Modelling Advice and Support Services to Integrate Virtual Component in Higher Education

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The Modelling Advice and Support Services to Integrate Virtual Component in Higher Education (MASSIVE) was selected in 2004, and funded from 1 January 2005 until 31 March 2007 by the European Commission - DG Education & Culture under the eLearning programme.

The MASSIVE web site is at


The aim of MASSIVE was to design a model of necessary support services for European traditional universities to successfully implement the virtual component of teaching. This is being done in a cooperative way involving a large network of organisations, the members of the MASSIVE consortium, together with stakeholders not directly participating in the project, who liaise via a Strategic Advisory Committee.

The project focused on the following specific objectives:

  • Defining the conceptual model of virtualisation
  • Identifying and classifying good practices in the organisation of support services to the University community regarding University virtual components
  • Exploring and comparing the elements for transferability
  • Validating the approaches to develop the support services
  • Guaranteeing the wide dissemination of the practices and use of the model

Since the Lisbon strategy, e-Learning can be considered as a key element for higher education, and universities have taken many steps to implement the virtual component in one way or another. However, the adoption of e-Learning strategies by 'traditional' Universities does not only need to integrate pedagogic or technologic approaches into their strategies but to provide a set of support services that will facilitate their integration into the University provision.

Six service areas where identified as a particularly critical and needed in EU higher education institutions:

  1. University Strategies for e-learning
  2. Evolution of University Libraries
  3. Intellectual property rights management for digital learning materials
  4. Support for staff in e-learning
  5. Support for students in e-learning
  6. Development of online courses

Through a peer review evaluation approach MASSIVE promoted a mutual support model for service provision among specialised teams of university staff.


Main outcome of the project is the Peer Review Handbook of MASSIVE project (PDF), by Joseph D. Cullen with the contributions of M. Begoña Arenas, Jeff & Denise Haywood.

This document sets out proposals and procedures for carrying out the MASSIVE Peer Reviews and provides instruments and Guidelines for data gathering and analysis. It draws together and further develops strands of work that have previously been carried out within the context of the MASSIVE Peer Review process, notably the ‘Methodology Report’, the ‘Peer Review Schema’ and the ‘Peer Review Visit Questions’ developed by partners. A key purpose of this document is to integrate this accompanying work and to address some of the ‘gaps’ hitherto not covered. Against this background, one of the main objectives of developing this ‘handbook’ is to ensure adequate ‘triangulation’ of different stakeholder perspectives within each of the participating review sites, and to prevent a single ‘voice’ dominating the results of the Review. In order to achieve this, the Handbook provides for the utilisation of three different, though complementary data gathering methods: archive and documentation analysis; interviews and observation. It also proposes a three-stage process for the Peer Review, comprised of an initial ‘set-up’ phase; a subsequent phase of data gathering focused on the site visit, and a final ‘analysis and synthesis’ stage involving the production of recommendations arrived at through collaborative reflection between the MASSIVE team and the hosting institution.

Other outputs of MASSIVE are available at the project website



A key outcome of MASSIVE was to a promote a peer review evaluation approach, based on models widely tested in the university partners. Via Peer Review Visits, those in charge of the best support services practices help each university to refine and improve their support services for e-learning. At this point the project becomes very similar to a benchmarking project.

There seems to be no evidence that MASSIVE is still actively used.

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