Visualizing research trends and research theme evolution in E-learning field: 1999–2018

Yang Bai, Hongxiu Li, Yong Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)
2 Downloads (Pure)


This paper aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the evolution of major research themes and trends in e-learning research. A co-word analysis is applied for the analysis of the 21,656 keywords collected from 7214 articles published in 10 journals in the field of e-learning from the years 1999 to 2018. Specifically, a cluster analysis, social network analysis, strategic diagram, and graph theory were applied in the analysis for two time periods: 1999–2008 and 2009–2018. The study detects the bridging, popular, and core topics in e-learning research for the two periods. The research results indicate that e-learning research has undergone a health evolution over the past two decades. There is a temporal continuity of e-learning research because some research topics have kept their continuity over the studied 20 years. Meanwhile, the research traditions in the e-learning field are also continuously evolving with the development of new technologies. The results also offer useful hints on the future direction of how the field may evolve.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1389–1414
Number of pages26
Issue number2
Early online date2020
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Co-word analysis
  • E-learning
  • Research theme
  • Research trends

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Library and Information Sciences


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