Early adoption in an agile online teaching environment

An intrapreneurial perspective





Online learning, intrapreneurship, early adopters, community, innovation


The Covid-19 pandemic has blown through the Higher Education sector like a Schumpterian ‘gale of creative destruction’ (Schumpeter, 1934), accelerating the pace of change, disrupting entrenched pedagogical approaches, and revealing glimpses of the future of teaching. This study identifies how university-based early adopters responded to this ‘gale,’ successfully implementing the rapid change required to pivot to online teaching while addressing institutional requests to support the reluctant majority. Adopting an innovative interdisciplinary framework, this study advances understanding about the criticality of early-adopter behaviour in implementing change. The triggers, dynamics and impact of early-adopter behaviours are identified, as are the resultant implications for institutions for resourcing, recognising, and rewarding early adopters. The research design is underpinned by polyphony (Belova, 2010). Theoretical aspects from entrepreneurship (Stevenson, Roberts & Grousebeck, 1989) and networked learning (Dohn, Cranmer, Sime, De Laat & Ryberg, 2018) are also incorporated, relating early adopter behaviour to the entrepreneurial process in the context of virtual learning communities. This study uses vignettes from early adopters who have pivoted to online teaching in a university, identifying their experiences of instigating and supporting change. The findings highlight the facilitators of, and constraints on, early adopter behaviour, identifying the contextual characteristics necessary to challenge preconceived institutional notions and develop intrapreneurial mindsets that more readily support and implement early-adopter behaviours.

Author Biographies

Paul Hunter, Mr., University of Glasgow

Paul Hunter, MA (Hons), MRes, is a Lecturer in Human Resource Management and Organisational Behaviour at the University of Glasgow. Paul’s research focuses on applied learning in HRM contexts and agile pedagogics. He has designed and coordinated several undergraduate and postgraduate courses incorporating strong engagement with industry and management practitioners.

Helen Mullen, Dr., University of Glasgow

Dr Helen Mullen, BA (Hons), PgDip, MRes, PhD is a Lecturer in Entrepreneurship at the University of Glasgow. Formerly a management consultant, Helen’s research focuses on applied learning in business and management, where she has implemented undergraduate and postgraduate courses to facilitate student engagement with industry and the third sector. 

Matt Offord, Dr., University of Glasgow

Dr Matt Offord, MBA, PhD is a Lecturer (Technology-Enhanced L&T) in Management at the University of Glasgow. A former Royal Navy Officer, with a background in training design and development, Matt is a leadership scholar whose early career research was conducted as a Hudson Fellow at the University of Oxford. 

Nick Quinn, Dr., University of Glasgow

Dr Nick Quinn, BA (Hons), MSc, MBA, PhD, FCMI is a Lecturer in Entrepreneurship at the University of Glasgow. Previously a leadership development consultant, he has designed and delivered over 50 leadership programmes. He is Programme Leader for the Professional Pathways Master’s programmes and Alternate Director of Connections with Practice.

Karen Thompson, Mrs., University of Glasgow

Karen Thompson BA(Hons), PGDip, PGCE, ACR, SF RET is a Lecturer and Programme Convenor for the MPhil Textile Conservation. The programme combines professional and academic skills education with strong links with the wider profession. Karen’s research focuses on learning in a professional and academic context. 


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