The Adoption of Geospatial Technologies for Teaching Geography at Latin American Universities
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Faculty at geography departments can contribute to student’s geographic learning by helping them to develop geospatial technologies (GST) knowledge and skills. However, it is still unknown the extent to which faculty adopt and use GST for teaching purposes. The current research addressed the topic by analyzing the factors that drive faculty at Latin American Universities to adopt and use five GST: desktop GIS, web-based GIS, remote sensing, GPS, and digital globes.
The study used Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology (UTAUT) as the theoretical framework for understanding the factors that explain the faculty level of adoption and use of a GST. From this perspective, faculty decision is based on the internalization of internal and external factors that influence the adoption and use of a technology. The theory assumes that the intention to use a technology is driven by the performance expectations, effort expectations and social influence. The use of a GST is predicted by the facilitating conditions and the intentions to use the technology in the classroom. In addition, it is possible to analyze the effect that certain moderating variables have in the adoption and use of a technology, including intraregional variations.
The research followed a quantitative approach, using a cross-sectional survey design. A spatially stratified random sampling was developed considering subregions, gender, and the field of expertise as variables. The purpose was to generalize results for the whole region, based on data collected from 337 participants through an online survey. The analysis was performed using the Structural Equation Modeling method for each GST, comprised of the analysis of the measurement model—including a confirmatory factor analysis, reliability, convergent and discriminant validity analysis—followed by the analysis of structural model through using multiple regression analysis, and a multigroup invariance analysis with the purpose of looking at difference on the moderating variables that explain the faculty profile.
The results confirmed that faculty who perceived the pedagogical benefits of using any GST, report an ease of using and learning of these technologies, and tend to have a positive perception of the opinion of people influential to them about the use of the GST for teaching purposes are more likely to have greater intentions to use the GST—except for the social influence effect on desktop GIS—. In addition, faculty who have more intentions to use the technology and report adequate organizational and administrative resources were more likely to have a frequent use of any GST.
It is also important to recognized that there is a distinctive profile of faculty for each GST regarding adoption and use of GST. The field of expertise, age, and professional experience were identified as more relevant variables across paths of the UTAUT model. The outcomes also suggest differences that exists among faculty working in Brazil, other South American countries, and Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. The results confirmed the importance of considering the pedagogical, technological, and working environment components when developing professional development programs for faculty in higher education, and the need for considering differences among faculty for increasing the GST use in the classroom, since not all the technologies have the same adoption and use patterns. The research also provides valuable insights for thinking on successful strategies for including new emerging GST in geography departments.