Free online courses help autistic teenager

A severely autistic boy, who credits academics at Edinburgh with helping his condition, has visited the University.

Daniel Bergmann, a 17 year old student from New York City, has great difficulty in communicating verbally, instead using a tablet computer to spell out his thoughts.

During the past year, Daniel has studied two Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) offered by Edinburgh - Introduction to Philosophy and Critical Thinking and Global Challenges.

Daniel and his parents believe the online learning experience he has shared with teachers and other students has greatly aided his ability to function at a higher intellectual level.

MOOCs initially enabled my parents to teach me things they did not know. The real treasure for me has been the real-time contact with my professors and online interaction with other students.

Daniel BergmannMOOCs student

One of the academics who Daniel and his parents met was Dr Suilin Lavelle, who contributed to the Introduction to Philosophy MOOC.

It is wonderful that MOOCs can open up higher education possibilities to people like Daniel, for whom learning in a traditional classroom setting is challenging. Distance learning technology allows us to engage with more people, from a wide variety of socio-economic backgrounds, and provides them with the opportunity to learn and interact with others.

Dr Suilin LavelleSchool of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences

Online learning pioneer

Edinburgh was the first university in the UK to join the Coursera consortium, which brings together universities from around the world to offer free MOOCs across a diverse range of subject areas.

MOOCs provide people interested in higher education, but who are not in a position to undertake study full-time, with a free sample of university-standard courses. There are no entry requirements for students taking part.

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

Edinburgh has also joined the FutureLearn network, which will allow Edinburgh to offer MOOCs to an even wider selection of students 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.

New book for philosophy MOOC

A textbook designed specifically for those students undertaking the University's Introduction to Philosophy course has been published.

Philosophy for Everyone begins by explaining what philosophy is, before exploring the questions and issues at the foundation of this important subject.

Key topics and their areas of focus include:

•Epistemology - what our knowledge of the world and ourselves consists in, and how we come to have it

•Philosophy of Science - foundational conceptual issues in scientific research and practice

•Philosophy of Mind - what it means for something to have a mind, and how minds should be understood and explained

•Moral Philosophy - the nature of our moral judgements and reactions, whether they aim at some objective moral truth, or are mere personal or cultural preferences

•Metaphysics - fundamental conceptual questions about the nature of reality