Irrelevant, overlooked, or lost? Trends in 20 years of uncited and low cited K-12 online learning articles

Karen Arnesen, Shea Walters, Michael K. Barbour, Jered Borup


In this study, we analyzed a subset of uncited or low cited articles from the data reported in Arnesen, Hveem, Short, West, and Barbour  (2019), who examined the trends in K-12 online learning articles from 1994 to 2016. We identified 62 articles that had 5 or fewer citations, and analyzed them for trends in authorship, publication outlets, dates of publication, and topics that could help explain their low citation numbers. We also analyzed topics to see what contribution they might have made and can still make to the field of K-12 online learning. We found that the majority of these articles had been published in many different, less well-known journals.  We also found that these articles may have attracted fewer readers because they addressed topics that seemed to have a narrow focus, often outside of the United States. The articles were also authored by  both well-known researchers in the field as well as a number of one-time authors. What we did not find were articles that were uninteresting, poorly researched, or irrelevant. Many of the articles described and discussed programs that grappled with and overcame some of the same challenges online learning still faces today: issues of interaction, community, technology, management, etc. Some of the early articles gave interesting insights into the history of K-12 online learning, especially as it involved rural learners and programs. Others addressed less mainstream but still interesting topics such as librarians in online learning, cross-border AP history classes, policies that helped or hindered the growth of online learning, and practical considerations of cost and access.


K-12, K-12 online learning, virtual school, cyber school, journal analysis

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