TRINITY College Dublin is linking up with top universities around the world to offer free online courses.
It is part of a growing trend in higher education known as MOOCs, which is opening up anytime, anywhere education to global audiences, at no cost to the student.
Massive Open Online Learning Courses (MOOC) have been pioneered by elite colleges in the US, such as Stanford University and Massachussetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
TCD is partnering with FutureLearn.com, the first UK-led multi-institutional provider to offer MOOC courses. FutureLearn was founded by the Open University, which has 40 years' expertise in distance learning.
FutureLearn now has 26 partnerships, predominantly with universities in the UK, including Edinburgh, Glasgow, Bristol, Bath, King's College London and Queen's University Belfast. Trinity and Australia's largest university, Monash, are its first two international collaborations.
The British Library and the British Museum are among the institutions that have agreed to share content and expertise and to collaborate in the development of the courses. The first courses will be rolled out later this year.
While MOOC offers accessible and free learning with top academics, the benefit for colleges is developing their international reputation.
Universities everywhere now compete with each other for students, talented academic staff and research funding, so increasing global reach is vital.
The timing could not be better for Trinity, which has enjoyed massive exposure in the wake of the visit this week by Michelle Obama, wife of President Barack Obama, and their two daughters, to the college's Old Library.
Trinity Provost Dr Patrick Prendergast said it was an exciting collaboration that would provide access to Trinity's education to students worldwide. "It will widen participation and provide educational opportunities to prospective students and new audiences," he said.
The MOOC model is still evolving, but typically, courses are offered by one, or a group of universities, through recorded lectures with interaction by email between students and lecturers.
Although the MOOC concept is still in its infancy, there are millions of students enrolled in free online courses, needing only internet access to participate.
While online learning is not a new phenomenon, traditionally, colleges charge fees for such programmes and offer accreditation upon completion.
Although MOOCs are not formally accredited by the college or colleges involved, students may get a certificate of completion, for which they may have to pay.