Knowledge network company Fathom has moved into the online short-course market by striking a partnership with the BBC.
New York-based Fathom will work with the BBC and Columbia University to create and distribute an online seminar based on Simon Schama's History of Britain book and television series.
The seminar will provide in-depth material on themes introduced in a key episode in the series covering the American war of independence and the Atlantic slave trade.
Anne Rollow, vice-president of strategic alliances and marketing at Fathom, said that the "flagship learning experience" would help the company to bring lifelong services to the consumer. She said the company's market research showed that "there was a lot of demand for this type of learning".
Ms Rollow said users would benefit from Fathom's 24-hour customer support services and online technical information. The £30 seminar lasts three hours and will be available for six weeks from its launch on June 11. Enrolment at www.fathom.com opened on Tuesday.
Professor Schama, professor of humanities at Columbia, said: "The seminar offers viewers of the BBC series, as well as newcomers to the subject matter, the chance to delve deeply into the historical material and to control the timing and pace of their exploration."
Michael Stevenson, joint director of BBC Factual and Learning, said: "This new partnership will create new opportunities for us to develop the learning potential in our programmes and products."
Ann Kirschner, Fathom chief executive, said: "The BBC's tradition of exploring the creation of quality content through television, radio and publishing now extends to e-learning. Our relationships will draw a worldwide audience to Fathom."
Fathom has also agreed a content alliance and co-marketing deal with BBC History Magazine, with Fathom selling subscriptions to the magazine on its website.
Sue Kerr, the magazine's publisher, said: "The magazine and Fathom can now introduce their respective audiences to new ways of accessing quality knowledge content. Our new alliance will allow more people to enjoy history and take their interest further."