This study describes a master’s program cohort in the Southeast transitioning from a traditional to an online paradigm. This study examined through narrative analysis the online dialogue of engagement between students and faculty through the lens of social constructivism, specifically focusing on barriers creating monologue and facilitators creating “online” dialogue (Gergen, 1999). Transformative dialogue was more difficult in the online transition because of technology structures and differing expectations. Results suggest that faculty and students must be prepared to use online technology in a pedagogical setting that requires greater responsibility for students to “manage their education.” The “boundedness” of an online environment requires faculty to encourage a shift from blame to responsibility. Although online dialogue was considered “stilted,” even by experienced participants, the convenience is evident for students as well as faculty. The results demonstrated the need for faculty presence through the use of online tools to make the online environment meaningful. Reviewing these narratives may help administrators prepare for a transition to an online program.


Online Instruction, Transformative Dialogue, Social Constructionism, Higher Education, Technology

Author Bio(s)

Carol Isaac is an Assistant Professor of Research in the Department of Educational Leadership at Mercer University-Atlanta. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: isaac_ca@mercer.edu.

Arla Bernstein is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Communication in Penfield College at Mercer University-Atlanta. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: bernstein_ag@mercer.edu.


We wish to express our appreciation to the Mercer University Center for Teaching and Learning for the grant that supported the research for this project.

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