Horizon Report identify digital literacy as a solvable challenge impeding technology adoption (Johnson, Adams Becker, Estrada, & Freeman, 2015a; Johnson, Adams Becker, Estrada, & Freeman, 2015b). The reports point out there are different definitions of digital literacy, some that focus on “being fluent with a wide range of digital tools for varied educational tools” (the definition relevant to this paper) and others that direct the focus on information literacy applied to the digital world (Johnson et al., 2015a; Johnson et al., 2015b). Is a lack of digital fluency solely to blame when faculty fail to adopt instructional technologies? Surely not. This paper briefly explores the many reasons why faculty members fail to adopt technologies, to pave the way for developing strategies for encouraging adoption.

Though it does not include the most recent research, Reid’s (2014) review of the literature on technology adoption barriers up to 2012 provides a very helpful, comprehensive list to work from. Reid groups them into five categories with many subcategories:

  1. Technology (access to, reliability of, complexity of);
  2. Process of adopting (proper project management; adequate support for faculty, staff, and students; effective professional development that focuses on pedagogy);
  3. Administration (getting faculty input, adequate institutional leadership/support, providing faculty with time and compensation);
  4. Environment (context of organizational change, dynamics of faculty/administration relationship, legal issues, effectiveness of technology); and
  5. Faculty (or personal barriers) (ability to effectively use, change resistance, experience with technology, experience with teaching, concerns about a technology’s effectiveness, participation in professional development opportunities).

Though no solutions are offered, Reid presents this list as a starting point for creating a plan to address as many barriers as possible, especially the ones most prominent at one’s own institution.

I read several articles outlining barriers to adoption (most elucidated a few of the barriers from Reid’s list, at most) and strategies for overcoming those select barriers at specific institutions. However, I didn’t feel that many offered much beyond a common sense view at addressing the challenge as it is outlined in Reid (2014). One that did came from an unexpected source, a journal of management. In it, Mitchell, Parlamis, and Claiborne (2015) provide recommendations for facilitating faculty change based on a model for change only rarely applied to educational contexts. These include:

  1. Raising faculty awareness (communicating a clear message for the need to change, presenting change as a choice, articulating faculty’s essential role in leading the effort, “validating… fears and concerns,” and clarifying rewards and risks of implementing the change);
  2. “Allowing faculty the opportunity to fully express and experience their emotions surrounding” the change throughout the process;
  3. Presenting evidence “that change is both necessary and possible” by sharing data, research, and stories from one’s own institution and similar institutions showing the need for and the outcome of change;
  4. Changing institutional policies so that they explicitly support the change;
  5. Providing the supports faculty need to successfully implement the change (technology assistance, instructional design support, faculty who have successfully implemented the change who are willing to mentor others, etc., as appropriate); and
  6. Providing appropriate incentives to faculty to participate in the change, such as “additional compensation and/or a reduced course load” (Mitchell, Parlamis, and Claiborne, 2015, p. 361-365).

I appreciated Mitchell, Parlamis, and Claiborne’s (2015) approach of looking at the situation as a change management issue. I think a careful look at the barriers at play locally, combined with brainstorming ways to reduce those barriers and being careful to actively manage change, is an excellent approach to facilitating faculty adoption of instructional technologies.


Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., and Freeman, A. (2015a). NMC Horizon Report: 2015 Higher Education Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., and Freeman, A. (2015b). NMC Horizon Report: 2015 Library Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Mitchell, L. D., Parlamis, J. D., and Claiborne, S. A. (2015). Overcoming faculty avoidance of online education: From resistance to support to active participation. Journal of Management Education, 39(3), 350-371.

Reid, P. (2014). Categories for barriers to adoption of instructional technologies. Education and Information Technologies, 19(2), 383-407.

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