Knowing the Author

They asked, “How do you feel about research now?”
I answered cheekily, “I’m open to offers of a cease-fire.”

That was a week ago after a brilliantly executed research panel discussion at Royal Roads University.  Today I discovered that the latest required reading list begins with a research article by Bozkurt et al. (2015).  Aras Bozkurt is a familiar name from Rhizomatic Learning, Dave Cormier’s 2014 MOOC that evolved into a community (Bell, Mackness, & Funes, 2016), even a community of practice (Wenger, 1998), and continues today as an active Facebook group (  Aras intrigued us with his social network analysis (SNA) during the 2015 iteration of the MOOC and gave this Hangouts on air presentation (also preserved in Vialogues).  Who knew quantitative data could be so engaging?

Having a connection with the researcher/author gave me fresh perspective as I approached the 34-page “Trends in Distance Education Research” (Bozkurt et al., 2015). This meta-analysis of 861 research articles published 2009 to 2013 in seven distance education (DE) journals presents a comprehensive picture of current DE research and provides direction for future research. Content analysis of the texts identified current keywords, research fields, theoretical frameworks, research designs, subjects, and methods, confirming that case studies yielding qualitative data followed by surveys yielding quantitative data are the two methods most often employed in DE research.  This finding either suggests preferred methods, or indicates opportunities for more creative approaches. For researchers looking to fill identified gaps in DE research areas (e.g. K-12), the appendices of most frequently cited authors and works provides a gold mine of foundational sources.  That the seven most cited works (Table 10) date prior to 2000 supports the authors’ argument that DE research looks forward by looking back.  Drawing on earlier similar studies (Berge & Mrozowski, 2001; Zawacki-Richter, 2009) they also trace an increasing degree of research collaboration as evidenced by the decreasing percentage of single-author articles, but surprisingly promote collaboration in terms of more frequent citations rather than quality of research.  In a possibly trivial finding, but interesting to me, the authors draw attention to inconsistencies in citation that hinder accurate content analysis.  Proper citation to avoid plagiarism and to help readers locate our sources is emphasized in our university courses, but this was a new insight for me.

I am not sure if connection with the author, content of the article, or an increasing skill at reading scholarly literature contributed most to my ability to engage with this article.  I  have moved from avoidance to acceptance of the idea of research.  I am past cease-fire, possibly at a peace treaty, but not yet at the place of full-on friendship.


Bell, F., Mackness, J., & Funes, M. (2016). Participant association and emergent curriculum in a MOOC: can the community be the curriculum? Research in Learning Technology, 24(0).

Berge, Z. L., & Mrozowski, S. (2001). Review of research in distance education, 1990 to 1999. American Journal of Distance Education, 15(3), 5–19.

Bozkurt, A., Akgun-Ozbek, E., Yilmazel, S., Erdogdu, E., Ucar, H., Guler, E., … Aydin, C. H. (2015). Trends in distance education research: A content analysis of journals 2009-2013. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 16(1), 330–363. Retrieved from

Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from,+meaning,+and+identity&ots=keraYsdu2f&sig=-uHzQiYW17uGvBbzlG8FVpSaCJY

Zawacki-Richter, O. (2009). Research areas in distance education: A Delphi study. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 10(3). Retrieved from

About Jim

Community Adult Educator & Adult Literacy Instructor
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4 Responses to Knowing the Author

  1. Aras BOZKURT says:

    Another surprising finding in this article was revealed by social network analysis (SNA) of keywords. For instance, keywords such as “OER, mobile learning, and collaborative learning” appeared to be the most used keywords. However, SNA identified that “learning” and “education” are the essence of the keywords (in published articles between 2009-2013) used in distance education. It is also interesting that researchers use “open” and “online learning” rather than “distance education” which reflects the paradigm change in the field.

    • Jim says:

      Thank you Aras for adding those points. The paradigm switch you mention, from “distance education” to “open learning” and “online learning”, seems an encouraging indicator that the numbers-driven regression toward a knowledge transmission model in higher education (Bates, 2015) is under reversal. I was intrigued by your SNA analysis of the keywords, but a word limit on the blog assignments prevented me from treating it. Until I read you and your co-authors’ article, I had not realized SNA could map keyword links the same way it does social media. The math is totally beyond me, but from YouTube I gleaned some inkling of the concept of betweenness centrality (MySkills, 2014). I also did not mention that both your and Zawacki-Richter’s (2009) study determined educational technology was the single most studied research area. I wonder if that indicates a need for the caution voiced by Puzziferro & Shelton that pedagogy must not take a back seat to “technological bells and whistles” in course development (2008, p. 122).

      Bates, A. W. (Tony). (2015). Teaching in a digital age: Guidelines for designing teaching and learning for a digital age. The Open Textbook Project. Retrieved from

      MySkills. (2014, 09 06). 8 -7 Betweenness centrality part I [Video file]. Retrieved from

      Puzziferro, M., & Shelton, K. (2008). A model for developing high-quality online courses: Integrating a systems approach with learning theory. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 12(3–4), 119–136. Retrieved from

    • Vanessa Vaile says:

      and so to go to bookmarks — grumbling — and update/add tags

  2. I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes, Jim – a great start!

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