Weller, Jordan, DeVries, Rolfe, 2018

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


The term open education has recently been used to refer to topics such as Open Educational Resources (OERs) and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Historically its roots lie in civil approaches to education and open universities, but this research is rarely referenced or acknowledged in current interpretations. In this article the antecedents of the modern open educational movement are examined, as the basis for connecting the various strands of research. Using a citation analysis method the key references are extracted and their relationships mapped. This work reveals eight distinct sub-topics within the broad open education area, with relatively little overlap. The implications for this are discussed and methods of improving inter-topic research are proposed.


  • open education
  • distance education
  • citation network analysis
  • social network analysis


Social network Analysis (SNA)

Social network analysis (SNA) approaches were used to build a network of the literature cited in the field. SNA is not a single approach but rather a toolkit of different metrics and analyses which can be used in a range of contexts where social relations can be conceived of as links between individual nodes (Borgatti, Mehra, Brass & Labianca, 2009; Kadushin, 2012; Wasserman & Faust, 1994). By viewing social relations as a network, novel insights can be gained in terms of the structure of communities and importance of key connections (Borgatti et al., 2009). By thinking in these terms, the literature cited in an academic publication can be conceived of as a network where each reference is a node, linked to another node (the publication it is cited in) through a tie which represents the social practice of a citation.

an iterative approach was used to generate the sample of papers selected for inclusion in the citation network. An initial sample of 20 documents were selected, on the basis of literature database searches for items which referred specifically to the history or definition of openness ((“open education”, “open learning”, openness)AND(history,definition)), listed in Table 1.