Lorraine Catherine Sherry

B.A., Vassar College, 1961

M.A.T., Harvard Graduate School of Education, 1962

M.S., Northeastern University, 1969

M.Ed., University of South Florida, 1994

A thesis submitted to the

University of Colorado at Denver

in partial fulfillment

of the requirements for the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy

Educational Leadership and Innovation





© 1998 by Lorraine Catherine Sherry

All rights reserved.




This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy

degree by

Lorraine Catherine Sherry

has been approved



Brent G. Wilson


W. Alan Davis


May Lowry


Laura A. Goodwin


Edward Nuhfer




Sherry, Lorraine Catherine (Ph.D., Educational Leadership and Innovation)

Diffusion of the Internet within A Graduate School of Education

Thesis directed by Associate Professor Brent G. Wilson




This case study investigated the factors that affect the use of the Internet within the School of Education at the University of Colorado, Denver. In this context, "Internet tools" were defined as e-mail; a FirstClass BBS known as Colorado Education On-line (CEO); and the WWW. The study combined empirical research within the school and an extensive review of relevant literature to identify 28 separate factors that impact Internet diffusion. These factors clustered into six major themes, namely: (a) user characteristics and perceptions; (b) cultural and organizational issues including norms of use and legitimate activities; (c) tools, design, and impersonal supports; (d) social issues including scaffolding, mentoring, and communication; (e) individual learning, adoption, and conceptual change; and (f) group learning, adoption, and conceptual change. The parallel between this independently developed conceptual framework and activity theory was striking. Activity theory thus became the overall framework for interpreting findings.

Ten research questions were investigated, using varied data collection activities. These consisted of: (a) two surveys conducted two years apart; (b) twelve interviews with a purposeful selection of early- to late adopter students, faculty, staff, and a policymaker; (c) a focus group of novice students; and (d) an analysis of electronic artifacts

Principal findings included the following. Users valued personal scaffolding but had individual preferences concerning specific types of scaffolding. Self-efficacy x perceived value persisted across time and across programs. Early adopters tended to be intrinsically motivated, whereas later adopters often felt extrinsic coercion. Personal/cultural compatibility, rather than time, separated earlier from later adopters. Early adopters often expressed a good fit between Internet tools and their personal and cultural values. Late adopters voiced concerns about the impact of the Internet on their core pedagogical strategies, indicating that it may not support their vision of learning.

The study resulted in a set of recommendations for improving access, functionality, training, and technical support; use of communication channels; and use of electronic conferences to enhance classroom discussions. It also highlighted the need for an incentive system, and for ways that faculty might share promising practices that use the Internet to enhance teaching and learning.



This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidate’s thesis. I recommend its publication.



Brent G. Wilson




This dissertation is dedicated to the memory of my mother, Sophie Sherry, who never lost faith in me.




My thanks to my committee, to my doctoral laboratory cohort, to the members of the Internet Task Force, to the professors, staff, and students who participated in my interviews and focus groups—and especially to my advisor—for their continued patience, understanding, cooperation, and support throughout the past four years.