Research Trends in the Field of e-Learning Quality, 2003-2012: A Citation Analysis


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This paper applies the citation analysis to identify research trends in the field of e-learning quality, based on the Social Science Citation Index (SSCI) and Science Citation Index (SCI) databases from 2003 to 2012. To do this, 35,482 citations of 1,647 documents identified from SSCI and SCI texts were analyzed. Results showed that research trends varied rapidly and richly in many disciplines between the two time periods (2003-2007 and 2008-2012). This study may be of benefit to scholars seeking to understand the literature surrounding e-learning quality and explore promising research questions.

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Research Trends in the Field of e-Learning Quality, 2003-2012: A Citation Analysis

  1. 1. Research trends in the field of e-learning quality, 2003-2012: A citation analysis Chin-Hsiu Tai1 , Che-Wei Lee2 , Yender Lee3 1 Graduate School of Business and Operations Management, Chang Jung Christian University, Tainan, Taiwan, 2 Department of Administration and Policy Studies, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, 3 Graduate School of Business and Operations Management, Chang Jung Christian University, Tainan, Taiwan, Keywords: e-learning quality, research trends, citation analysis, informetrics Abstract - This paper applies the citation analysis to identify research trends in the field of e-learning quality, based on the Social Science Citation Index (SSCI) and Science Citation Index (SCI) databases from 2003 to 2012. To do this, 35,482 citations of 1,647 documents identified from SSCI and SCI texts were analyzed. Results showed that research trends varied rapidly and richly in many disciplines between the two time periods (2003-2007 and 2008-2012). This study may be of benefit to scholars seeking to understand the literature surrounding e-learning quality and explore promising research questions. 1. Introduction In the field of e-learning, although recent decades have seen growing significance placed on learning modules, and the suitability, practices, employment, and the impact on various facets of today’s education [1-4], more recently research interests have shifted to focus on quality enhancement, relations, and perceptions of e-learning [5,6]. However, the result of these qualitatively preliminary reviews seems to oversimplify the scope of e-learning quality within education. Few studies [7] systematically and quantitatively examine the research trends in the field of quality in e- learning from 2003 to 2012. Even fewer use citation analysis [8,9,10] to investigate the interdisciplinary development of research into the field of e-learning quality. Here we assume that there has been a dramatic proliferation of, and a shift in, patterns of research on e-learning in the twenty-first century. This article applies citation analysis to investigate the most frequently cited authors and the references on e-learning quality from the Social Science Citation Index (SSCI) and Social Citation Index (SCI) databases over the past ten years to identify research trends. It also, however, goes further, by reviewing the cross-disciplinary status of research on e- learning quality. In this study, research trend was defined as having three components: (1) highly cited journals, (2) the most frequently cited works, and (3) the most frequently cited authors. With this new information, it is hoped that scholars of e-learning research may rapidly, efficiently, and accurately identify the documented classic (must-read, best-quality, and widely-cited) texts and discover the most influential scholars in this domain. Three primary research questions guide this study: (1) Which journals were cited the most from 2003 to 2012? (2) Which works were the most frequently cited in 2003-2007 compared to 2008-2012? (3) Which authors were the most frequently cited in 2003-2007 compared to 2008- 2012? 2. Methods 2.1 Research Design The citation analysis was derived from the methodology of informetrics—also known as bibliometrics or scientometrics [8,9,10], and was used to identify research trends in the field of e-learning quality. Based on our assumption that studies of e-learning quality over the last decade had become a dominant trend in many disciplines, the time period was set as 2003-2012 and divided in half (2003-2007 and 2008-2012) for comparisons of citations to determine the dynamics of research on e-learning quality. A database relating to studies on e-learning quality was built for citation analysis by retrieving data from Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) Citation Indexes databases [11,12], consisting of three sub- databases: (1) 2003-2012 document citations; (2) 2003-2007 author and document citations; and (3) 2008-2012 author and document citations. 2.2 Data Sources The data were retrieved from Science Citation Index (SCI) and Social Science Citation Index (SSCI), both published by the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) Citation Indexes of Thomson Reuters. SCI and SSCI currently cover over 6,700 leading scholarly journals (3,700 from SCI, 3,000 from SSCI), representing 150 disciplines (100 from SCI, 50 from SSCI) [13,14]. These two databases also provided the ISI Journal Citation Reports (JCR) [11,12], which “offers a systematic, objective means to critically evaluate the world’s leading journals, with quantifiable, statistical information based on citation data” [15], for helping us to see the journals that were the most frequently used or cited. Proceedings of the 19th ISSAT International Conference on Reliability and Quality in Design August 5-7, 2013 - Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.A.
  2. 2. We included journal articles, books, book reviews, reviews, conference programs and proceedings, and editorial materials in this study. There were 23,577 document citations 2003- 2012. With 18,472 articles, there were 8,807 journals 2003- 2007 and 14,164 authors. In 2008-2012 there were 45,964 articles, 17,626 journals, and 32,799 authors. 2.3 Data Collection We used the keyword “e-learning quality” to search the Web of Science from Thomson Reuters’ Web of Knowledge [16], limiting the timespan of results to 2003-2007 and 2008- 2012 respectively. Search results were refined into the disciplinary categories of Education & Educational (SSCI); Education, Science Disciplines (SCI); Health Care Sciences & Services (SCI); Medicine, General & Internal (SCI); Management (SSCI); Information Science & Library (SCI); and Multidisciplinary Sciences (SCI). Finally, 1,647 texts— including journal articles and books—cited in 50,826 publications were retrieved from the initial 35,482 pool of works. Citation counts, journal information, article titles, publication dates, authors’ names, and attributed disciplines were tabulated using Microsoft Excel 2010, divided in the two periods of 2003-2007 and 2008-2012, and the top 10 most highly journals, cited references, and authors were selected. 2.4 Data Analysis By ranking the top 10 highly cited journals, references, and authors according to citation counts, the relationships between publications and the impact that particular references and authors may have had on the subsequent development of e-learning quality research can be discovered. Journals were ranked by how frequently they were cited journals from 2003 to 2012. Their impact factor (IF) [17] was obtained from JCR, and serves as a measure indicator of journal quality. It is determined based on the average number of citations of works published by the journals. The SCI/SSCI-generated rankings highlight the status of the specific journal in respective subject categories. The top 10 most highly cited works were further classified into some disciplines in terms of their article or book titles. The current working locations, areas of expertise of the top 10 most frequently cited authors identified were gathered from the authors’ professional websites, available curriculum vitae, and representative publications. 3. Results 3.1 Which journals were cited the most? Table I shows the top 10 highly cited journals in e-learning quality from 2003 to 2012, in frequency order. The nine journals other than Nature were cited over 200 times in the past decade. According to the 2011 JCR Science Edition [11] and Social Science Edition [12], Table II shows that these journals associated with e-learning quality can be classified into seven subject categories, and provides the IF and the journal’s rank within a specific category or discipline. TABLE I. THE TOP 10 HIGHLY CITED JOURNALS, 2003-2012 Rank Journal Title Database Publisher’s Country Citation Count 1 Computers & Education SSCI UK 425 2 JAMA-Journal of the American Medical Association SCI USA 362 3 Management Science SSCI USA 297 4 British Medical Journal SCI UK 268 5 Academic Medicine SCI USA 262 6 MIS Quarterly SSCI USA 243 7 Science SCI USA 223 8 New England Journal of Medicine SCI USA 213 9 Medical Education SCI USA 212 10 Nature SCI UK 195 TABLE II. CATEGORIES, IMPACT FACTOR, AND RANK OF THE TOP 10 HIGHLY CITED JOURNALS, 2003-2012 Category Journal Title (Abbreviation) Impact Factor (IF) Ranka Education & Educational (SSCI)  Computers & Education (CE) 2.261 7/206 Education, Science Disciplines (SCI)  Academic Medicine (AM) 3.524 1/33  Medical Education (ME) 3.176 2/33 Health Care Sciences & Services (SCI)  Medical Education (ME) 3.176 8/76 Medicine, General & Internal (SCI)  New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) 53.298 1/155  JAMA-Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) 30.026 3/155  British Medical Journal (BMJ) 14.093 6/155 Management (SSCI)  MIS Quarterly (MISQ) 4.447 6/168  Management Science (MS) 1.733 48/168 Information Science & Library (SCI)  MIS Quarterly (MISQ) 4.447 1/83 Multidisciplinary Sciences (SCI)  Nature (NATE) 36.280 1/56  Science (SINE) 31.201 2/56 a. This rankings was published by SSCI/SCI databases. “/” means “out of,” for example, 7/206 = the journal was ranked 7th out of 206 journals in the specific category. 3.2 Whose texts were the most frequently cited? Table III presents the top 10 highly cited works from 2003 to 2007. Only two of the most frequently cited works are journal articles; the others are books. These books and journal articles highlight the following core research topics and disciplines that trended in the field of e-learning quality from 2003 to 2007, including (1) Machine: theory of machine learning [18,22,24]; (2) Medicine: neural networks [20,24]; (3) Education: cognition learning, situated learning (or a model of learning in a community of practice) [21,23,26]; and (4) Statistics: statistical pattern recognition [19,24,25]. TABLE III. THE TOP 10 HIGHLY CITED REFERENCES, 2003-2007 Rank Reference Citation Count 1 Mitchell, 1997 [18] 9 1 Vapnik, 1995 [19] 9 3 Bishop, 1995 [20] 8 3 Lave and Wenger, 1991 [21] 8 3 Quinlan, 1993 [22] 8 3 Wenger, 1998 [23] 8 7 Duda, Hart, and Stork, 2001 [24] 6 7 Vapnik, 1998 [25] 6 9 Brown, Collins, and Duguid, 1989 [26] 5
  3. 3. 9 Davis, et al., 1999 [27] 5 Table IV presents the top 10 frequently cited publications from 2008 to 2012. Citation counts were notably higher than the previous five year period, ranging from 15 to 25. Only Cohen’s [31] work is a book, the other nine are journal articles. The research trends in this period keep e-learning quality mainly in the two fields of: (1) Statistics: structural equation models, and statistical power analysis for behavioral sciences [28,31]; and (2) Medicine: e-learning in medical education [37]. However, new research directions related to e- learning quality have emerged from these works, introducing a focus on studies of acceptance [32,33], satisfaction [30,34], effectiveness [36], and success [29,35] of e-learning, computer, and information technology and systems. TABLE IV. THE TOP 10 HIGHLY CITED REFERENCES, 2008-2012 Rank Reference Citation Counts 1 Fornell and Larcker, 1981 [28] 25 2 DeLone and McLean, 2003 [29] 20 2 Wang, 2003 [30] 20 4 Cohen, 1988 [31] 19 5 Davis, Bagozzi, and Warshaw, 1989 [32] 18 5 Davis, 1989 [33] 18 7 Sun, et al., 2008, [34] 17 8 DeLone and McLean, 1992 [35] 16 8 Piccoli, Ahmad, and Ives, 2001 [36] 16 10 Ruiz, Mintzer, and Leipzig, 2006 [37] 15 3.3 Who were the most frequently cited authors? Table V shows the top 10 highly cited authors between 2003 and 2007. Five of these ten authors work in the United States of America (USA), even though they are originally from other countries. Others work in Canada, Germany, India, the United Kingdom (UK), and the Netherlands. By further examining these authors’ areas of expertise, we discovered that work relating to e-learning quality was integrated into the research trends of the following six disciplines in this period: (1) Information Management; (2) Medicine; (3) Computer Science and Electrical Engineering; (4) Education; (5) Mechanics; and (6) Food and Water Microbiology. TABLE V. THE TOP 10 HIGHLY CITED AUTHORS, 2003-2007 Rank Name, Degree, & Area of Expertise Country of Residence Citation Count 1 Barker, Kathryn Chang, Ph.D. in Educational Administration and Policy, e-learning quality standards and certification; strategies to transform learning systems; future education consulting services Canada 19 1 Schiffman, Susan S., Ph.D. in Education, development of instrumentation and sensors to assess sensory and cognitive functioning in humans USA 19 3 Vapnik, Vladimir N., Ph.D. in Statistics, machine learning algorithms; the support vector machine USA 17 4 Khoshgoftaar, Taghi M., Ph.D. in Computer & Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, software engineering; data mining and machine learning; computational intelligence; USA 16 computer security & instruction detection systems 5 Stevenson, Richard J., M.D. in Pediatric and General Surgery (USA/internal medicine; pediatrics) USA 15 5 Streufert, Siegfried, Ph.D. in Experimental (Social) Psychology, psychology; management; medicine and pharmacology USA 15 7 Beg, Mirza Mohd Sufyan, Ph.D. in Computer Technology, computer architecture; parallel and distributed computing; high performance data mining; web searching; fuzzy logic and systems; genetic algorithms; question answering systems; natural language processing India 14 8 Blum, Jochen, Ph.D. in Neurosurgery, biomechanics; intramedullary rod or nail; trauma surgery and orthopedics Germany 13 8 Meyer, Jan H.F., Ph.D. in Education, threshold concept; student learning; approaches to teaching inventory UK 13 8 Mossel, David Alexander Antonius, Ph.D. in Food and Water Microbiology, microbiology of foods The Netherlands 13 Table VI presents the top 10 highly cited authors from 2008 to 2012. In this group, eight scholars are based in the USA and two are in Taiwan. These authors have conducted research on e-learning quality primarily in five disciplines: (1) Information Systems and Management; (2) Medical Informatics; (3) Psychology; (4) Marketing; and (5) Economics. TABLE VI. LIST OF THE TOP 10 HIGHLY CITED AUTHORS, 2008-2012 Rank Name, Degree, & Area of Expertise Country of Residence Citation Count 1 Cohen, Jacob, Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, statistical analysis in the behavioral sciences; psychology USA 46 1 Davis, Fred D., Ph.D. in Management, user acceptance of information technology; computer training and skill acquisition; computer-assisted decision making; managing emerging technologies USA 46 3 Venkatesh, Viswanath, Ph.D. in Information Systems, diffusion of technologies in organizations and society; management information science; organizational behavior and human decision; medical informatics; human-computer studies USA 45 4 DeLone, William H., Ph.D. in Computers and Information Systems, computers and information systems USA 40 5 Wang, Yi-Shun (王怡舜), Ph.D. in Information Management, information technology and organizations; e- learning; electronic commerce; customer relationship management; system dynamics Taiwan 39 6 Cook, David A., M.D. in Medical Education, USA/educational technologies; clinical decision making; assessment methods USA 36 7 Stefano, George B., Ph.D. in Neuroscience, neuroscience; medical science; biological sciences USA 32 8 Fornell, Claes G., Ph.D. in Economics, customer satisfaction measurement and customer asset management USA 31
  4. 4. 9 Parasuraman, A., D.B.A. in Marketing, services marketing; service quality measurement and improvement; technology’s role in marketing and serving customers USA 29 10 Liaw, Shu-Sheng (廖述盛), Ed.D. in Technology Education, e-learning; medical informatics Taiwan 26 4. Discussion Three of the top 10 highly cited journals from 2003 to 2012 are from the SSCI database, with the other seven from the SCI database. E-learning quality research seems to develop richly in the SCI disciplines, including Medicine, General & Internal (JAMA, BMJ, and NEJM); Education, Scientific Disciplines (AM and ME); Multidisciplinary Sciences (SINE and NATE); and Health Care Sciences & Services (ME). Seven publishers come from the USA and three from the UK. SCI journals have a higher IF than those in SSCI. Except for AM and ME, which have IFs of around 3, the other SCI journals have IFs between 14 and 50. In contrast, all three SSCI journals have an IF between 1 and 4. Five of seven SCI journals were ranked in the top 3 in their respective subject categories by JCR, while two of SSCI journals were ranked within top 7. As can be seen from Table III and Table IV, the authors with highly cited works in the first five years of the decade under study do not overlap with those of the latter five years. This suggests that the field of e-learning quality has a rapid turnover in author citation. From 2003 to 2007, Vladimir Vapnik and Etienne Wenger were the only two authors with more than one work included in the list of the top 10 highly cited references. From 2008 to 2012, William DeLone and Ephraim McLean co-authored two journal articles, and Fred Davis also wrote two that were in the top 10 highly cited references. Citation counts of the works were not affected by the year in which the work was published. Nine works published in the 1990s were still being highly cited in the former five year period, whereas four works published in the 1980s were in the latter five year period. The works included in Tables III and IV provide researchers of e-learning quality studies with helpful guidance in starting a literature review of how the field has evolved over the past decade. The increase in citations more recently suggests that interest in e-learning research is growing. Highly ranked citations are frequently considered field-defining titles, and become important pointers for how the field develops. Table IV also shows that the field has matured to the point of tackling the issues of acceptance, satisfaction, effectiveness, and success of e-learning. This evidence verifies the significance of our present research focus on quality in e-learning. A comparison of Tables III and IV reveals two patterns between the two five year periods. First, way in which the highly cited works crossed different disciplines in these two periods varied notably. Second, the most frequently cited publications in the first five years had fewer citations than those in the second five years. There is a geographic distinction between the influential authors in the first period and those in the second. In the first, there are four non-Northern American scholars (from India, Germany, the UK, and the Netherlands), whereas in the second there are only two who are not based in North America. American scholars thus increasingly dominated the research directions in this field, but Taiwanese scholars’ research efforts are gaining attention and recognition. Two major disciplines—Information Systems and Management and Medicine—retained the dominant influence in this field during the past decade. Nonetheless, disciplines such as Psychology, Marketing, and Economics have more recently gained some prominence in this field. 5. Conclusion This study has demonstrated that research on e-learning quality is expanding and gaining greater recognition in the interdisciplinary literature besides education. Computers & Education was the most cited journal from 2003 to 2012. Mitchell’s [18] and Vapnik’s [19] works were the most frequently cited references 2003-2007, while Fornell and Larcker’s [28] was 2008-2012. Barker and Schiffman were the most cited authors 2003-2007, while Cohen and Davis rose to the top during the second period. Shifts in the rankings of the most influential journals, works, and authors from the first to the second five years indicate that various topics within the field of e-learning quality develop rapidly and from diverse fields. The highly ranked authors’ professional fields encompassed education, statistics, computer and technology science, medicine, neuroscience, psychology, microbiology, information management, economics, and marketing. Although e-learning quality as a researchable topic has been described in many divergent disciplines to capture its multidimensionality, this study has documented the more recent move towards the disciplines of Psychology, Marketing, and Economics. In this article, we have shown the emergence of e-learning quality as a field of research, using citation count rankings to map the relevant research trends. This paper contributes the research trends that define the foci, topics, and historic value of e-learning quality research. These highly cited journals, works, and scholars have not just the greatest impact on the evolution of e-learning quality studies, but also collectively define the boundary of this field. The works and authors listed here may usefully guide researchers as documented classic texts and experts in the field. 6. References [1]Elsabé Cloete. “Electronic Education System Model”; Computers & Education, Vol. 36, Issue 2, 171-182, 2001. [2]Maggie McPherson. “Developing Innovation in E-Learning: Lessons to Be Learned”; British Journal of Educational Technology, Vol. 36, No. 4, 585-586, July 2005. [3]Tak-Wai Chan, Chin-Wei Hue, Chih-Yueh Chou, and Ovid J.L. Tzeng. “Four Spaces of Network Learning Models”; Computers & Education, Vol. 37, Issue 2, 141-161, Sep 2001. [4]Ambjörn Naeve, Miltiadis Lytras, Wolfgang Nejdl, Nicolas balacheff, and Joseph Hardin. “Advances of the Semantic Web for
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