|Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are now part of the European educational landscape, with variations between schools, between different levels of education (ICTs are more integrated into secondary than primary education), and between different countries. With the proliferation of ICT equipment and the pedagogical approaches underpinning it, the concept of virtual learning platforms1 has emerged in several educational systems. In France, such systems are generally referred to as digital workspaces (espaces numériques de travail, ENT) and since 2003 they have been the basis for pilot projects that are now being rolled out more widely. The Caisse des dépôts, in close partnership with the Ministry of Education, has become involved and now supports many projects in this area.
These platforms are part of an holistic approach, in that they have multiple utilisation: educationally, in communication, and in administrative management involving handling large volumes of information relating to schools and pupils. All these school functions are affected by these tools, as are all the actors: teachers, pupils, parents, administrative staff and, in many cases, local authorities. While they are a powerful lever for changing and modernising education systems, these platforms are particularly complex to implement given the multitude of functions and actors involved.
Given this complexity and the importance of the issues, we should ask how things are done elsewhere, in other education systems. This is precisely what the Caisse des dépôts has done by commissioning European Schoolnet, a network of 31 ministries responsible for innovation and for ICTs applied to education, to conduct a study comparing the situation in three countries that are particularly advanced in this area: Denmark, the United Kingdom, and Spain, and more specifically Andalusia and Catalonia.
Do these platforms offer the same services in different countries? What models have been deployed? How was their implementation managed? What practices were followed? What are the factors that facilitate their diffusion? These are the main questions to which this report provides a first set of answers, while also highlighting issues specific to the education system concerned.
1 Virtual Learning Platform (in French plateforme virtuelle d’apprentissage) is the generic term used in this report to portray the French situation and its digital workspaces as well as similar environments in other countries.