The French Ministry of National Education and Youth (Ministère de l’Éducation nationale et de la Jeunesse) launched the beta version of the apps.education.fr platform. Relying on open source software, apps.education.fr is meant to ensure pedagogical continuity and help meet teachers’ needs for distance learning tools.
Apps.education.fr is a platform which compiles software solutions recommended for teachers and professors who must provide distance education to their students. The service has been launched as a temporary beta version to meet the specific needs brought in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Ministry of National Education and Youth aims to make this initiative sustainable in the long term at the national level. The source code for apps.education.fr is available on Gitlab under the EUPL License.
The platform offers six tools for distance learning, mainly based on open source software, that meet the conditions recommended in the framework of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR):
- Jitsi Meet for web conferences. This open source software allows users to set up a web conference by inviting participants to join a call using a link. Conference participants can communicate by sharing screens and presentations as well as exchange comments through instant messaging during the conference. This service is compatible with all recent web browsers regardless of the terminal used. OSOR has investigated the use of Jitsi Meet by public administrations in France and Spain.
- Peertube for video streaming. This open source video platform allows users to upload, host and view audio and video media.
- Etherpad for collaborative text editing. This open source online editor for collaborative text production allows several remote users to write synchronously or asynchronously. The contributions of each user, which are colour-coded, appear on the screen and are automatically saved in real time. Other users can be invited to collaborate on the document by sharing the link. Finally, the document can also be downloaded and exported in different formats.
- Nextcloud for document sharing. This open source software provides a secure online storage space for distributing and sharing documents and resources. Accessible after authentication through a professional email address, documents and resources can be downloaded from a workstation or mobile device.
- Blogs are available and intended for the Ministry of Education’s personnel. They offer, after authentication, the possibility to communicate and extend the collective work of a class or a group. This secure service allows users to share, according to an organization defined by its author, texts, images or videos for instance.
- Discourse for forums. This open source platform enables interactive forums, allowing users to post contributions online and participate in discussions on specific topics. After authentication, participants have the possibility to exchange and communicate on a given topic using a mailing list while a moderator can regulate interactions.
Apps.education.fr also includes a set of good practices for the responsible use of digital tools. The development of the platform relies on user inputs through a network of contributions from all French regions. The Ministry encourages any user or education professional to contribute to the solution through Tchap, the French government’s open source encrypted messaging service.