4 DeVries, Jordan, Rolfe, and Weller, “Mapping the open education landscape: Citation network analysis of historical open and distance education research”


DeVries, I., Jordan, K., Rolfe, V., & Weller, M. (2018). Mapping the open education landscape: Citation network analysis of historical open and distance education research. Open Praxis, 10(2), 109-126. Doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.5944/openpraxis.10.2.822


The study synthesized in this document explores and identifies key historic papers, authors, and themes in open educational research from the 1970s. They used social network analysis (SNA) to conduct their research. The purpose of the study is to provide a starting point for researchers who are looking to use earlier open and distance education research in their current work. Overall, the findings provide evidence that the main topics within open education research operate mostly in isolation from each other, with little overlap. The next section highlights key points from the article.                 

Key points

  • The study found that there were eight main categories within open education: open access, OER, MOOCs, open educational practice, social media, e-learning, open education in schools, and distance learning.
    • During the 1980s–90s, distance education transformed into e-learning.
    • While these categories “operate largely in isolation” (DeVries, 2018, page 122), there does seem to be a relationship between their definitions.
      • E-learning is less defined, and could cover online learning, learning management systems, etc.
      • Open Educational Practice does not have a clear definition, so it is sometimes seen as the connecting thread between the other fields
  • New research does not always mean that there are newer developments, but could also just be a new insight to current studies.
    • Some researchers believe that there is a lag in innovation: “Paul (2016) argues that open universities have been resistant to adopting many of the digital methods in delivery, allowing other providers to ‘steal their clothes’ in Daniel’s (2017, p. 2) phrase” (DeVries, 2018, page 121)


The idea of open education has been increasing in popularity over the last decade, but researchers are seeing that many universities are lacking the innovation to make it a successful practice. This could be due to lack of resources, lack of teacher training, or lack of research, among other things. Technology is becoming a staple in everyday life, and so it’s essential that classrooms learn to incorporate it. There are a variety of open education resources that have gained a lot of attention in recent years. One example of this that is growing in awareness and use is open textbooks, which is considered an open education resource.

Discussion Questions     

  1. How is knowing the trends in publications on openness in education beneficial?
  2. How would you define open education?
  3. What is another method the researchers could have used other than SNA?

Additional Resources


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