The 2019 Inria Innovation and Research Support Prize : Class’Code, a model interdepartmental project
Changed on 16/01/2020
The Class’Code scientific outreach project was launched in 2015 and has already been used to train 80,000 people in IT concepts. This success was made possible by Inria bringing together 70 partners and demanding a high level of interdepartmental collaboration. Class’Code has now been announced as the winner of the 2019 Inria Innovation and Research Support Prize. We took a look back at this project with its spokesperson, Martine Courbin-Coulaud, who is an archivist at Inria.
How did Class’Code come about?
There was a strong desire, not just on the part of Inria but on the part of a number of partners as well, to introduce young people to IT concepts. This would help develop enlightened future citizens with a comprehensive understanding of the digital world and the right way to respond to it. However, in order to educate these young people, we had to find a way of assisting their teachers - and that’s where Class’Code came in.
The project was selected as part of the Future Investments Programme in 2015. What happened after that?
The very first five-module MOOC was made available online for training personnel in 2016. Manuals such as “1,2,3...Codez” (‘1,2,3...Code!), followed by new MOOCs created at the time of the ICN (information et création numérique - digital creation and information) and SNT (sciences numériques et technologie - technology and digital science) courses being introduced expanded the training programme. None of this would have been possible without the stellar work carried out by the project leaders, most notably Thierry Vieville, Head of Scientific Outreach at Inria, and Sophie Quatrebarbes, Project Manager for the Class’Code project. They successfully brought together somewhere in the region of 70 partners, who worked with each other in support of this initiative. This dynamic of scientific colleagues within Inria’s different departments, partners and the teaching community has been a crucial part of Class’Code’s success.
What will become of Class’Code?
Class’Code is now an association, meaning it will be able to continue to operate beyond the future investments programme. In 2020, new content will be made available, including material on artificial intelligence. The project has already proved successful - but there’s still a lot of work to be done!
The people behind the project
Douce-Yvonne Gardey de Soos, Executive Assistant within Inria’s Science Department
« I remember how excited I was back in 2015 when Thierry Vieville phoned to tell me about the launch of the project. That was where the adventure began. I experienced it from an administrative perspective: dialoguing with our financial departments, particularly Thierry Josso, but also with the legal department; financial monitoring and handling orders, suppliers, budgetary monitoring, etc. It was a genuine pleasure to work in a human-sized, participatory project with such high levels of enthusiasm. Thierry Vieville dealt primarily with calls to small business owners, managing to build trust-based relationships with some of them, albeit remotely. I’m touched that Inria has decided to award this prize, but I don't see it as an individual thing: this is recognition for the project as a whole. »
Laurence Goussu, Head of the Consultancy and Public Relations Department within Inria’s Communications Division
« When the project was first launched, I was media relations manager at Inria, meaning that my role was to make the press aware of the importance of education in digital science. Over time, I saw the project come to life, grow and develop, with perceptions of the project changing over time as well. Initially, journalists were either uninterested or suspicious, reflecting the beliefs of a section of teachers and parents. The way they saw it, what was the point of teaching pupils about digital technology at school or during extra-curricular activities? Eventually, however, people were convinced by the educational methods and the quality of the content on offer. The goal was never to transform all children into computer scientists, but instead to help them become enlightened citizens living in a now digital world. We haven’t achieved all of our aims yet, but we’ve managed to get the message across and we feel that’s a major step to have taken. »
Thierry Josso, Research Contracts Officer for the Financial Affairs Department within the Administration Delegation, Inria
« In my role in charge of research contracts, I worked initially on business plans as well as on negotiating the financial clauses of the Class’Code project that required formalising. The negotiation phase with the Caisse des Dépôts, a funding body, proved somewhat difficult, but we were able to find solutions. The continuation of this was also rather demanding, with the corresponding financial report drafted two years after Class’Code was launched. My role in this involved overseeing the financial coordination of the reports from 10 partners, as well as those from Inria. This was no easy feat, but what this project enabled me to do was to try my hand at the role of financial coordinator, which led to a lot of discussions with our partner organisations. »
Benjamin Ninassi, IT Project Manager for scientific outreach and educational innovation at Inria’s Science Department
« A project as ambitious as Class'Code needed a web platform in order to help structure the “hybrid” aspect of the programme, to help with the sharing of educational resources and, finally, to help set up a community of volunteer learners and IT specialists in order to support them. My role was to decide on the technical specifications, to develop and maintain the platform and to act as a spokesperson for the project for certain events. This was a real challenge, and the platform is still evolving to this day. I was fortunate enough to join a keen, dynamic and highly pragmatic project team from whom I was able to learn a lot. It was also extremely encouraging and rewarding to see the number of teachers trained in Class’Code go up month after month, as well as all the positive feedback. Then, to top it off, there’s this Inria prize, which recognises scientific outreach projects with significant societal impact. »