AN ANALYSIS OF THE ADOPTION OF WORLD WIDE WEB COMMON GATEWAY INTERFACE (CGI) TECHNOLOGY WITHIN HIGHER EDUCATION ENVIRONMENTS.

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AN ANALYSIS OF THE ADOPTION OF WORLD WIDE WEB COMMON GATEWAY INTERFACE (CGI) TECHNOLOGY WITHIN HIGHER EDUCATION ENVIRONMENTS by Dawn Sanks A Master s paper submitted to the faculty of the School of Information
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AN ANALYSIS OF THE ADOPTION OF WORLD WIDE WEB COMMON GATEWAY INTERFACE (CGI) TECHNOLOGY WITHIN HIGHER EDUCATION ENVIRONMENTS by Dawn Sanks A Master s paper submitted to the faculty of the School of Information and Library Science of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Information Science. Chapel Hill, North Carolina November, 2000 Approved by: Advisor Dawn Sanks. An analysis of the adoption of World Wide Web Common Gateway Interface (CGI) technology within higher education environments. A Master s paper for the M.S. in I.S. degree. November, pages. Advisor: Barbara Wildemuth. This study draws on prior research of the adoption of Web technologies to examine the adoption of a World Wide Web technology, specifically Common Gateway Interface (CGI) technologies, by institutions of higher education. Both quantitative and qualitative measures were gathered through use of online and paper surveys of college and university study abroad offices. The goal of this study was to investigate the determining factors in the decision making process for adoption or rejection of CGI technologies and to describe how early adopters implemented the technology. The results showed that institution size was not related to the adoption of CGI technologies; however, study abroad population size did prove to have a strong relationship with the adoption of this technology. Headings: Internet World Wide Web (WWW) Interactive Computer Systems Universities and Colleges i ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to thank my advisor, Dr. Barbara Wildemuth, for her support and guidance through the entire research process, especially her assistance in helping me understand the statistical analysis of my data. I would also like to thank two very special people, Eileen McSherry and Michelle Sanks, who helped facilitate the survey, assisted in the editorial process and were immensely supportive. ii 2 TABLE OF CONTENTS TITLE PAGE Introduction Background... 5 Definition of Common Gateway Interface (CGI) Technologies... 5 Prior Research of Adoption of World Wide Web Technologies The Innovation-Decision Process Adopter Categories Research Topic Methods Population Definition Sample Selection and Procedures Survey Instrument Operational Variables Collected Via The Survey Instrument Statistical Analysis Results.. 23 Descriptive Results Relationship Analysis How Size Influences CGI Adoption Analysis of the Factors Contributing to the Adoption of CGI.. 27 Analysis of the Factors Contributing to the Rejection of CGI Analysis of Implementation Solutions Used By Early Adopters Perceived Obstacles & Disadvantages of Adopting CGI Technologies 36 Discussion How Size Affected CGI Adoption 3 Response to the Factors Listed for Adoption vs. Rejection of CGI Technologies.. 40 The Implementation Solutions Used By Early Adopters Conclusion What To Consider When Making the Adoption Decision Summary Placement In The Timeline For The Adoption Of CGI Technologies Considerations for further research Reference List Appendices Appendix A - Detailed Description of the CGI Protocol Appendix B - Office Titles Chosen from NAFSA Directory. 56 Appendix C - Copy of the Paper Survey Appendix D - Cover Letter to the Survey Appendix E - Proposal sent to the IRB Office Appendix F - Screen Dumps of the Online Version of the Survey Appendix G - Survey Variables Modified for Data Analysis Appendix H - Perceived Advantages.. 77 Appendix I - Detailed Summary of the Rejection Reasons Appendix J - Completed Tables showing Implementation Solutions Appendix K - Perceived Obstacles. 87 Appendix L - Perceived Disadvantages. 90 Appendix M - Security Audit Table. 93 4 INTRODUCTION The World Wide Web has grown exponentially since its creation in 1990, with estimates of millions of users across the world. Although it is difficult to track the exact number of users accessing the Web, its immense growth and popularity can be inferred through other statistics, such as the growth in number of Web servers. 130 Web servers were running on the Internet in June, 1993 escalating to 21,166,912 by September, 2000 (Hobbes Zakon, 2000). Furthermore, each of those Web servers may host one or multiple Web sites. These statistics demonstrate the expansive growth of this new technology. Such growth is indicative of the Web s popularity, which has impacted how organizations function and accomplish their work. Organizations experience the demand of having a Web presence, whether that pressure comes from individuals within that organization, their competitors, their clients or the media. The popularity of the Web compels many organizations to decide whether to adopt or reject the new technologies of the Internet. With the emergence of this new and popular technology, researchers have been provided with a fresh and exciting subject matter to investigate. Over the past decade, investigators have studied many aspects of the Word Wide Web, including studies pertaining to the adoption of World Wide Web technologies. 5 BACKGROUND The following paper investigates aspects of the adoption of a particular World Wide Web technology, that of Common Gateway Interface (CGI) technology. It draws from prior research on how businesses adopt new technologies and from the Diffusion of Innovation theory developed by Everett Rogers(1995). Previous research on how institutions adopt new technologies reference six major characteristics that consistently influence technology adoption. This study focused on the most important of those six factors, that of institution size and how it related to the adoption of CGI technologies. Additional descriptive data pertaining to the participants of this study was gathered based on Roger s diffusion theory, which provides a framework for the innovation-decision process and adopter categories. Definition of Common Gateway Interface (CGI) Technologies Early development of the World Wide Web was based on the concept of a host server situated in one location delivering static text documents written in Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) to a client computer located elsewhere using the Hyper Text Transfer Protocol (HTTP). The HTML standard did not include any mechanism for the Web server to call upon a database query program that could deliver output executed in real-time nor did it allow for genuine interactivity between the client and server. Since the majority of first generation Web servers were hosted on Unix servers, a Unix based Common Gateway Interface (CGI) 6 protocol developed as a de-facto standard in order to deliver dynamic information. As the World Wide Web evolves, so do CGI technologies. Now CGI scripts or programs can be written in any language and run on any platform, so long as the CGI program is compatible with the server platform. What distinguishes them as a CGI program/script is that the gateways interface external applications with information servers, such as Web servers, in order to execute in real-time and produce dynamically generated output of information. The most common function of a gateway is to handle an HTML FORM request often interacting with a server side database. A more detailed description of how the CGI protocol is used to communicate between Web Forms and a CGI program/script residing on the server is described in Appendix A. (Gilbert, 1997; Morton, 1998; NCSA HTTPD, 1998; Richmond, 2000) Prior Research on Adoption of World Wide Web Technologies According to their research of leading information systems journals and conferences from the past 15 years, Goode and Stevens outline six characteristics that consistently influence technology adoption within businesses (2000). Those characteristics are 1) size, 2) age, 3) type of industry, 4) information technology support, 5) information technology (IT) budget, and 6) IT experience. It would follow that these characteristics might also be influential when studying the adoption of technology within other organizations, such as 7 institutions of higher education. Since the population definition for this survey is fairly homogeneous, the Type of Industry characteristic is inconsequential. The other factors however may influence the adoption of CGI technologies within study abroad offices. Since size has been held to be the most important characteristic in the analysis of business technology adoption (Goode & Stevens, 2000), this study focused its quantitative analysis on how size influenced the adoption of CGI technology. It was thought that institution size, study abroad population size and possibly the ratio of institution size to study abroad population size would be related to the decision to adopt CGI technologies. Data referring to age, IT support and budget was also gathered in a more subjective manner via qualitative questions. Quite a bit of research has been conducted on the adoption of the World Wide Web within organizations and businesses. However, very little research was found regarding to the adoption of CGI technologies. Given the infancy of CGI technologies, research on the adoption of this technology is important and of high interest. The model for this research was developed from the diffusion of innovation theoretical framework developed by Everett Rogers(2000), a leading researcher/theorist in aspects of the adoption of computer technologies since the 1960 s. The diffusion of innovation theoretical framework has been applied to a variety of disciplines in order to describe the many issues/facets of how 8 innovations are adopted by a particular social group. Rogers offers researchers studying the phenomenon of the adoption of new technologies the following dimensions: 1) the innovation-development process; 2) the innovation-decision process; 3) the attributes of innovations that contribute to the rate of adoption; 4) the adopter categories; 5) the differentiation between the innovation process of organizations and 6) individuals and the consequences of innovation. This study relies on Rogers specifications of the innovation-decision process and refers to the adopter categories to help structure the research. The Innovation-Decision Process Rogers explains that the innovation-decision process is the progression that an individual (or other decision-making unit) goes through when they are faced with a new technology from their first knowledge of the new technology, to forming an attitude toward the technology, to a decision to adopt or reject it, to implementation and then to a confirmation of their decision. According to Rogers, there are five stages to the innovation-decision process. The first stage is called the knowledge stage. This is when the individual learns that this new technology exists. At this stage, the individual wants to know how the innovation works and why it works and how it functions. Rogers calls the second stage persuasion. This is the stage where the individual forms a favorable or unfavorable attitude toward the technology. This is where the individual seeks information to find out the advantages and disadvantages of the new technology pertaining to their specific situation. The third stage is the decision stage, where 9 a choice is made to either adopt or reject the technology. The fourth stage is the implementation stage, where the technology is put into use. Finally, the confirmation stage occurs when the individual evaluates their decision. This is the stage where the original decision to adopt or reject the technology may be reversed. Those that adopted may choose to discontinue use if they are not satisfied with the technology or if another improved technology comes along to take its place and those that initially rejected the technology may decide to adopt it later when circumstances change. Adopter Categories Rogers defines adopter categories as a classification system describing individuals based on their degree of innovativeness. Innovativeness is the relative speed with which an individual will adopt a new technology relative to other individuals in a group. He describes five adopter categories 1) innovators, 2) early adopters, 3) early majority, 4) late majority, and 5) laggards. The innovators are able to cope with higher levels of uncertainty about an innovation compared to other adopter categories. Since they are the first to adopt a new idea, they are not able to base their decisions on feedback from previous adopters. These categories are based on the amount of time that it takes a particular group to adopt a new technology. When the number of individuals who are adopting a new technology are plotted on a graph to show the frequency of adoption over time, the distribution usually looks like an S-Shaped curve. Most innovations show the rate of adoption as an S-Shaped curve where the slope of 10 the curve is dependent upon the rate of adoption. If there is rapid adoption of the innovation, there will be a steep slope and if the rate of adoption occurs more slowly, then the slope will be more gradual. Research Topic The goal of this study was to investigate the most prevalent reasons why organizations adopt or reject a new Web technology and what could be learned from the early adopters and those that rejected the technology. Specifically, the study focused on the adoption of Common Gateway Interface (CGI) technologies by institutions of higher education. US university and college study abroad offices were surveyed to assess their decision to adopt or reject the processing of student applications through electronic media on the World Wide Web in place of the traditional method of processing paper applications. Understanding why a university/college department decides to adopt or reject the new technology of World Wide Web forms and CGI technologies to electronically automate their student application process is a very important and timely topic. Accumulating and analyzing this data will help other university departments and possibly other organizations make more informed decisions about the adoption of CGI technologies. More specifically, this research hopes to provide guidance to those working in study abroad offices who have not considered adoption of this technology, so that they may gain insight regarding the important factors in the decision-making process. Additionally, this study hopes to increase the 11 understanding of the factors that both impede and support the implementation process when an organization adopts Web forms and CGI technologies. The manner in which organizations have used the World Wide Web as a communication tool has evolved over the past decade and continues to change at a very rapid pace. It is important to take a close look at how the technology is evolving and how it is affecting organizations. The first Web sites served mostly static pages of information presented to the end-user. However, new technologies and programming/scripting languages have been created to render the Web more dynamic in nature, allowing the user to interact with the organization in an exchange of information. Many organizations utilize Common Gateway Interface (CGI) technologies in order to create a more interactive environment on their Web pages. Implementation of CGI technologies is still very new and therefore provides an emerging area for study. Drawing from prior research of the adoption of World Wide Web technologies and from Roger s diffusion theory, the following research questions were developed: 1) Institution size is stated throughout the literature as being one of the most significant characteristics that is consistently related to technology adoption within businesses. Based on this stipulation, is institution size related to the adoption of CGI technologies within study abroad offices? 12 2) What are the determining factors in the decision-making process for adoption and rejection of CGI technologies? 3) How did the early adopters implement this technology? 13 METHODS Both a paper and an online survey were used to gather quantitative and qualitative data regarding the adoption of CGI technologies from study abroad professionals across the United States. Approximately 444 study abroad offices were contacted using the combined survey methods and 212 usable responses were received, generating a response rate of 48%. Details of this study s methods are described below. Population Definition Two criteria defined the organizations included in this study. First, the organization had to be an institution of higher education, either a college or university. The second criterion narrowed the scope of the survey population. A subpopulation of higher education institutions was chosen, that of the study abroad office. A study abroad office was defined as a person or an entire department that focused part or all of their time on advising students and processing the paperwork that was necessary for a student to study at another institution outside the U.S. for a period of time. Study abroad offices were chosen because they have a common function; most of them process applications for students who wish to participate in an overseas study program. That function is traditionally implemented with a paper form, but could be rendered online with a Web form and CGI technologies. 14 Sample Selection and Procedures Most university and college study abroad offices belong to a national professional organization called the Association of International Educators (NAFSA). The mission of NAFSA is to 1) set standards, 2) provide education and training for professionals who are involved with services related to international educational exchange, 3) provide a forum for discussion of issues and 4) provide a network for exchanging information in an effort to increase awareness of and support for international education in higher education, in government, and in the community (NAFSA). NAFSA has over 8,000 members from each state in the United States and from over 60 other countries. The majority of those members work at a university or college as foreign student advisors, admissions officers, study abroad advisors, directors of international programs, teachers of English as a second language, administrators of intensive English programs and overseas educational advisors. Every year, this organization publishes a membership directory of institutions involved in international educational exchange. The population chosen for this study consisted of a subgroup of NAFSA, those institutions of higher education which had an advisor or office dedicated to sending US students on overseas study programs. Unfortunately, the NAFSA guide does not list the subgroup affiliation for each address listing, therefore it was necessary to determine which contacts best fit the definition of an institution that worked with study abroad students. Participants for this study were chosen from the NAFSA directory to receive a paper copy of the survey form: 15 1) if their institution name included the words college or university. 2) if they listed the words Study Abroad, Overseas Office/Studies, or Program/Education Abroad anywhere in their contact information. Offices of International Education/Programs/Studies or Center for International Studies were only chosen in the instances that it was very clear there was a separate office at the same institution dedicated to the other subgroups of NAFSA, such as foreign student advising, ESL, international scholars/visiting faculty, etc. It was more cost effective to make sure to send out surveys to contacts that absolutely fit the definition, but it should be noted that it is possible that some schools were missed. The goal was to send a survey to all study abroad offices nationwide listed in the NAFSA guide, since it was estimated that this would include the majority of study abroad offices across the country. [refer to Appendix B for a complete listing of titles chosen for participation] 3) if they li
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