The Scottish institution is the first UK university to become part of the Coursera platform, which was set up only last year and has already partnered with Princeton University, Stanford University, the University of Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania.
Internet users will be able to take part in “dozens” of new online courses as a result of Edinburgh and 11 other universities joining the initiative, according to Coursera.
So far, there have been 43 courses offered by Coursera, which has recorded 1.55 million enrolments since it started.
Andrew Ng, co-founder and a professor in Stanford’s computer science department, said that the platform was “truly the future of higher education”.
“Students have greater access than ever before to the world’s foremost subject matter experts. Professors can reach more students in one course than they could have hoped to in a lifetime,” he said.
The other universities that have signed up alongside Edinburgh are: Caltech; Duke University; the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne; the Georgia Institute of Technology; Johns Hopkins University; Rice University; the University of California, San Francisco; the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; the University of Toronto; the University of Virginia; and the University of Washington.
Daphne Koller, the other co-founder of Coursera and also a professor in the computing science department at Stanford, said that the organisation was “dedicated to creating better educational opportunities inside and outside the classroom, and we could not do it without the blessing and commitment of universities”.
“We’re fortunate to have the support of these highly respected academic institutions as we move towards our shared goal of providing a high-quality education to everyone around the world,” she said.
Coursera is not the only service to offer free online courses. UK universities such as The Open University have already made much of their material available to download.