Shifting Conversations on Online Distance Education in South Korean Society During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Topic Modeling Analysis of News Articles




distance education, online education, COVID-19, topic modeling, news Big Data, South Korea


This study explored the dominant discourses on online distance education (ODE) that emerged in South Korean society before, during, and after the COVID-19 pandemic. The authors conducted a topic modeling analysis of 8,865 news articles published by 24 South Korean media outlets between 2019 and 2021. Using the Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA) algorithm and social network analysis software (NetMiner), the top five topics and the top ten words associated with each topic were identified from each period. The authors observed significant changes not only in the number of news articles but also in the depth of the conversations published each year. The results have revealed several key points. First, ODE, previously considered marginal and abnormal, gained in normality across all educational levels in Korean society. Second, ODE discourses have been shaped by the unique cultural, historical, and technological infrastructure in South Korea. Third, a clear division between social-justice-oriented and business-oriented ODE discourses reflect a persistent inequality in Korean society. Finally, ODE discourses matured in 2021, with more critical and realistic perspectives on both the positives and negatives of ODE. The useful implications of such insights for post-pandemic ODE research and practice are further discussed.


Author Biographies

Kyungmee Lee, Department of Education, Seoul National University, South Korea

Kyungmee Lee is an associate professor in the sociology of education at the Department of Education, Seoul National University. Until recently, she worked in the Department of Educational Research at Lancaster University, UK. Her research concerns issues of educational accessibility and inclusivity. Using qualitative research methods and evocative academic writings, Kyungmee has investigated how different educational subjects, including teachers and educational researchers, are constructed and experienced in posthuman contexts. Her scholarship emphasizes the complex relationship between discourse, knowledge and power, understood through a broadly Foucauldian lens.

Tae-Jong Kim, Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information, South Korea

Tae-Jong Kim is a researcher at the Science Data Education Center of the Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information. He holds a master's degree in media studies and a doctoral degree in education. Dr. Kim conducts research in digital humanities and social sciences, analyzing mega-trends and social phenomena through text data such as news big data and proposing solutions for human growth and social issues based on the data. He has a keen interest in analyzing various academic fields, such as education, digital technology, health, environment, psychology, diplomacy, and agriculture, using big data and AI technology.

Berrin Cefa Sari , University of Oldenburg, Germany

Berrin Cefa Sari is a doctoral researcher in the Center for Open Education Research (COER) at the University of Oldenburg. She holds an MSc degree in Curriculum and Instruction. Mrs. Cefa Sari's doctoral project is on learner support in digital higher education. She also conducts research on student retention in open, distance, and digital education, digital feedback, open and networked learning, and emerging technologies concerning digital education. She is methodologically interested in systematic reviews, qualitative research, and case study designs.

Aras Bozkurt, Anadolu University, Turkey

Aras Bozkurt is a researcher and faculty member in the Department of Distance Education, Open Education Faculty at Anadolu University, Turkey. He holds MA and PhD degrees in distance education. Dr. Bozkurt conducts empirical studies on distance education, open and distance learning, online learning, networked learning, and educational technology, to which he applies various critical theories, such as connectivism, rhizomatic learning, and heutagogy. He is also interested in emerging research paradigms, including social network analysis, sentiment analysis, and data mining.


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How to Cite

Lee, K., Kim, T.-J., Cefa Sari , B., & Bozkurt, A. (2023). Shifting Conversations on Online Distance Education in South Korean Society During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Topic Modeling Analysis of News Articles. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 24(3), 125–144.



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