Free courses attract 300,000

Six new online courses, offering a free taste of higher education, are attracting students from around the world.

Prof Charles Cockell gives an online lecture on The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Life

More than 300,000 people have signed up for the University’s Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) since they were launched in July 2012.

Edinburgh is offering six courses across the humanities, engineering and science, including ‘Astrobiology and the Search for Extra-terrestrial Life’, ‘Artificial Intelligence Planning’, ‘Introduction to Philosophy’ and ‘Equine Nutrition’.

The courses run for between five and seven weeks and are still open for enrolment. There are no entry requirements for students taking part.

As someone who has researched in this area for more than 40 years I am delighted that these free courses have caught the imagination of the public. They also act as a great complement to our rapidly expanding efforts in providing other forms of online teaching, including full postgraduate and other distance-learning courses.

Professor Sir Timothy O'SheaPrincipal, The University of Edinburgh

Pioneering online learning

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.

Edinburgh has pioneered a variety of online learning experiences. Currently, almost 2,000 students from 114 countries are enrolled on 42 online-only taught Masters programmes, with an aim of attracting 10,000 students over the next decade.

Online Masters students are able to experience virtual graduations, by using the Second Life virtual world. Edinburgh’s innovative work with Second Life resulted in an Edublog Award for Best Educational Use of a Virtual World.