Rogers’ Diffusion Model explains the acceptance or rejection of IT innovations in an organisation or society, or how an innovation diffuses through a society. According to the Technology Adoption Model (TAM), beliefs about usefulness and ease of use are essential factors in determining user attitude towards adopting a new technology. While the former cannot be dismissed as a panic factor in the context discussed here, the latter (i.e., ease of use) was a huge panic trigger when news about the introduction of eLearning at the University of Liberia was announced. The panicked experienced by many was actually based on their perception of how easy it would be to use the new technology (the online learning management system, Moodle). in other words, adapting to the change was initially viewed as insurmountable.
The initial reaction from would-be users was fear and skepticism even after months of awareness and training. Understandably, the limited experience with technology in our culture and especially among students, played a major role in engendering the immediate initial skepticism and fear regarding ease of use. In Liberia, computer still remains a luxury commodity as many – including students and instructors – cannot afford, hence, many students graduate before – if fortunate – being exposed to computer technology, hence, the initial conservatism and fears.
Nevertheless these challenging realities and tech acceptance factors, according to TAM, conservatism and skepticism soon give way to acceptance, adoption, and adaptation as people begin to experiment with new the technology. Additionally, there are the social influence and self-efficacy factors that help turn the tides. Social influence is the pressure exerted on the individual by the opinions of other individuals – early adopters and early majority (peers) or groups while self-efficacy is an individual’s belief in his or her capacity to do something.
With fear of use now gradually being side-stepped as use of the technology by peers increases (social influence), and group and one-to-one tutorials increase (self-efficacy), students are now beginning to enjoy and appreciate the new experience of learning-on-the-go, the E-learning system which allows learning anytime and anywhere.
Compared to the challenges (e.g., transportation cost, bad road conditions) associated with traditional face-to-face classroom learning, students can stay in remote locations, as long as they are connected to the internet, and access contents uploaded by instructors, participate in forum discussions with colleagues, engage in group activities, do live chats with instructors and/ or class colleagues, receive instant feedback from assignments or quizzes, among others. This asynchronous mode of content delivery and learning is further enhanced by the possibility of online face-to-face meetings, similar to the traditional learning experience. During these online face-to-face interactions, students are provided the opportunity for instructors to explain difficult and otherwise confusing or hard-to-understand concepts to students.
With the pronouncement by the University’s President that eLearning is here to stay, one student gleefully said, “the future is now and I am glad to be a part”.