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Interview with Henri Isaac, Vice President of Digital Transformation in the Paris Dauphine University 

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By: Nicolas Albouze

Paris, France

E-Learn Magazine presents an interview with Henri Isaac, Vice President of Digital Transformation in the Paris Dauphine University, pioneer in pedagogical innovation and author of a report on Digital University requested by the Ministry of Higher Education and Research.

E-Learn Magazine: Could you introduce the Paris Dauphine University to our readers?

Henri Isaac: The Paris-Dauphine University is a relatively recent university, as it was founded in 1968. It is home for about 10,000 students under initial and continuous training mainly in the disciplines of management and economics of law, mathematics and information technology. It also has a school of journalism. Paris-Dauphine offers different Master programs; and it has a culture of strong relations with the professional media, which results on large collaboration with companies (chairs, practices, dual education). Dauphine is a university that separates a bit from the French system as it holds the status of Major Establishment, which allows it selecting students, contrary to the rest of universities. This also explains a correlation between tuition expenses of students and their income and, in consequence, we have 30% of scholarship beneficiaries among our students. The University currently receives many Master degree students, 1,200 out of 2,500 students, which places Dauphine in advantage position within the professional environment.

E-Learn Magazine: The VP Digital position seems relatively new in French higher education. How would you define it?

Henri Isaac: Indeed, the VP Digital position is new, as it was first introduced in 2013 as a result of the Fioraso Law. This role consists on supporting the digital transformation of universities in their diverse dimensions: digital services in different active parts of the University, development of infrastructures, adaptation to learning sites, integration of the digital field to all the operations, cultural transformation. French public teaching has a very strong management culture which requires a significant support in order to offer students a quality global experience. This is one of the main difficulties we have faced.

E-Learn Magazine: French is a language with a considerable expansion to some regions in the world, but it is also slightly practiced in other regions. What are the strategies used by French universities to attract foreign students? Have you entered into any agreements with foreign universities? In what way is education involved in this kind of relation?

Henri Isaac: Dauphine is a renowned brand in the French-speaking world, and it attracts many French-speaking candidates. Dauphine has a campus in Tunisia and will open another in Morocco very soon. Dauphine has also developed for more than fifteen years a continuous training offer at MBA level to several French-speaking countries (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Mauritius island, Senegal), in association with local universities or private education groups. Moreover, Dauphine offers already hundreds of Bachelor and Master programs in English language.

E-Learn Magazine: Among MOOCs, SPOC, flipped classroom, Competency based Education, the 21 Century   Skills, which are, according to you, the most promising options regarding pedagogical innovation?

Henri Isaac: When it comes to pedagogical innovation what really matters is to find the strategy that better adapts to the objective! Therefore, all these models are pertinent as they allow feeding a pedagogical project where they make sense to students. It should be noted that we implement a significant variety of these strategies in our University. Personally, I deeply believe in the «Project based Learning» and the «Learning by doing» strategies, though these two models imply the acquisition of previous competences to be effective. In fact, this kind of approach implies the implementation of individual and specific tutorials with great value added and, of course, considerable costs.

E-Learn Magazine: Most university students belong to Generation Y,, also called “digital native.” What are, nowadays, the tools you have available to improve the learning experience of students? And, what are the results?

Foto AFP Nicolas Kovarik - Henri Isaac - Dauphine University (16)Henri Isaac: We have used Blackboard for several years, and we are about to display Office365 at the beginning of this semester in the University. We have a portal for students of MyDauphine with information and digital services. This fall we will display a mobile app which will gather the set of digital services for students. For several years we have implemented at Dauphine tools such as management simulations and companies’ games. Taking into account the cycles, we have displayed different pedagogical models in which the digital component not always has the same place. We also display SPOCs and flipped classrooms at Bachelor level, for instance, and «Learning by doing» and «project based Learning» at Master level. Naturally, this policy is supported by a BYOD (bring your own device) approach with Smartphone and McBook as the predominant devices, which implies an obvious reduction in the number of IT rooms with computers.

E-Learn Magazine: How do you favor the adoption of new technologies by the teaching staff?

Henri Isaac: Since 1999, we have had a team in charge of training and supporting the teaching staff in the startup of the pedagogical project and who also offer individual training. We have been recently using a video studio which allows teachers to produce quality video contents. We organize specific support and workshops for the exchange of good practices and feedback on experiences. Finally, we offer a bonus payment to teachers any time they decide to work in a project involving eLearning.

E-Learn Magazine: Could you name a particular project that shows the pedagogical innovation in your establishment?

Henri Isaac: The SCOPS project exemplifies pedagogy based on a project. The project implemented in the Master program in Marketing, specifically in the program on Distribution & Relation Client, takes selected students in a nine month-journey through a rigorous methodology of innovations in the field of distribution, to finally justify them and present them during two minutes to a jury comprised of professionals and an audience increasing every year. The jury and audience vote for the best commercial innovations. This same Master program presents a subsequent opportunity to work in the C-Store (connected store) project, which allows students to appropriate the digital transformation of a distribution entity. This kind of project has been successful among professionals and mass media, but also in the Ministry of Economy, which requested a study of the results base of every year. This kind of project shows our pedagogical know how and our ability to make students become professionals during their last year at the University, as well as our ability to collaborate with our active parts. Nonetheless, the true reward is to hear from students that they had never learned as much as they did during their last university year.

I deeply believe in the «Project based Learning» and the «Learning by doing» strategies, though these two models imply the acquisition of previous competences to be effective.

E-Learn Magazine: What are the next digital fields the University wishes to implement in the immediate future?

Henri Isaac: Dauphine finishes its Digital Director plan, which provides a full review of its infrastructures and learning sites, with a real property project including a Learning Center and new learning sites. Actually, the geographical location of the University, at the heart of Paris, implies a more significant need to constitute a learning space, as it is difficult for students to have a place devoted to develop team work in the correct size out of the establishment. Likewise, we prepare our system to transform it into «mobile first».

E-Learn Magazine: What is your vision of a perfect adequacy between technology and pedagogy?

Henri Isaac: Technology is nothing but a means at the service of a pedagogical purpose. What means and tools should I mobilize to reach that pedagogical goal? That is the only question to be made. If technology provides a positive answer, then technology is key. If the answer is negative, the we allow technology to facilitate the University’s experience in all its other dimensions, which are not few.

E-Learn Magazine: How do you convince foreign students to come and study in the Paris Dauphine University?

Henri Isaac: Dauphine is a human-class university, located in one of the world’s most beautiful cities, offering demanding training from the academic point of view and professional insertion in the best French and international companies. Dauphine is the number 1 university classified by LinkedIn to be admitted into the 25 most requested French companies.

*Henri Isaac, Vice President of Digital Transformation – Paris Dauphine University

*Photo by: AFP Nicolas Kovarik

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