June 15, 2014
June 15, 2014
June 18, 2014
24.556.1 - 24.556.15
Examining Diffusion Networks and Identifying Opinion Leaders: A Case Study of the AIChE Concept WarehousePropagation is a widespread goal of educational innovations. If an innovation is effective in oneenvironment, developers usually desire to share it with other instructors and institutions to have alarger impact and improve education more broadly. Additionally, funding agencies like theNational Science Foundation require a “broader impact” component in all grant proposals. Oneaspect commonly missing when an innovation is shared is a reflective, evidence-baseddescription of the process as the innovation moves from the home institution to other institutionswith different faculty, different students and a different culture. In analogy to moleculardiffusion, E.M. Rogers put forth a theory, Diffusion of Innovations, that offers one frameworkwith which to examine this process. In this context, Rogers describes diffusion as “the process inwhich an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among the members ofa social system.”We report on the first two years of propagation of the AIChE Concept Warehouse, a cyber-enabled website to support the chemical engineering education community’s use of conceptuallearning. It contains large sets of concept-based clicker questions (or ConcepTests) and ConceptInventories for core chemical engineering classes. We focus on diffusion networks, particularlyopinion leaders who play a key role in the innovation’s propagation. Our purpose is to highlightaspects of diffusion that other innovators may want to consider, provide an example of how theseaspects can be examined in the early stages of an innovation’s life, and learn how we can furthersupport propagation of this innovation. We ask the following research questions: Through whichdiffusion networks has the Concept Warehouse been propagated? Who are the opinion leadersinfluencing its propagation? Why have these opinion leaders supported this tool and how can wefurther support them?AIChE Concept Warehouse instructor applicants (n>300) were asked, “How did you hear aboutus?” Network analysis was performed using sociograms representing different points in time asvisual representations of the network connections and how they changed. Further analysis of themost recent sociogram was used to identify instructors who referred this tool to four or moreother users. These instructors are termed opinion leaders and were invited to participate furtherin the study as interviewees. In the semi-structured interviews, we asked opinion leaders abouttheir perceptions and use of the AIChE Concept Warehouse. We also asked them to identify howthey promoted propagation of the tool and how the tool affords or constrains their propagationefforts. Interviews were transcribed and an emergent coding process was used to identify themes.Different groups of apparent opinion leaders included researchers with complementary tools,individuals in powerful positions in different parts of the social system (e.g. leaders of virtualcommunities of practice), and instructors that heavily use the tool themselves. For example,many of the opinion leaders have incorporated their own innovations into the AIChE ConceptWarehouse. They support and promote the tool because it facilitates propagation of theirinnovations and provides a convenient data collection method.
Gilbuena, D. M., & Smith, C., & Brooks, B. J., & Koretsky, M. (2014, June), Examining Diffusion Networks and Identifying Opinion Leaders: A Case Study of the AIChE Concept Warehouse Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20447
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