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FRANCE
Opening access to online knowledge
As part of its digital strategy for education, the Ministry of National Education, Higher Education and Research has recently recast its France Université Numérique Internet portal as sup-numerique.gouv.fr.

This new website is aimed at everyone who wants to teach or learn ‘online’, and amounts to a one-stop-shop for digital higher education.

The website takes a new approach and aims to offer a range of services to help students in their search for information and for the educational resources they require, linked to the courses they are studying. At the same time it helps teachers find a range of digital resources to strengthen the teaching experience, enabling them to offer students additional material – online resources which enrich the learning experience and are relevant to their field of study.

It is also a way of easily identifying the educational resources that students at different stages of a new approach to teaching can be offered, going beyond classroom teaching and allowing them to keep up to speed in their studies.

With its new agenda of massive open online courses, or MOOCs, and its research engine offering more than 30,000 educational resources (courses, case studies, tutorials, interactive lessons, lectures in text form, videos, web documentaries, software and Internet sites), the aim of this website is eventually to give access to all online courses offered by higher education institutions in France. It marks a significant advance and can be appreciated for its innovative, global approach to education and learning.

Designed to be user friendly and allowing for continuous improvement in its services and information, the new portal provides an efficient response to the demands of the different actors in higher education and research for whom digital technology is today essential.

Participation

It is worth noting that the whole higher education community has rallied to provide content for the site. Teachers, students and managers of institutions have started posting material for publication or ideas for developing the website.

Using a totally revised, comprehensive tree-like structure it brings together a mass of targeted information on the profiles of its users and at the same time makes it possible to promote French digital output, contributing to the widespread dissemination of knowledge.

Teachers can therefore access innovatory teaching practice and make use of its guidelines to conduct projects incorporating different issues, for instance, editorial and legal dimensions.

In the same way institutions’ management and digital support structures can call on the analyses, guidelines and suggestions available to set up their own digital strategy and associated projects.

Digital education resources and new systems of training that promote greater mobility and flexibility for students are therefore indexed by level of studies, subject and the type of digital support available. This approach based on access to a new digital educational resource engine and to a catalogue of online courses is an important tool for developing the use of digitisation by students, future students and those returning to lifelong education.

The new resource engine was the result of the joint commitment of various parties in its development, with coordination between the ministry, the Universités numériques thématiques (new technology universities), Canal-U (higher education video library), and the Université de Valenciennes et du Hainaut-Cambrésis. It is important to emphasise the strong cooperative nature of the different organisations and the pooling of skills in building this project.

In an increasingly open and collaborative educational world, the sup-numerique.gouv.fr portal makes a resource engine available for students, teachers, researchers, professionals and more generally the public at large, making it possible for them to access more than 30,000 digital educational resources free of charge.

The descriptive data of these educational resources have been put together as a set of open data and published on the ministry’s higher education open data site and synchronised with data.gouv.fr (Open data).

Work on the resource engine is part of an open source process and this new version of the portal will be made available to the community as open source.

Alain Mayeur is director of the department of information systems at the Université de Valenciennes et du Hainaut-Cambrésis, France.
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