The adoption cycle

Key terms

In 1962, Everett Rogers developed the 'diffusion of innovations' theory, which...


Sahin, I. (2006) 'Detailed review of Rogers' diffusion of innovations theory and...

Although it may seem that technology evolves at a dizzying pace, it helps to understand that the adoption of new technology tools into higher education teaching and learning takes time.

As you weigh the possibilities of integrating new technology tools into your teaching and learning, it is expedient to consider how mature the technology is to ensure availability throughout the term you are teaching, and hopefully beyond!

Academic technology tools typically have an adoption cycle within an institution as well. Often, individual academic staff members will spearhead and successfully implement new approaches, which are then adopted (or rejected) by institutional technology leaders. It is beneficial to get a feel for the technology adoption philosophy at your institution before you implement anything new (outside of your LMS/VLE) on your own!

The following graph depicts the Gartner Hype Cycle, which can be used to help gauge which stage a new technology tool has reached in the adoption cycle. Click on the pinpoints to find out more about each stage.

The following paragraphs will introduce the Gartner Hype Cycle, which can be used to help gauge which stage a new technology tool has reached in the adoption cycle.

A line graph depicting the Gartner Hype Cycle of technology adoption.

The Gartner Hype Cycle is a graphical representation of how new technologies are adopted over time – from initial launch, through maturity, adoption, and final application. The graphic consists of a line graph with two axes, 'Visibility' along the vertical axis and 'Time' along the horizontal axis. The five phases of the technology adoption cycle are plotted on the graph.

Phase 1: Technology trigger

This phase involves the launch of a new technology tool that generates significant publicity and interest. This phase is plotted at the bottom of both the 'Visibility' and 'Time' axes – i.e., at the point of launch, there has not been any time for the tool to instigate public enthusiasm or adoption.

Phase 2: Peak of inflated expectations

Advertising and promotion incite public enthusiasm and foster unrealistic expectations. The line graph moves sharply into a peak, indicating high visibility/adoption of the tool.

Phase 3: Trough of disillusionment

The technology tool fails to meet user expectations and quickly falls out of favour and public opinion. The line graph falls sharply into a trough, indicating that visibility and adoption have decreased.

Phase 4: Slope of enlightenment

Continued use (although favour has fallen) shows benefits of technology tool, along with models for practical and successful application. The line graph recovers from the trough, indicating increasing visibility and adoption again, although visibility is not as high as during the 'Peak of inflated expectations' stage.

Phase 5: Plateau of productivity

Benefits and stability of the technology tool become widely publicised and recognised. The line graph moves into a steady horizontal line, indicating sustained adoption and use of the tool.

Source: Gartner (2014) [website]. Used with permission.

Migrating to a new system

At some point, your institution may undergo a transition from one LMS/VLE to another, a process typically referred to as an LMS/VLE migration. It is worth preparing in advance for the possibility of such a transition.

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Find where your LMS/VLE course export options are and talk to your institutional support team to find out the best way to regularly archive your courses. That team will probably be handling the import/export process during any migration, but it will help for you to keep a back-up of your course contents as well. If you are using an e-portfolio too, remember to back that content up also!

During the migration process, you may have access to the old and new LMS/VLE at the same time. Take advantage of any time that you have to play in the new LMS/VLE, and request the creation of a test course, which you can use to explore the system.

In some cases you may simply be upgrading from one version of an LMS/VLE to another. On some occasions, the changes you see will be minimal; at other times they may be extensive. In either case, as with a new LMS/VLE, request a test course in advance to try out the new environment.

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Preparing for the future is a challenge in any context. It is highly probable that your institution has provisions in place for the review and integration of new technology tools, along with a framework for piloting and evaluating approaches to their use. You may wish to reach out to your technology support team for more information related to new initiatives, and consider partnering with them to pilot the new technology tools that they recommend.

Key terms

In 1962, Everett Rogers developed the 'diffusion of innovations' theory, which seeks to explain the way in which innovations, such as new technology tools, are adopted. Rogers's theory uses the following five terms:

Innovators: Leading edge users who implement new technology tools as soon as they become available with no concern for potential risks.

Early adopters: Users who implement new technology tools once they have weighed the risks and deem the new approaches to be feasibly successful.

Early majority: Users who rely on the innovators and early adopters to test out new technology tools and are willing to wait until bugs and issues have been identified and resolved before implementation.

Late majority (or late adopter): Users who are sceptical of new technology innovations, and are not willing to take any chances on changing existing models.

Laggards: This (slightly unflattering!) term is used to describe users who are not interested at all in new technology innovations and who are not willing to make any changes to their current technology usage or try anything new.

Hype cycle: The graphical representation of the technology adoption cycle over time – from initial launch, through maturity, adoption, and final application.