How the Coronavirus Inspired Teaching the Diffusion of Innovation Theory


public health, COVID-19, Diffusion of Innovation Theory, online teaching

How to Cite

Dingman, D., & Bauerle Bass, S. (2021). How the Coronavirus Inspired Teaching the Diffusion of Innovation Theory . CommonHealth, 2(2), 40-46.


Many public health courses include content on behavior change theories, including the Diffusion of Innovation Theory (DoI). In DoI, innovations are adopted based on 5 characteristics: the innovation's relative advantage of what came before, its compatibility with a person or group's culture, the complexity of the innovation, whether the innovation can be tried before fully adopted, and whether or not the effects of adopting this innovation can be observed in others. This paper describes the application of the public health response to COVID-19 in the US as a dynamic example with which to teach DoI theory in the context of an undergraduate program planning and evaluation class. Because students were forced into an online environment when essential businesses closed in an effort to ‘flatten’ the coronavirus curve, we describe the unique way the outbreak could be used in an organic online discussion in which students could use their own current experiences to extrapolate to the DoI constructs. While not done as a formal "lesson plan", we describe the students' engagement, provide commentary of their application of DoI to the COVID-19 response, and suggest how more formal exercises could be incorporated into undergraduate public health curriculum.