Document Type



Doctor of Education


Teaching-Learning Processes

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

E. Paulette Isaac-Savage, EdD.


Joseph L. Polman, Ph.D.


Joseph L. Polman, Ph.D.

Carl Hoagland, Ed.D.

E. Paulette Isaac-Savage, Ed.D.

Rev. Gregory Heille, D.Min.


Online and hybrid programs are becoming more commonplace in higher education, especially in graduate theological education, but little research has been done in this area. This study helps to add to the body of research on online and hybrid theological programs. In graduate theological education there is a dynamic process of transformation that happens to individuals. In years past, this transformative paradigm could only have happened in a physical location, but now this process of deep reflection and communal interaction can be done in an online wisdom community. When one defines community by what people do together instead of by physical location, online community can exist. This mixed method study used surveys of alumni and current students of a doctoral program in ministry using Dr. Alfred Rovai’s (2002) Classroom Community Scale to quantitatively measure their sense of community in a learning environment built on the “wisdom community” model. The response rate for this survey was high; 65% of the alumni and current students responded which improves the trustworthiness of this data set. Results of the survey showed student and alumni connectedness in their high scores in the Classroom Community Scale; their self-assessed learning reveals their deep integration, transformation and formation into a community of preachers. A qualitative analysis was also performed on students’ online discussions during the program and their responses to open-ended survey questions on how they would define community and if they were able to transfer their formation and learning in their wisdom community as preachers to their ministry sites. The analysis showed how the online discussions and sharing of video-recorded preaching enabled geographically distributed students to support one another in learning to prepare for and execute preaching more effectively. Surprisingly, alumni males scored higher than alumni females, in contrast to Rovai’s findings. Furthermore, the results unearthed two competing views of covenant statements, which are an important tool for this community. These competing views exposed stages in individual students’ communal development. Additionally, participants varied in their transfer of preaching practice and community formation into their ministry sites after the program. Implications of the findings for online and hybrid education in general and graduate theology in particular are discussed.

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