In March 2020, as France went into lockdown, the need for a nationwide online classroom solution became a top priority for the French Ministry of National Education (FMNE). The FMNE is directly responsible for overseeing the domain of public education within the entirety of France, operating a network of 65,000 schools, serving 12 million students, 19 million parents and 1.2 million administrative agents, 850,000 of whom are educators. Finding an online platform to serve this crucial community was urgent.
With the widespread closure of schools in March 2020, the Ministry went looking for a platform that could enable educators to deliver effective online classes. Moreover, it was important that the tool also comply with strict European guidelines on data protection. Many of the US-based online platforms required student and teacher data to be stored on US-based servers, which goes against the guidelines.
Having previously used BigBlueButton, the Ministry’s IT team was confident it could meet their demands. Laurent Le Prieur, Deputy Director of the Digital Base for the French Ministry of National Education recollected the selection process.
Le Prieur and his team at the Ministry looked deeper into BigBlueButton. One of the issues they had to overcome was how to scale BigBlueButton for such a large deployment. Working with the French cloud companies, Scaleway (public cloud) and Arawa (system integration and development), they were able to create a cloud-based, scalable solution that would be based on a pay-as-you-go, service model. This would be the most economical, scalable and environmentally sustainable approach. By November 2020, they had an internal version up and running that they tested well among members of the Ministry. In November 2020, the team decided that BigBlueButton deployment was ready for use by teachers and students.
From there, BigBlueButton became the primary mode of communication and learning for the country of France. When asked why BigBlueButton was chosen over other available virtual classroom platforms, Laurent remarked that:
Even as the pandemic wanes, BigBlueButton has earned its place in French education. For the return to school in September 2022, the teachers have been advised that using BigBlueButton is at their disposal. Some teachers have already seized the opportunity to use BigBlueButton as a solution to help students with their homework online to provide students with flexibility in how they receive homework help.
The French Ministry is also financially supporting the development of new features in BigBlueButton, such as the new whiteboard coming in BigBlueButton 2.6 in early 2023. “The goal of the BigBlueButton project is to build the world’s best virtual classroom, one that maximized time for applied learning and feedback. See the French Ministry of National Education use BigBlueButton as its official state webinar system and making it available to all teachers in France is an amazing endorsement for the project,” said Fred Dixon, co-founder of BigBlueButton Inc. “Their financial support is accelerating development of BigBlueButton which benefits every educator world-wide that is using BigBlueButton.”
BigBlueButton is a virtual classroom that enables educators to maximize the time in an online class for applied learning and feedback. Originally created in a Canadian university, it is now built-into the world’s most popular learning management systems (LMS), including Moodle Canvas, Sakai, D2L, Jenzabar, and Schoology – together comprising over 75% of global LMS deployments. BigBlueButton is a growing open-source project, with over 150 developers and commercial companies around the world enhancing the project for teachers and students. Thanks to this community, BigBlueButton is now localized into over 55. For more information see: bigbluebutton.org/.