Edinburgh offers free Higgs boson course

Online learners are being offered the chance to study the work of Edinburgh physicist Professor Peter Higgs for free.

The seven-week course, entitled The Discovery of the Higgs boson, describes the scientific advancements that have led to the building of the Large Hadron Collider, in Switzerland, and to the detection of the boson.

It will also highlight the cross-fertilisation between theory and experiment in particle physics during the past 100 years.

The University of Edinburgh is offering the course as its first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) via the FutureLearn platform.

FutureLearn is a partnership of 23 leading universities, along with the British Museum, British Council and British Library, offering learners the opportunity to access high quality courses for free.

I am very pleased that Peter’s incredible work will now be available to a worldwide audience of learners to analyse and discuss. Peter’s research has provided us with profound insight into the building blocks of the Universe and this course will allow anyone with a computer and access to the web to take part in the exciting and revolutionary times that we live in.

Professor Arthur TrewHead of School for Physics and Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh

The course will feature interviews with Professor Higgs and filmed lectures by a team of world-class physicists at the Edinburgh Higgs Centre for Theoretical Physics.

Students can then debate what they have seen using dedicated online discussion spaces, as well as via social media.

The Higgs MOOC offers a hugely exciting opportunity for learners to experience university-standard courses, at no cost to themselves. Over the next 12 months, we will be announcing details of more than a dozen MOOCs, across a range of subjects, reinforcing Edinburgh’s position as a world-leader in online learning.

Professor Sir Timothy O’SheaPrincipal of the University of Edinburgh

The Higgs boson

Professor Peter Higgs developed his theory of the particle that bears his name when he was a researcher at Edinburgh in the early 1960s.

Since then, the Higgs boson has formed a crucial strand of particle physics theory. It is thought to be a tiny yet key particle that enables all other particles to have mass.

In July 2012, scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), including many from Edinburgh, announced results which indicated the existence of the Higgs boson. In March 2013, CERN said that analysis of more data confirmed even more strongly that the new particle is indeed the Higgs boson.

Online learning pioneer

Edinburgh has led the way in online learning and was the first university in the UK to offer MOOCs via the Coursera platform, which brings together universities from around the world to offer free higher-education standard courses across a diverse range of subject areas.

During the first round of Edinburgh’s courses, more than 300,000 people signed up to study from a selection of six MOOCs.

By joining the FutureLearn network, Edinburgh will be able to offer MOOCs to an even greater number of learners around the world.

Edinburgh will be offering a selection of new and existing MOOCs in late 2013 and throughout 2014, via the Coursera and FutureLearn platforms.

Quality assured

Edinburgh’s MOOCs have been developed by senior academic staff and their content is checked using the same quality assurance methods as for our other courses.

The courses do not offer a credit towards entrance to the University of Edinburgh, but are taught to the same standards as our other online courses.

Online learning at Edinburgh

MOOCs complement the University’s substantial offering of high-quality online postgraduate programmes.

We offer Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma or Masters qualifications across a broad range of subject areas.

These involve the same level of work overall as our on-campus programmes, and the qualification awarded is of equal value.

Our online learning courses also offer flexible exit routes, allowing you to shape your academic journey to suit your needs.