Sampling Process for Interview Participants

by Adopter Category

First, I tried to identify a number of faculty, staff, and students in the early and late adopter groups. Some of these individuals were suggested by two of my committee members, Brent Wilson and Alan Davis. Some of them had been in courses and seminars with me. Some of them I had met at doctoral ladies’ teas. Some of them I didn’t know at all.

Next, I tried to contact each person on the list, to narrow it down to ten participants. Part way through the process of either speaking to them in person, on the phone, or corresponding with them via e-mail, it became clear to me that some of these individuals were early or late majority adopters (curious novices, somewhat reluctant old-timers), not at either end of the spectrum. That’s when I decided to change my sampling scheme, raise it to 12 participants, include a policy maker, and include the early and late majority adopters as well. I tried to interview some of the really resistant users, but either I had no contact information for them or they never answered my repeated phone calls or e-mail messages. In conversations with the interview participants, I tried to place each person into a cell of my grid, until I had filled all the grids with the number of people I wanted. Sometimes they did not really fit where I initially expected them.

The actual validation of this scheme came out of the interviews. What seemed to characterize the different adoption categories was their level of personal and cultural compatibility. Basically, was the use of Internet tools compatible with their lifestyle and value system? On a personal basis, did it match their philosophy? On a cultural basis, were they coerced into using it?

Here are the critical comments, taken verbatim from the transcripts, for each of the twelve interviewees whom I finally selected.

Early Adopter #1 - Student (This individual is a professionally engaged technology leader and teaches a technology course in the SOE.)

I had most of this Internet access stuff set up before I was part of the SOE. The people in the CLT department and my business life is pretty much wrapped around technology, and we all use it a lot, and I learn a lot from other people. I am always amazed at how much time I spend what I consider to be my free time where I’m talking about technology, I guess just because it’s fascinating. I think [using the Internet] is terribly appropriate. I think it’s terribly underutilized.

When I went into this cognition class this semester, and out of 30 people there was 14 or 15 people that had never used a listserv, I mean I felt like I was in a time warp. But that’s good because it makes me understand that not everybody is into this.

Early Adopter #2 - Student (This individual participates in international listservs, on-line forums, and professional conferences.)

I use it all the time. I mean it’s part of my everyday life. I am grateful for listservs that offer more cutting edge discussions than what one finds even with professors. They’re great sources.

Everything I’ve learned how to do, I’ve learned how to do at home through hit and miss. Now a lot of it is like playing the piano—just an automatic memory within my hand muscles. I don’t understand why it’s hard for people to figure out how to use CEO or Carbon or even searching for information on the Internet.

Majority Adopter #3 - Student (This individual does not consider herself a novice user. She repeatedly uses the word "forced".)

I spent many years with technology, and...I felt as though I wanted to leave the technology behind for a while, and I felt forced back into the technology before I was ready. The Internet is one of those things that’s so individual and so private, you have to be forced to go out and do it. Currently I’m motivated to do the things that I’m doing because that is what I’m ultimately interested in. The more I’m there, the more I see. Any time you force me to go out and find more information, the more I know for my own sense of what to do.

In our lab, the Internet is used for communication, Since we are independent people that have different tasks, it’s a way of making sure we stay on task, to document the evolution and work process of our group. [But] it’s not always an equitable way of providing a dialogue for a group of students. A lot of times when I’m looking at particularly large on-line conferences, I feel as though my mode there is to sit and listen.

Majority Adopter #4 - Student (This individual considers herself a novice user who appreciated personal help from CINS when she was first getting started.)

I don’t think it’s an imposition to use e-mail and the Internet. Teachers made it clear that it’s used here. E-mail is a good form of communication. It’s also my curiosity - I’m interested in educational issues on a worldwide basis. Often there is no time to meet; using a LAN for communication is a good way of sharing information, just like sharing ideas in a book club.

I feel OK composing messages on screen, but I am concerned about privacy issues. I like asynchronous communication; I feel I get to know people that way even though I never have met them, but it does take away the social cues that you get from face-to-face conversations. I still have trouble with the modem settings. There should be a new doctoral student orientation where I would like them to explain about CEO, how the Internet works, how to forward messages, and other tips.

Late Adopter #5 - Student (This is a dissertating CLT doctoral student with serious reservations about computer addiction)

I wouldn’t say that I feel real proficient. I’m somewhat of a neophyte in using it, that there’s so much out there now that I think it’s difficult to narrow down. I don’t get on the Web and search for information; I still stick with the library.

Reservations about it? getting addicted to it. I haven’t gone full bore...I’m afraid that I’ll like it too much and I’ll sit in front of the computer and waste a lot of time surfing the Net. The personal philosophy that I have a problem that I remember in high school there was a lot of talk that computers were going to replace teachers and humans...I’d much rather have personal contact with somebody, sitting and talking to them. I would imagine that people that are addicted to e-mail, and that’s basically the only way to communicate, [that] is not humanistic communication.

Late Adopter #6 - Student (This dissertating CLT doctoral student had a very bad experience when her name was posted on a pornographic list)

I took a class...and we had to start right away discussing on-line and I was uncomfortable because I couldn’t see people’s faces and I didn’t know if I knew how to talk to people without seeing their faces. Unless I had been weaned on that first class, I wouldn’t have gone to the Internet because it was unfamiliar...any time things are unfamiliar, we’re reluctant. It was uncomfortable all summer. Now frustration is part of any learning curve, but I thought it would have been perhaps helpful if there had been a little more support built in.

I use it a lot now, but it ‘s not without some emotional kinds of investment. Personal value? [I have] a great, great number of reservations. Like anything, I think we have to be wise.

Early Adopter #7 - Faculty (The best information is not recorded. She told me about how she purposefully leads people to think she’s a late adopter, and they’re so amazed when they find out what she is REALLY up to. "I keep trying things, tinkering with it without really asking the IT people.")

My own learning...that’s one of the things that makes you get up in the morning and come back and do this stuff is that it’s just compelling and interesting to have these puzzles that you can solve! I find myself using it more and more because it gave us other resources that we could plug into. [Posting a proceedings paper] was the task for my’re more than welcome to go and look at our’s pretty slick...I’m really proud...the kids have done an amazing and wonderful thing. It’s really an amazing tool and there are really some impressive and important things that can be done with it.

But what kind of adaptations do we have to make? I think [the Internet] can be a wonderful addition to keep contact with people that we might otherwise lose [dispersed cohorts in rural areas]. I’ve insisted that next spring when I’m supposed to go to Durango for three weekends, that one of those weekends is going to be distance learning somehow, but the resistance is very, very strong.

Majority Adopter #8 - Faculty (She is open to new suggestions but repeatedly uses the word "coercion". She wants a tutor.)

I feel like I’m still pretty much at a basic level except for e-mail. You just cannot do your job successfully, complete your professional demands and goals, without accessing e-mail at this university. It’s an expectation; it’s part of your job. What I really want is a tutor who can sit with me in the office and answer all of my individual questions.

I’ve been asked if I’m going to put a paper I wrote on the WWW, and I said yes, but I had some reservations because I’m not quite sure where that’s going to end up. I want to use it for class conferences and some distance learning stuff, but just haven’t been successful more because of lack of effort on my just got complicated. But next year I will have more sites outside the Denver area and I’m going to insist on its being used for part of it. The SOE is going to have to change from its traditional more of an Internet-based learning type of activity.

Late Adopter #9 - Faculty (He already has a tutor: one of his colleagues. His resistance is philosophical, not technical.)

The technology seems to me still to be in a very primitive state. I was agreeably surprised to find [the Internet] was relatively straightforward to use.

Class conferencing is not dissimilar from what happens when you’re in a room and suddenly somebody stands up and starts to declaim to everybody who’s there...that’s not an agreeable experience...Suddenly somebody begins to pontificate to a whole lot of people [on a class conference] and...all this unwanted mail arrives. And it’s clearly not...a medium that lends itself to reflection and conjecture...and to profundities. [Does the Internet] lend itself to disciplined inquiry, professional leadership and commitment? Well, I’m pretty skeptical about that.

Early Adopter #10 - Staff (As one of the most connected people in the whole SOE, she appreciates e-mail tips on netiquette so she doesn’t get "spammed" with useless messages.)

I don’t have any [reservations]...I find it very easy to use, to learn, useful, helpful. I’ve always felt this way about technology, even before I came here to the SOE, that if you take the time to learn it up front, even if you’re a busy person, it really saves you time in the long run and makes your job easier. I think it’s extremely important for all of use to use the Internet...because we need to model that behavior for the students that we are training.

Late Adopter #11 - Staff (She resists because there is no reward for learning about new Internet uses. Though the job aids are several feet from her desk, she’s never looked at them.)

When you’re able to talk to your classmates and instructors on-line, I think that’s really helpful. Using’s mostly for my personal use. I’ve never really come across times that it was pertinent that I find things on there.

I would like to learn it for my personal use, but I’m not willing to take the responsibility to add another job to my list without being compensated. Once you start taking things on, it just keeps escalating, and I don’t think that’s fair.

Early Adopter #12 - Policy Maker (This is an influential faculty member who has created and utilized 11 out of the 14 electronic conferences on CEO with his distributed cohorts of students.)

I think it’s the wave of the future, really. I do 90% of my student advising via e-mail. I do almost all course and other student-related logistics via e-mail. We’ve pushed that because most of the groups we teach are off campus. We also use it to share documents, set meetings, send out syllabi, and talk through the expectations for a particular process.

I have no reservations about this other than that we really need to determine what are some of the more effective ways to deliver learning opportunities than others. I see eventually that what we develop through this distance learning program will filter down to our regular programs, to do a sizable portion of what we normally do in a classroom, on-line. That’s not easy for faculty who have been raised on, socialized into, teaching, but I think that’s very healthy for us, and it’s motivating, too.