Skip to content

Blog post

Nightmare or dream: The three challenges of educational technology advancement in higher education

Michael Agyemang Adarkwah, Postdoctoral Researcher at Beijing Normal University

The longstanding dream of many economies is to drive their developmental agenda by harnessing the power of technology. In our recent article (see Adarkwah & Huang, 2023), we highlight the growing demand for higher education to be the pacesetter of innovative and cutting-edge technologies for teaching and learning, thus spearheading the technologisation of society. As a result, instructional technology is considered an essential component of higher education. But as Ling and Fraser (2014, p. 75) questioned: ‘What is higher about higher education?’. According to the authors, the expectation is that higher education should involve higher learning outcomes such as the ability to produce graduates capable of transmitting solutions to unpredictable and complex problems. One way to accomplish this is through the use of educational technology (EdTech). EdTech brings new possibilities to learning and can offer a form of immersive, personalised and adaptive learning experiences.

Nonetheless, many higher education institutions (HEIs) aspiring to prepare learners for the job market have not (or have only partially) succeeded in grooming a digitally competent workforce. In our article, we identify three main challenges to Edtech advancement in HEIs have been identified to be the cause of unsuccessful information and communication technology (ICT) policies globally: technology addiction, technology abduction and technology adoption.

‘Many higher education institutions aspiring to prepare learners for the job market have not (or have only partially) succeeded in grooming a digitally competent workforce.’

The three challenges

Technology addiction is the first challenge and is described as IT-seeking and IT-use behaviours that occur at the expense of other important activities. Addiction in psychology relates to a behavioural disorder. Applying it to EdTech, the user of technology is unable to control its superfluous use (such as internet addiction, smartphone addiction and social media addiction). Learners suffering from technology addiction often use their digital tools for non-academic tasks and are likely to experience a form of stress termed ‘technostress’ that negatively impacts learning.

The second challenge we identify to Edtech advancement is technology adoption which simply refers to the initial acceptance of emerging technology. Because there is no single way of adopting a particular technology, several adoption models have been explored such as the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM). However, the technology adoption in higher education in many HEIs is still at its embryonic stage because existing models for adoption are not tailored to the needs of the specific context. In our study we also highlight that in many classrooms globally, students still write notes with pen and paper during lecture hours and sit in rows; the successful adoption of technology must therefore address contextual, emotional and cognitive factors.

The third challenge we identify is technology abduction which is the act of denying or censoring learners’ appropriate technological tools necessary for teaching and learning (such as mobile phones, laptops, and so on). Drawing from the fact that in many HEIs, especially in developing countries, learners are not encouraged to use technological tools during real-life instruction, we have theorised that technology is ‘abducted’ in the classroom. For example, some universities in Ghana do not encourage the use of mobile phones and laptops during lecture hours or examinations. Another example of technology abduction is the ban on ChatGPT use in Sciences Po, one of France’s top universities and other public schools in the United States (Reuters, 2023).

Possible interventions

First, the ubiquitous use of affordable handheld smart mobile devices by university graduates can be channelled for educational purposes where learning content is made accessible on mobile devices. This intervention addresses the challenge of abduction by harnessing the personal digital tools of students for educational purposes.

Second, faculty and student resistance to the use of technology curtails Edtech advancements in HEIs in the sense that they may not fully utilise available ICT resources. Educators and instructional technologists should orient users about the educational use of technology such as through workshops and conferences that highlight the benefits and best practices of Edtech in the classroom. This intervention addresses the challenge of addiction by cultivating in users ICT interest and managerial skills (for example strategic planning on how to effectively use ICT).

Finally, rather than adopting traditional and popularly used technology models for ICT integration, educators should develop new models based on the initial experiences and perceptions of the users of technology in the classroom. This intervention addresses the challenge of adoption by ensuring that implementation strategies are geared towards addressing the situational needs of users.

This blog post is based on the article ‘Technology addiction, abduction and adoption in higher education: Bird’s eye view of the ICT4AD policy in Ghana 20 years on’ by Michael Agyemang Adarkwah and Ronghuai Huang, published in the British Journal of Educational Technology.


Adarkwah, M. A., & Huang, R. (2023). Technology addiction, abduction and adoption in higher education: Bird’s eye view of the ICT4AD policy in Ghana 20 years on. British Journal of Educational Technology. Advance online publication.

Ling, P., & Fraser, K. (2014). Pedagogies for next generation learning spaces: Theory, context, action. In K. Fraser (Ed.), The future of learning and teaching in next generation learning spaces (Vol. 12, pp. 65–84). Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Reuters. (2023, January 27). Top French university bans use of ChatGPT to prevent plagiarism.