Minister Fioraso to promote MOOCs in France

With the first courses launched earlier this month, Higher Education Minister Geneviève Fioraso, with one eye fixed on France catching up with the global development of massive open online courses (MOOCs) and establishing itself as the leading francophone provider in the field, announced increased investment to promote the new French system. A series of courses are set to be established in various institutions in the next few weeks and months to come. Reasons for promoting MOOCs in France were partly prompted by a very encouraging study which showed a positive interest in them.

88,000 students, high school pupils, employees, job seekers and retired people have registered for the French MOOCs – also known as CLOMs, or cours en ligne ouverts et massifs, since the France Université Numérique, or FUN, site opened last October. The courses are offered for free. With only 3% of universities providing the courses in France, compared with 80% of US higher education institutions, its joining of the MOOCs bandwagon has been relatively low.

As Jane Marshall of University World News reported, out of seven higher education institutions, only eight courses have been opened so far. However, over the next few weeks, more will start. A second wave of institutions will join the FUN in the spring, including leading business school HEC, the universities of Strasbourg, Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and Paris-Sud, and the Écoles normales supérieures of Cachan and Lyon, which will offer MOOCs on digital education for trainee teachers.

 “From manager to leader,” provided by the CNAM (14,000 registrations); “Philosophy and ways of life – from Socrates to Pierre Hadot and Michel Foucault”, from Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense (nearly 6,000); and “Global space” offered by Sciences Po Paris (more than 5,000), are the most popular MOOCs.

On top of the €12 million initially budgeted to set up the MOOCs structure, Fioraso announced an additional €8 million (US$11 million) for 2014. €5 million would be devoted to professional education, according to Fioraso, and in coming months, a €3 million bid for the “CréaMOOC” project would be launched for financing equipment for campus video laboratories.

“An international interest for French MOOCs” was shown by an early assessment as she put it. In addition, increasing bilateral agreements with third countries is her hope.

She said that projects already under way included plans to internationalize the MOOCs, such as agreements to collaborate on their development with Mali, Tunisia, Haiti and Quebec. Of the 88,000 registrations already made, 7% were from Africa and 5% from the Americas. To promote and develop French-language MOOCs to link “North” and “South” higher education institutions to create courses togethe, and to propose examination and certification processes based on those of the AUF’s 44 digital campuses, France has already signed a partnership with the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie, or AUF.

Bringing together the French Academy of Sciences and African academics, MOOCs would be introduced this year on mathematics and biology, according to Fioraso. In addition, another course, on malaria, was planned between the Universities of Bamako and Marseille.