Artificial intelligence (AI) has been widely explored across the world over the past decades. A particularly emerging topic is the application of AI in e-learning (AIeL) to improve the effectiveness of teaching and learning in precision education. This study aims to systematically review publication patterns for AIeL research with a focus on leading journals, countries, disciplines, and applications. In addition, a co-citation network analysis was conducted to explore the invisible relationships among the core papers of AIeL to reveal directions for future research. The analysis is based on a total of 86 core AIeL papers accompanied by 1149 citations in follow-up studies obtained from the Web of Science. It was found that a majority of AIeL studies focused on the development and applications of intelligent tutoring systems, followed by using AI to facilitate assessment and evaluation in e-learning contexts. For field researchers, the visualized network diagram serves as a map to explore the invisible relationships among the core AIeL research, providing a structural understanding of AI-supported research in e-learning contexts. A further investigation of the follow-up studies behind the highly co-cited links revealed the extended research directions from the AIeL mainstreams, such as adaptive learning-based evaluation environments. Implications are discussed.
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