Students at two US community colleges are to be given access to a tailored online computer science program delivered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), thanks to a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The specially adapted MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) is the first to be offered to community colleges by online learning platform edX, and will see students at Bunker Hill and MassBay Community Colleges, both in Massachusetts, receive tuition from some of the world's leading computer scientists.
The collaboration has been funded by a $1 million grant from the Gates Foundation, the philanthropic organisation set up by the Microsoft co-founder and his wife, as part of a $9 million investment to support breakthrough learning models in postsecondary education.
It is hoped the investment will pave the way for further innovations in online learning for other community colleges in the US.
Community colleges, sometimes known as junior colleges, are similar to further education colleges in the UK, but are a fully integrated part of the US higher education system.
They tend to focus more on remedial and vocational education, as well as preparing students for transfer to study at university level, but under this scheme will receive a version of the same course delivered at MIT.
Anant Agarwal, president of edX, said online courses had the potential to "transform the way community college students learn".
"Our work with Bunker Hill and MassBay will enable us to work with other state institutions throughout the country to provide excellent educational opportunities on an ever-tightening budget," he added.
The move will mean that from Spring next year, the colleges will offer an adapted version of the MIT Introduction to Computer Science and Programming course.