Mapping Research Trends from 35 Years of Publications in Distance Education

Olaf Zawacki-Richter
Som Naidu



Content analysis, Distance education, Mapping trends, Research and scholarship, Text mining


Using a text-mining tool Leximancer, this article reports the research trends in Distance Education journal between 1980 and 2014. Titles and abstracts of 515 peer-reviewed articles are analyzed and core concepts (listed below) is extracted. Result of text mining indicates alternating waves of institutional (meso-level) and individual (micro-level) research focus.
Phase 1 Institutional focus: Professionalization and institutional consolidation (1980-1984), instructional design and educational technology (1985-1989)
Phase 2 Individual focus: Quality assurance in distance education (1990-1994) Student support and early stages of online learning (1995-1999)
Phase 3 Institutional focus: The emergence of the virtual university (2000-2004) Collaborative learning and online interaction patterns (2005-2009) Interactive learning, MOOCs and OERs (2010-2014)
Capturing trends on topics and methods is essential for the advancement of research on distance education.

APA Citation

Zawacki-Richter, O., & Naidu, S. (2016). Mapping research trends from 35 years of publications in Distance Education. Distance Education, 37(3), 245-269.

About the Study

Links to Article
Publication Type Journal Article
In Publication Distance Education
Type of Research Quantitative
Research Design
Intervention/Areas of Study
Level of Analysis
Specific Populations Examined
Peer-Reviewed Yes
Specific Institutional Characteristics of Interest 2-year institution
Specific Course or Program Characteristics
Outcome Variables of Interest Other
Student Sample Size
Citing Articles,50&sciodt=0,50&hl=en