France has launched a major digital education plan, the aim of which is to phase out social and economic inequalities and pave the way for digital schools. The Seine-Saint-Denis department has been pulling out all the stops to ensure their schools are among the best-equipped in the country. They’ve entrusted itslearning to help them achieve this.
Seine-Saint-Denis, north-east of Paris, is one of eight departments in greater Paris. It is one of the smallest area-wise, yet one of the largest in population. It happens to be one of the most culturally diverse areas in France.
The departmental council of Seine-Saint-Denis administers 125 secondary schools, with over 75,000 students ranging from 11-15 years old. Their goal is to give everyone equal access to education, and itslearning is helping them with this mission.
Prior use of learning platforms
In 2010, Seine-Saint-Denis selected an open-source platform called Célia to equip all its secondary schools. This ENT (Espace Numérique de Travail), as platforms are called in France, was mainly a communication, collaboration and administrative tool. The use of Célia decreased steadily over the years and it was soon considered irrelevant.
In 2014, the departmental council asked each school to choose an ENT on their own: 27 out of 125 schools chose Kosmos. In early 2015, district leaders decided that it would be best for all schools in Seine-Saint-Denis to use the same platform, so they decided to have a tender.
The SDET (the French blueprint for the deployment of ENTs) sets the standards for educational technology. In 2015 they prioritized the pedagogical aspects of learning platforms for the first time. itslearning had always put pedagogy first, and as a result, were chosen as Seine-Saint-Denis’s district-wide LMS.
The importance of training
Before deploying the platform on September 1st, 2015, itslearning met with Seine-Saint-Denis district leaders to discuss the unique needs of their schools. Based on these discussions, they created a customised deployment manual.
Training is extremely important to itslearning. All IT administrators and college headmasters were trained by itslearning on the administrative aspects of the platform. In France, teacher training is carried out by Academic Trainers. Because Seine-Saint-Denis secondary schools are part of the Académie of Créteil, itslearning trained their Academic Trainers on the pedagogical aspects of the platform first – then the Academic Trainers went into the schools to train the teachers.
The platform was deployed in ‘waves’. The first wave included 27 schools, the very same schools that had chosen the Kosmos platform the year before. Some of those schools were reluctant to change platforms yet again. Even though they were not obliged to, the sales director and project manager of itslearning France chose to meet with the leaders of each of these 27 schools to discuss:
- why itslearning was chosen
- how it is different from their previous platform
- what the benefits of the platform are
Thanks to these visits, the school leaders were motivated to use itslearning. They learned how they could use the platform to its full potential. Both the sales director and the project manager gave them their personal phone numbers as well, so they could call if they had any questions. Today, these schools are very happy with their new learning platform.
After the first 27 schools were trained, itslearning was rolled out to 15 additional schools per quarter. By November 2016, all 125 schools and 75,000 students will be using the platform.
In France, learning platforms are mostly used for communication and administrative tasks such as attendance and grading. According to the government agency Caisse des Dépôts et Communications, the average pedagogical use of a platform is around 5%.
The agency monitors which features of each platform are used most, and by whom. Statistics show that itslearning is used around 20% of the time for pedagogical functions – four times more than the average platform in France.
The pedagogical use of the platform continues to increase. Teachers are discovering the multitude of teaching strategies that itslearning supports (Personalised Learning, Universal Design for Learning, the Flipped Classroom, etc.). Now that it is integrated with Office Web Apps, we will see even greater use of the platform in the coming years.