Early adopters versus the majority: Characteristics and implications for academic development and institutional change.

Jason Bohan, V Dale, M McKewan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The diffusion of innovation curve has become common parlance when considering the adoption of technology-enhanced learning in higher education. Innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards indicate the different rates of technology adoption. This study explored the views and experiences of staff at one research-led institution within one of four colleges, to determine whether there were differences between the characteristics and digital academic practices of teachers, based on their self-identification as one of the five types in a questionnaire. Subsequently, two focus groups allowed comparisons between early adopters and early majority.

The questionnaire found differences in terms of using a VLE to foster deep thinking through discussion, teachers’ digital practices and attributes, previous engagement with developmental TEL opportunities, perceived level of support from management, and perceived usefulness of CPD events. Focus groups revealed qualitative differences in terms of the amount of time participants invested in learning new technologies, sources of TEL support, preference for different types of academic development, and how they engaged with exemplars in their own or other disciplines.

In addition to recommendations for different types of academic development for different groups, the study highlighted the importance of early adopters in leading digital practice. Institutions need to recognise and support the unique contribution made by early adopters. They contribute to the resilience, agility and digital capabilities of an institution in responding to rapid changes, such as the Covid19 pandemic, in terms of supporting and leading other staff, and prompting the institution to expand its digital education infrastructure.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-67
JournalJournal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Early adopters
  • technology-enhanced learning and teaching
  • teaching innovation
  • academic development
  • digital capabilities


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