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Staff Development for eLearning: Innovation, cultural and organisational change - Part Two

Models of Adoption

Roger’s model of innovation

Rogers refers to the first 2.5% of take up as innovators (venturesome), the next 13.5% as early adopters (are respected), 34% as the early majority (deliberate) (this takes us to 50% beyond where a critical mass is achieved) 34% are the late majority (sceptics) whilst the final 16% are referred to as laggards (traditional) and could perhaps be split further into early and late laggards

Key elements in driving the innovation at Northumbria have been the student push which drove us towards achieving a critical mass and the pull from management which had a clear vision of achieving a web-enabled university.

Figure 1 Rogers' s-shaped innovation adoption curve

The axes here are time (horizontal) and adoption (vertical).

What we feel is crucial is where Northumbria goes next. We believe that we are developing as a learning organisation and the next stage is to continue with further innovation (LCMS) using what we have learnt to achieve success.

As Somekh and others have pointed out, in education we are expert at subverting innovations and, without continued vision and drive we often have failure, dissipation and subversion of the innovation!

Somekh’s model of innovation

Somekh (1998) offers an alternative six-stage model drawing upon earlier research (Somekh et al, 1996) The stages are:

Orientation - information about the innovation is sought;

Preparation - getting ready to begin;

Routine - low level, routine use is developed;

Refinement - the use of the innovation is refined and improved;

Integration - the use of the innovation becomes integral to practice;

Creative integration - new and more effective ways to use the innovation are sought, going beyond what has been achieved by others.

In considering this expanded model Somekh suggests that it is useful in looking at how individuals respond to innovation and she highlights the third stage as the point at which many innovations get stuck. At this point the innovation is being used but in a minimalist way which does not bring about a change in the nature of teaching and learning. Rather the innovation has been subverted and its original intention has not been achieved. This is because to go beyond the third “routine” stage requires a rethink about how previous practice needs to change to fully integrate the innovation. Somekh notes “what was done before should be changed to integrate with the innovation, just as the innovation should be changed to integrate with what was done before. It is only at the stage of integration that the innovation ceases to be an add-on.” (Somekh, 1998).

Tuckman’s stages of innovation

Although the Tuckman model applies principally to team development and behaviour, it can also be applied to educational innovation, especially when combined with a learning organizational approach.

Forming - the innovation is introduced, trialled and tested for suitability, usually with a small sample of innovators.

Storming - take-up increases as more participants come aboard

Norming - occurs after a critical mass has been achieved and the innovation has been adopted by a majority.

Performing - when the innovation has become a natural and integral aspect of everyday activities.

At this point, Tuckman did propose a fifth stage – adjourning, where, once the innovation has been successfully bedded down, the drive for progress dissipates and participants disperse. In a learning organisation though, the fifth stage would be learning and re-forming to carry new innovations into place, building upon what has been learned during the previous four steps. Northumbria’s approach built upon the team spirit, development and behaviour as part of their adoption process of the virtual learning environment.

Matching the models

It’s interesting to look at the three models here and see where they match. Although they have come from three very diverse sources – team development, business innovation and HE, the match is significant. Perhaps the key point to note is that Somekh’s model goes a stage further and sees the innovation developing and growing further and in new ways – harking back to the notion of the learning organisation.










Early adopters



Early majority

Late majority








Creative Integration

Figure 2 Models of Adoption

Author: Malcolm Bell, Wendy Bell

09 October 2004

VLE: Blackboard



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