Distance education (DE) is a constantly evolving and advancing field, and as such, its intellectual network and dynamics need to be investigated and explored. In this regard, this study reviewed a total of 1685 articles and 51,940 references through social network analysis for a bibliometric examination of the DE field. The findings indicate that DE is an interdisciplinary field and part of mainstream education. The progressive knowledge domain analysis revealed that the intellectual roots of DE stem from generic social learning theories, after which DE-related theories began to emerge following the foundation of open universities. The research concludes that there was a paradigm shift that resulted from developments in online networked technologies in the 2000s, at which time DE started to gradually evolve into sixth generation ubiquitous DE.