In the restructuring and reforming of European education, e-learning has become one of the priorities of the Ministry of Education, Higher Education and Research in France. Since 2001, e-learning virtual campuses have been promoted by the state. Within the context of Economics and Management, the CANEGE project (CAmpus Numérique en Economie-GEstion) was created. Identified as a form of network organisation, this virtual campus will be explored in this chapter in relation to its functioning and its management. Through the academic literature covering network organisation, the main purpose of this chapter is to make recommendations and establish best practices regarding the management of e-learning virtual campuses based on the CANEGE experience. This chapter explores what the authors consider to be the most relevant aspects that need to be considered in relation to the establishment and implementation of virtual campus initiatives that comprise several partners.
Like other examples of network structures, the CANEGE project goes beyond the notion of organisation borders. It resorts to approaches in terms of resource pooling, process management, partnerships and more widely of “extended firms” (Capraro & Baglin, 2003). Indeed, the participating universities and the CNED are mobilised with the aim of organising and coordinating the assets and competences necessary to carry out their common project of a virtual campus, offering on-line qualifying education in Economics and Management. If this digital campus has been subjected to research in Education Science from a socio-economic point of view (Grevet, 2005), it has not been studied as a network structure using the theoretical frameworks of Management Science. From an analytical point of view, it is undeniable that the research in Economics, (Aoki, 1991; Piore & Sabel, 1989; Williamson, 1975) as well as in Sociology (Granovetter, 1985; Lazega, 1998; Thuderoz et al., 1999), contributes greatly to describing network structures. However, it does not provide much help with analysing their functioning in a much more operational context (Fréry, 1998; Fulconis & Paché, 2008; Paché & Paraponaris, 2006; Voisin et al., 2004). It is for this reason that the research into network structures carried out in the field of Management Science is used to understand the CANEGE project better.