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I think the Observatory is an extremely interesting and helpful innovation in keeping one abreast of new developments in higher education around the world. I find it most helpful where there is clearly a lot happening but not much up-to date analysis, synthesis and reflection on its significance or implications for Universities.

Lindsay Taiaroa, Executive Director, New Zealand Vice Chancellors Committee

This page provides links to sites on borderless higher education, plus recent studies and reports (not produced by the Observatory). The rise of new technologies and new providers in higher education has prompted analysis from governments, policy bodies, professional associations, universities and individual commentators. The task of the Observatory is to track this vast range of material and to re-fashion it into a form most useful for senior managers. However, there will be many occasions when more detail and specific references are required. This page serves as a portal for some key resources concerned with borderless higher education.

The links below are not comprehensive, and are not meant to be. Rather, we have highlighted two or three leading resources under a number of categories that will allow members to build their knowledge of borderless developments or seek specific advice or information. These categories are:

  1. Plagiarism
  2. National Reports
  3. Commercial 'education industry' tracking services
  4. Research Services
  5. Observatories
  6. Other Websites Relating to Distance Learning

New links will be added on an ongoing basis and if you have any suggestions of resources that should be listed on this page, please contact us at info@obhe.ac.uk.

  1. KEY ISSUE, October 2003: Plagiarism

    Plagiarism has always been a concern for academic institutions, but new technology has widened the scope of the problem. Universities and colleges are increasingly turning to anti-plagiarism software, publicly advertised institutional policies to deter and educate students, and there are also some relevant national initiatives. Has the proliferation of the internet actually increased the level of plagiarism? Can anti-plagiarism software deliver? Whose rights are at stake? These are a few of the questions the resources cited in this introduction to plagiarism address.

    1. Software Companies

      Featured Software: "TurnItIn"
      TurnItIn is a software product originally developed by University of California, Berkeley researchers and alumni. It offers a fee-based service that tests the originality of a piece of writing against three databases: the publicly accessible internet of over 2 billion websites, millions of published online articles and e-books, and finally, any student paper ever submitted for verification to TurnItIn. Originality reports are reportedly returned within 24-48 hours featuring highlighted and underlined portions that indicate sources used and potential overlap with previous written work. By checking the submitted writing against these three databases the written work is then entered into the last database, thereby including it for future searches of originality. The TurnItIn website claims to serve a subscriber base spanning 51 countries, 2,500 institutions, and at peak usage times analyses 20,000 submitted papers per day. This would appear to be the most popular service of its kind in the world.

      Other plagiarism software companies:

      Stand alone desktop software:

      Online search services:

      Software (Computer Programming) Plagiarism:

    2. Paper mills (student cheat sites)

      These are sites that provide pre-written essays at all levels of study. Some paper mill sites charge per page or per essay, some charge a yearly or bi-yearly subscription fee, while others offer papers for free. Some of the paper mills will also produce custom written papers for US$20 per page on average. The quality of the accessed papers is not guaranteed. These sites are a major concern for anti-plagiarism software advocates.

    3. Academic Study

      This article reports on a study conducted by Donald McCabe, head and founder of the Center for Academic Integrity, a subscriber based U.S. centre that conducts and disseminates research on plagiarism and other academic issues. It describes the prevalence of plagiarism in higher education as revealed through the study of 18,000 students, 2,600 faculty and 650 teaching assistants across 23 U.S. university campuses.

    4. Institutional Approach

      This University of Melbourne, Australia website is an example of a university policy on plagiarism. It lays out clearly the various types of plagiarism, ramifications for students if they are caught plagiarising materials, and methods of combating plagiarism for faculty. Of particular note universities like University of Melbourne are now publicly identifying paper mills and detection software on their plagiarism websites in order to deter students from pursuing these routes of cheating. This site is only one of many examples of university policies and links to information on plagiarism.

      Following media claims that it did not handle two alleged cases of plagiarism effectively, the University of Newcastle, also in Australia, recently engaged the St James Ethics Centre (an non-profit organisation established to offer independent advice to corporations and other organisations on ethical matters) to conduct an inquiry into policies and procedures at the university relating to plagiarism.

      The Virtual Academic Integrity Laboratory (VAIL) is a University of Maryland University College initiative providing information to both students and professors concerning academic integrity. The academic policies portion links to 27 different university plagiarism policies across Canada and the U.S.

    5. National Initiatives

      JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee) is a UK publicly-funded organisation that provides ongoing strategic and infrastructure support for IT in higher education. JISC's Plagiarism Advisory Service website began in September 2002. This service aims to raise awareness of plagiarism in the academic community by providing background and copyright advice, educational tools, and a portal to further resources. JISC has licensed TurnItIn for use in every college and university in the UK from Sept 2002 to August 2004. JISC is interesting as an example of a national initiative attempting to deal with issues of academic integrity in higher education.

    6. Student Opinion

      This is a student's perspective on plagiarism, copyright and the ethics of submitting student papers to plagiarism detector services such as TurnItIn. Dalhousie University (Halifax, Canada) student Nicholas Cotton argues that institutions or faculty should not require students to submit their papers to anti-plagiarism companies. He contends that the academic paper should be regarded as a copyright protected work owned by the student.

    7. Media Opinion

      This article discusses the issues of plagiarism from both a student and professor's perspective concerning the use of electronic plagiarism detectors, and the legalities involved.

      An interesting article about conflict of interest in paper mill and plagiarism detector companies run and designed by the same programmers.

    Good links for further exploration of plagiarism issues:

    LeMoyne College (Syracuse, New York State) has set up a particularly useful website for plagiarism related information. It links to the latest news on plagiarism, guides for students and professors, paper mills, and plagiarism detection companies, including price lists.

    A University of Sydney, Australia document [PDF] exploring the providers, the consumers, and the capabilities of plagiarism software. Includes a comprehensive bibliography.

  2. National Reports

    Since 2000, many national and intergovernmental organisations have published reports analysing educational opportunities created by developments in information and communications technologies. The following is a list of major reports, organised by country. All reports are free to download from the listed URLs.


    Universities Online: A survey of online education and services in Australia (45 pages)

    Margot Bell, Denise Bush, Peter Nicholson, David O'Brien, Thien Tran

    Australia Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST), March 2002

    Based on survey data, Universities Online is a detailed picture of online education and services in Australian universities. The country's 43 universities were surveyed between August and December 2001. The report covers the rates of usage of online courses, units, and online services, including statistics on the utilisation of learning platform software such as WebCT and Blackboard.


    See also the Observatory's Breaking News Story in the May Breaking News Archives.

    The Business of Borderless Education - 2001 Update (57 pages)

    Yoni Ryan and Laurence Stedman

    Australia Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST), January 2002

    Subsequent to the bear market in the internet and telecommunications industries, as well as the collapse of many e-learning ventures, this report updates and revises the earlier 'Business of Borderless Education' written in March 2000. The authors examine the effects of the dotcom crash on the education sector, and analyse the status of online providers after the economic downturn.


    The Business of Borderless Education (328 pages)

    Stuart Cunningham et al

    Australia Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs (DETYA), March 2000

    This influential report examines the emergence of corporate, for-profit and virtual universities in the United States, and discusses their likely effects on Australian higher education. The authors focus specifically upon staffing, student profiles, curriculum, technology issues, accreditation and quality issues. The report was followed up in January 2002 with 'The Business of Borderless Education - 2001 Update' (listed above) and was the companion report for a similar study in the United Kingdom, 'The Business of Borderless Higher Education: UK Perspectives' (see below).



    The e-learning e-volution in colleges and universities: A Pan-Canadian Challenge (125 pages)

    The Advisory Committee for Online Learning, February 2001

    The Advisory Committee for Online Learning, a group jointly established by Industry Canada and the Council of Ministers of Education Canada (CMEC), released this report as an independent analysis of how Canada might optimise online learning in higher education. The committee focuses on topics including institutional management options; structural options and strategic development plans; administrative and infrastructural challenges; and resources required to meet priorities.


    European Union

    All of the EU's e-learning documents are available from their eLearning website, at http://www.europa.eu.int/comm/education/elearning/doc_en.html.

    eLearning: Designing Tomorrow's Education, an Interim Report (34 pages)

    Commission of the European Communities, February 2002

    The most recent EU report on e-learning is an interim review of developments in the eLearning Action Plan across the EU. The report focuses primarily upon the political and structural issues around developing e-learning capabilities, including quality certifications, priority subject areas, and European networks to be developed for education. The report reviews the various submissions and projects that are developing under the eLearning Action Plan.


    The eLearning Action Plan: Designing Tomorrow's Education (19 pages)

    Commission of the European Communities, March 2001

    Written as a follow-up to the May 2000 EU eLearning initiative, this brief report discusses the implementation of projects under the initiative. The report outlines the resources, programmes and instruments available from the European Community that can be applied to e-learning, including exchange programmes, socio-economic research projects, technology incubators and development funds. The report also proposes methods of action at the member state level that can encourage and reinforce the eLearning plan, and lists initiatives that are currently underway.


    e-Learning: Designing Tomorrow's Education (13 pages)

    Commission of the European Communities, May 2000

    This document, the EU's official initiative on e-learning for 2001-2004, was developed as part of the broader eEurope Action Plan aimed at pushing Europe towards a knowledge-based economy. The report outlines the principles, objectives and lines of action for e-learning in the EU. It encourages more public-private partnerships to provide equipment and training and to develop content and expertise in European member states. The initiative also outlines focus areas for the EU, including language projects, virtual exchange programmes, and credit-transfer systems across Europe.


    Designing Tomorrow's Education: Promoting Innovation With New Technologies (38 pages)

    Commission of the European Communities, January 2000

    This report, one of the EU's first on ICT in education explores how to make educational practice dovetail with developing technologies. The report examines what conditions are conducive to the development of ICT, and then makes recommendations on how EU member states can establish these conditions. The appendices give overviews on initiatives in member states, and also provide statistics on ICT usage.


    New Zealand

    New Zealand's Offshore Public Tertiary Education Programmes (14 pages)

    New Zealand Ministry of Education International & Policy Development Unit, July 2002

    Produced by the Ministry of Education's International & Policy Development Unit, this report gives an overview of offshore programmes provided by New Zealand tertiary education providers and was conducted to assist the ministry in future planning and policy analysis. The report found that 63 offshore programmes were delivered by New Zealand's 36 tertiary education institutions in 2001, a dramatic rise from only 6 in 1997. The results of the study are also compared with offshore provision from Australia, UK and Canada.


    See also the Observatory's Breaking News Story on this report in the June 2002 Breaking News Archive

    Highways and Pathways: Exploring New Zealand's E-Learning Opportunities (72 pages)

    Shona Butterfield et al

    E-Learning Advisory Group, March 2002

    Written by a national advisory group on e-learning, this report gives recommendations on how the New Zealand government should develop an e-learning strategy in tertiary education. The authors encourage the government to push for collaboration between government agencies, providers and other stakeholders; examine cost structures and business models, develop a research group, online portal, and funding agency to analyse and encourage the development of e-learning, and also establish a Maori group to develop programmes using e-learning.


    See also the Observatory Breaking News story on this report in our April Breaking News Archive.

    United Kingdom

    The Business of Borderless Education: UK perspectives (3 volumes, total 488 pages)

    Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals (CVCP, now known as Universities UK), and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), March 2000

    This three-volume report, conducted in concert with an Australian study of the same title (see above), explores the implications of borderless development for higher education. The report discusses legal and regulatory matters, quality assurance, accreditation, governance and institutional management, costs, infrastructure issues, teaching and learning, and staffing. The report also recommends the formation of an observatory to track developments in borderless education, which led to the development of the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education in 2001.



    The Power of the Internet for Learning: Moving from promise to practice (168 pages)

    Bob Kerrey et al

    Web-Based Education Commission, December 2000

    Written by a bipartisan, federally-appointed commission, this report is based upon extensive consultation with educators, technology experts, and other stakeholders on use of the internet in all levels of education. The report both reviews current use and also gives direction for the future, focusing on issues around technology, training, funding, regulatory practice, and privacy. Illustrative examples from across the United States are used to demonstrate innovative uses of technology in education.


    e-Learning: Putting a world-class education at the fingertips of all children (64 pages)

    US Department of Education, December 2000

    This 2000 report reviews progress achieved since United States' first report on educational technology, "Getting America's Students Ready for the 21st Century: Meeting the Technology Literacy Challenge", published in 1996. The report finds that technology has been successfully introduced into many classrooms, and sets new goals for future planning. Topics discussed include technological infrastructure, teacher training, research, and teaching and learning. While the report focuses mainly upon elementary schools, it helps to clearly define the country's broader goals around educational technology.


    Report to Congress on the Distance Education Demonstration Program (37 pages)

    US Department of Education, January 2001

    In the United States, where higher education is largely a state and private endeavour, the federal government's main focus on higher education is in regards to funding. This is the first report on the results of a federally-appointed evaluation of distance education providers, which were restricted under the American Higher Education Act. Participants included a mix of public, private and for-profit institutions, including New York University, Western Governors University and Capella University. The study found that institutions were restricted by regulations on the amount of distance education an institution may provide, as well as the complexity of student aid programmes. The report raises a number of questions and suggestions as to how federal regulations could be altered to accommodate distance education programmes.


    American Council on Education (ACE) and EDUCAUSE

    Distributed Education: Challenges, Choices, and a New Environment (5 volumes, 182 pages total)

    ACE and Educause, 2001-2002

    This series, compiled from papers commissioned by ACE and EDUCAUSE, explores policy issues around distance education, distributed education, and e-learning. The first volume, written by senior staff at ACE and EDUCAUSE, describes the range of developments in borderless education, and the subsequent volumes focus on specific topics around accreditation (volume 2), institutional leadership (volume 3), student learning (volume 4), and strategic partnerships (volume 5). The reports typically provide an overview and discussion of major issues, then give practical recommendations for implementation.


    American Council on Education (ACE) and European University Association (EUA)

    The Brave New (and Smaller) World of Higher Education: A Transatlantic View (32 pages)

    Madeleine Green, Peter Eckel and Andris Barblan, August 2002

    This essay emerged from the Transatlantic Dialogue conference held in July 2001 at Université Laval in Quebec, Canada, jointly hosted by ACE and the EUA. The essay examines the broad ideas of globalisation, technology, and competition, and then discusses the corresponding responses in higher education, which include partnerships, alliances, internationalisation, and policy frameworks such as the Bologna Declaration.


    World Bank

    Constructing Knowledge Societies: New Challenges for Tertiary Education (232 pages)

    Richard Hopper, ed.

    World Bank, October 2002

    This World Bank report, one of the organisation's few forays into tertiary education, suggests strategies for developing countries to improve their colleges and universities in order to compete better in the so-called 'knowledge economy'. The report outlines recent developments in technology, education and society that present opportunities and threats to developing countries, and suggests how governments can develop a coherent policy framework for tertiary education. Case studies are presented as successful examples for other parts of the world.


    See also the Observatory Breaking News story on this report in the October 2002 Breaking News Archive.


    Technologies for Education: Potentials, Parameters and Prospects (202 pages)

    Wadi D. Haddad and Alexandra Drexler, eds.

    UNESCO and the Academy for Educational Development, August 2002

    Written by private educational consultants Knowledge Enterprise on behalf of UNESCO and the Academy for Educational Development, this report aims to cover a great deal of ground, by discussing the rationales, technical applications, and case studies on technology in education. By compiling chapters from individuals with good first-hand knowledge of regional contexts, the report offers solid case studies of education utilising the internet, as well as other technologies like radio and television from developing and developed countries around the world.


    Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

    E-Learning: The Partnership Challenge (110 pages)

    Anne Lear, Chris Duke and Kurt Larsen

    Centre for Educational Research and Education, OECD, June 2001

    Arguing that the high costs of developing e-learning necessitates public-private cooperation, this report focuses in particular on the topic of partnerships in e-learning. The report is based in part on OECD events that drew together representatives from the software and hardware industry, publishers, educational institutions, and policy makers, and examines both the K-12 and higher education sectors in OECD countries. It analyses trends and developments in e-learning, provides advice to business and education on development partnerships, and examines the long-term impact of policy decisions.


  3. Commercial 'education industry' tracking services

    Eduventures and The Heller Reports

    Eduventures and The Heller Reports are good examples of the current crop of private companies in the USA dedicated to tracking developments in borderless education. Both concern all levels and types of education (schools, higher education, corporate education and adult education), but focus almost exclusively on the United States. Key information sources tend to be stock market trends and general financial analysis, product and market development, and practitioner views. Please note, both sites are restricted. Some information is freely available, but access to many reports requires paid subscription.



    Corporate University Xchange

    Corporate University Xchange provides corporate education intelligence, research, industry analysis and consulting services to both users and providers in the education marketplace. This American-based corporate education and research firm specialises in corporate university development and management, and issues a free electronic newsletter that includes news, tips and e-learning information. The website is generally restricted and access to many research reports requires a paid subscription.


  4. Research Services

    The Learning MarketSpace

    The American-based Learning MarketSpace is a free monthly electronic newsletter that provides assessment of, and commentary on, issues and developments in higher education and information technology. Topics addressed include corporate/higher education collaboration, virtual university initiatives and developments, on-campus cultural resistance or backlash, new developments in technology, cost containment efforts, and public policy issues.


    TechKnowLogia: International Journal of Technologies for the Advancement of Knowledge and Learning

    TechKnowLogia is an international online journal that provides a forum for policy makers, strategists, practitioners and technologists at various levels (local, national and global) to explore the role of information technologies in the development of human and knowledge capital; share policies, strategies, experiences and tools in harnessing technologies for knowledge dissemination, effective learning, and efficient education services; review the latest systems and products; and exchange information about resources, knowledge networks and centres of expertise.


    Syllabus Magazine

    Syllabus Magazine is a monthly American publication that examines the role of technology in higher education and informs educators about how technology can be used to enhance their teaching, learning and administrative activities. The magazine consists of feature articles, case studies, product reviews, and technology use profiles that examine a variety of topics including multimedia, distance learning, the Internet, quantitative tools, publishing and administrative technologies. The Syllabus website supports and expands on the magazine's content, and issues a free weekly electronic newsletter that highlights relevant news, trends and resources for higher education.



    EDUCAUSE is an American nonprofit association that aims to advance higher education by promoting the intelligent use of information technology. EDUCAUSE products include professional development activities, publications, strategic policy initiatives, research activities, awards for leadership and exemplary practices, and online information services. EDUCAUSE also issues a free electronic newsletter three times per week that summarises developments in information technology.


  5. Observatories

    Marchmont Observatory

    The Marchmont Observatory is a UK-wide project created to promote the spread of good practice in workforce development. The Marchmont Observatory benefits from a network of practitioners and researchers who share news, ideas, concerns and successes in the fields of e-learning and workforce development. The website includes a good practice database, a discussion forum, topical papers on new developments, a news section, forthcoming events, Marchmont publications, essential links, and open and distance course information.


    NINEVEH - Interactive Knowledge Base on Universities Using Information and Communication Technologies

    Nineveh is an interactive Knowledge Base with the goal of providing higher education institutions with current, problem-oriented and reliable information, which they can use to develop, fine-tune and implement appropriate strategies for using Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in teaching and learning. Nineveh has several global objectives which include enhancing mutual learning through the exchange of best practice, creating a virtual learning community, functioning as a reference information tool, and operating as an Observatory on current practice in universities developing ICT strategies in Europe.


  6. Other Websites Relating to Distance Learning

    The International Centre for Distance Learning

    ICDL is based at the Open University in the UK and is recognised for research, teaching, consultancy, information and publishing activities. The Centre's literature database contains bibliographic information on books, journal articles, research reports, conference papers and dissertations that relate to the theory and practice of distance education.


    African Distance Learning Association


    Southern African Global Distance Education Network Website


    The South African Institute for Distance Education (SAIDE)


    Canadian Association for Distance Education (CADE)


    Commonwealth of Learning (COL)


    The Open and Distance Learning Association of Australia Inc (ODLAA)


If you would like to recommend an appropriate link to be added to the above list of resources, please send details to r.garrett@obhe.ac.uk.