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Vive la Révolution MOOC

France is encouraging its universities to build massive open online courses—in French, naturally—with edX’s open-source platform, the nonprofit organization announced on Thursday.

The move is part of a push by France’s Ministry of Higher Education and Research to increase the country’s online offerings. This year the ministry opened a “digital university,” called France Université Numerique, which it hopes will serve as an online clearinghouse for MOOCs offered by various French universities. The first courses will begin early next year.

EdX, which was founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, recently made the source code for its popular MOOC platform available free. Stanford University, for example, has begun using the OpenEdX platform to power some of its online courses.

France is the first country to adopt OpenEdX at a ministerial level, said Anant Agarwal, president of edX. The French digital university will be independent of edX, but the French government might pay edX for support services, he said.

European universities have recently been scrambling to board the MOOC bandwagon. Some, including France’s École Normale Supérieure, have signed on with Coursera, a MOOC company based in Silicon Valley that this year has put an emphasis on translating its courses into other languages.

In Britain, many universities have hitched their wagons to FutureLearn, a British MOOC company. And the European Commission last month unveiled Open Education Europa, a Web site that aggregates MOOCs and other free online resources from European universities.

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