International Education Journal


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Study abroad as innovation: Applying the diffusion model to international education 

Kerri Spiering 
Office of International Programs, North Dakota State University

Sheri Erickson 
Minnesota State University, Moorhead



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This paper uses diffusion of innovation theory as a framework for studying why United States college students who attend study abroad information sessions fail to take advantage of such educational opportunities. Surveys were administered to two groups of undergraduate students - those who studied abroad and those who did not. Students ranked their decision based on five attributes of diffusion theory, relative advantage, compatibility, complexity, trialability, and observability. The results indicated relative advantage and trialability were the most important factors in deciding to study abroad, while those choosing not to study abroad ranked complexity and compatibility as the primary reasons. Recommendations include targeting the role of study abroad adviser as a change agent to influence student study abroad decisions and educating faculty about the benefits of studying abroad.

Study abroad, diffusion of innovation theory, change agent, college students, study adviser, international education


Spiering, K. and Erickson, S. (2006). Study abroad as innovation: Applying the diffusion model to international education. International Education Journal, 7 (3), 314-322.

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