The significance of technology in higher education institutions cannot be overstated. Research indicates that though there is a degree of application of technology in teaching and learning, its usage has been below par as compared to other industries. Many models have been developed in attempt to explain how to spur effective implementation of technology use with little success. One such model is the organizational theory model. However, the role of sponsors, the team leader and innovation efficacy plus the underlying issues that affect innovation implementation have not been clearly addressed. This study used the Partnership for Higher Education, Education Technology Initiative projects to investigate the determinants of technology innovation implementation effectiveness in higher education institutions. These projects were implemented between 2008 and 2012 and endeavored to stimulate technology uptake in African universities. The study was based on 26 technology implementation projects drawn from seven universities spread in six countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. The descriptive study adopted a critical realism method so as to unearth the issues that affect technology implementation effectiveness. A total of 105 usable survey responses were received with 53 interviews conducted. Due to the dichotomous nature of determining implementation effectiveness (successful or failure), logistic regression was used to determine the factors that influence technology innovation implementation effectiveness. Quantitative data was analysed using SPSS version 17 and R-statistical package while data from interviews were analysed using theoretical thematic analysis method. The items within the broader variables were subjected to exploratory factor analysis using principal component method. It was found that 30 percent of the projects were partially successful since they met only some of the objectives, 55 percent had techno-political failure, with 15 percent absolute failures. The results showed that project sponsors, top management, organizational culture, team leadership, financial motivation, organizational climate and innovation efficacy were important determinant to technology implementation effectiveness. Technology framing, innovation environment and innovation attributes were found to be underlying issues in technology implementation. The study recommended need to manage technology transfer problem, develop innovation adopting nature and absorptive capacity in universities so as to enhance technology innovation implementation effectiveness.
This chapter provides insights into the implementation of technology innovation in higher education institutions (HEIs). This is by looking at study background which first delves into need for technology in HEIs and then gives some background on the Partnership for Higher Education, Education Technology Initiatives. The statement of the problem, research objectives and research questions are then stated. The chapter concludes by providing the significance of study, the scope and the organization of the other chapters.
Background to the Study
The significance of technology in HEIs cannot be overstated. The Economist Intelligence Unit (2008) noted that technology was a major attractor to students and the corporate sector in joining different HEIs. Technology has become a non-negotiable aspect of students’ lives. Jhurree (2005) asserted that technology has the potential to drive economic, social, political and educational transformations. Jhurree (2005) advised that developing countries could not ignore technology if they were to remain competitive and relevant within the globalization trend. On the other hand, research indicated that though there was a degree of use of technology in teaching and learning, its application was not equal to technology use in administration and social circles.
McGregor (2002), Wanyembi (2002) and Dodds (2007) viewed technology as a powerful contributor to strengthening HEIs. Rogers (2003) and Dodds (2007) defined innovation as the implementation of a new or significantly improved idea, good, service, process or practice that is intended to be useful. From the definition, it was evident that Dodds (2007) believed technology had emancipatory power, able to assist institutions to move from the status quo and to perform their functions in a much improved way. Dodds categorized ICT’s role as a contributor to innovation into three broad areas: building communities of innovation, radically changing institutional processes and practice, and implementing infrastructure and tools that enable people to excel. Furthermore, in HEIs, ICT could remove barriers to effectiveness, help create affective services and new possibilities for collaboration, assist in establishing continual communication and help build trust among people. While technology cannot be taken as a panacea for all educational challenges, “it
does leverage and extend traditional teaching and learning activities in certain circumstances and hence has the potential to impact on learning outcomes” (Jaffer, Ng’ambi, & Czerniewicz, 2007: 136).
The massive investment in technology, mainly Information and Communication Technology (ICT), is evidence that institutions are cognizant of technology’s potential for revolutionizing their operations (Wanyembi, 2002, Jhurree, 2005). It also indicates readiness on the part of HEI management to make the most of potential benefits attributed to technology integration. Numerous theorists have argued and presented evidence to the effect that, despite its significant investment and claimed benefits, the impact of technology on education has often been disappointing (Antonacci, 2002; Wanyembi, 2002, Balasubramanian et al., 2009; Macharia & Nyakwende, 2009; Veletsianos, 2010; Bertrand, 2010; Mirriahi, Dawson, & Hoven, 2012). This is despite the fact that most technological innovations are now emerging from developing countries. Universities spend a lot in technology yet failure in these technologies seems to be the norm rather than exception (Ochara, Kandiri & Johnson, 2014). This massive spending in ICT but with little to show for these investments, gives rise to a ‘technology paradox’. Bertrand (2010) called this technological innovation transfer the effect of “Technosclerosis” and contended that modern universities have fallen behind the pace of technological change and have become irrelevant in the real life of an interconnected and globalizing world. Oliver (2002) agreed with Bertrand, claiming that the impact of technological innovations in HEIs has not been as extensive as in other fields. Oliver argued that there is a detachment between the belief in the potential of ICTs in HEIs and the application thereof; a lack of congruence between the belief in technology’s potential and the actual realization of the benefits that should accrue from adopting these innovations. This is what Katz (1999) referred to as “dancing with the devil”. Wanyembi (2002) stated that HEIs often invested in technology with alacrity but having limited understanding of how to manage the implementation process. Wanyembi (2002) assertions have applied to date.
Unfortunately, failure to achieve effective implementation of innovations has negative consequences. These consequences include: loss of the potential benefit of technology integration, loss of the finances already sunk into the project, opportunity costs relating to
other resources that were sunk into the project, negative image and reputation, tarnished credibility of the management involved and the likelihood that management will in future be skeptical regarding adopting further innovations (Sawang & Unsworth, 2007; Osei- Bryson, Dong & Ngwenyama, 2008; Ke & Wei, 2006; Heeks, 2002). The reason that most technology project implementations are not effective, and that institutions fail to reap the benefits of innovation, is ineffective implementation arising from lack of knowledge – rather than failure of the innovation being adopted (Johnson, 2000, Klein, Conn, & Sorra, 2001, Klein & Knight, 2005; Sawang, Unsworth, & Sorbello, 2006; Sawang & Unsworth, 2007). There is a pressing need for HEIs in Africa to understand what determines the effective implementation of the technology innovations they are interested in adopting. This represents the main knowledge gap in the current study.
While there is much literature on technology adoption, the understanding of what leads to effective implementation once technology has been adopted remains blurred (Dong, Neufeld & Higgins, 2008; Chin & Marcolin, 2001). In addition, there is limited information and understanding of the factors that determine effective implementation of technological innovations in HEIs.
By contrast, literature is replete with information on key barriers to the successful assimilation of innovations in HEIs (Wagner, Hassanein, & Head, 2008; Balasubramanian et al., 2009; Bertrand, 2010; Safiul & Corresponding, 2010). Bertrand (2010) thus called for critical examination of factors related to education and administration that make institutions unable to adjust to the innovation adopted. Further, Bertrand (2010) called for a “revolutionary paradigm” to address the issue.
This study endeavoured to bridge the gap between the high costs of investment in technology and its assimilation in HEIs. To this end, the study adopted an optimistic view, proposing determinants that would result in bridging the gap. The study took up Bertrand’s (2010) challenge – namely; how modern HEIs might counter the effects of “Technosclerosis” and re-establish their relevance in the real life of an interconnected and globalizing world – and adopted a critical realist philosophy to investigate the determinants of technology implementation effectiveness in HEIs.