MOOCs as a Research Agenda: Changes Over Time


  • Shunan Zhang Sungkyunkwan University
  • ShaoPeng Che Sungkyunkwan University
  • Dongyan Nan Sungkyunkwan University
  • Jang Hyun Kim Sungkyunkwan University



MOOC research, CiteSpace, co-citation analysis, visualization


MOOCs (massive open online courses) have attracted considerable attention from researchers. Fueled by constant change and developments in educational technology, the trends of MOOCs have varied greatly over the years. To detect and visualize the developments and changes in MOOC research, 4,652 articles published between 2009 and 2021 were retrieved from Web of Science and Scopus with the aid of CiteSpace. This study sought to explore the number of publications, co-citation network, cluster analysis, timeline analysis, burstness analysis, and dual-map overlays based on co-citation relationships. The first finding was that the number of publications on MOOCs had increased consistently, and grew especially quickly between 2013 and 2015. Second, the main topic of the top 10 co-cited studies revolved around the problem of learner continuance. Third, blended programs, task-technology fit, and comparative analysis have emerged as popular subjects. Fourth, the development of MOOC research has followed distinct phases, with 2009 to 2012 the starting phase, 2013 to 2015 the high growth phase, 2016 to 2018 the plateau phase, and 2019 to 2021 another peak phase. Lastly, both cluster analysis and dual-map overlays provided empirical evidence of cross-disciplinary research. Our findings provided an in-depth and dynamic understanding of the development and evolution of MOOC research and also proposed novel ideas for future studies.


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How to Cite

Zhang, S., Che, S., Nan, D., & Kim, J. H. (2022). MOOCs as a Research Agenda: Changes Over Time. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 23(4), 193–210.



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