Although they will not lead to formal degrees or turn those who take them into doctors, lawyers or engineers, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is making free courses by top lecturers available online to millions of people around the world.

The university has partnered with an organization called Coursera, which offers about 200 undergraduate and graduate courses in a broad range of disciplines, including medicine, literature, history and computer science. Along with lectures, the courses may include assignments, exams and online and in-person discussion forums.

Coursera has already partnered with leading universities such as the California Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins, Princeton and Stanford. The Hebrew University – recently ranked the 53rd-best university in the world – is the first Israeli university to join the program.

The Jerusalem institution will initially offer three courses, with the goal of adding more over time. Teaching them will be Prof. Idan Segev, head of the Department of Neurobiology and member of the Interdisciplinary Center for Neural Computation; Prof. Yaakov Nahmias, director of the Center for Bioengineering; and Prof. Jonathan Garb, the 2010 recipient of HU’s President’s Prize for Outstanding Researcher, who teaches at the department of Jewish thought at the Mandel Institute of Jewish Studies.

“The Hebrew University’s mission is to share our knowledge and research with the world, and we welcome this opportunity to join with other top universities to satisfy the worldwide hunger for education,” University president Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson said Wednesday. “Technology will play an ever-increasing role in the delivery of knowledge to diverse populations, from university students to people who have no access to formal learning.

We are particularly impressed by Coursera’s vision, technology platform and focus on partnering with top-tier universities to make quality content available outside the classroom. We look forward to learning from this experience in offering massive open online courses.”

Coursera co-founder Daphne Koller said her organization “is 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 top academic institutions like the Hebrew University as we move toward our shared goal of providing a high-quality education to everyone around the world.”

Coursera was founded in 2011 by Stanford University professors looking for a way to use technology to bring higher education to more people. Backed by leading venture capital firms, Coursera says it aims to change the world by educating millions of people through its free online classes. These courses now reach over 1.3 million students across the globe.

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