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Wageningen University

Introduction to Animal Behaviour

Wageningen University via edX


Do you want to understand how and why animals behave the way they do, and how we test hypotheses about behaviour scientifically? This biology and life sciences course provides an introduction to the complexities of wild animal behaviour, and how it is studied.

Over six weeks, learners will explore the various behaviours animals adopt in order to meet the challenges of their daily lives. We begin with how animals learn and communicate with each other, then move on to discuss how they find food, avoid predators, choose their mates, and rear their offspring.

The MOOC Introduction to Animal Behaviour is aimed at anyone looking to broaden their understanding of animal behaviour beyond nature documentaries or a typical high school education. No previous knowledge is required, only curiosity and enthusiasm for the subject.

This course is taught by three top-researchers of Wageningen University & Research, a top-ranked university. Prof. Marc Naguib is professor and chair of the behavioural ecology group and shares his fascination for birds behaviour as they are incredibly mobile and have an amazing repertoire of behaviour. Dr. James Savage is currently a postdoctoral fellow at University College Cork, where he is studying the social behavior of birds across different habitats in a fragmented landscape. Dr. Lysanne Snijders shares her passion for social dynamics of animal populations.


Week 1: The science of animal behaviour
An introduction to key concepts for studying animal behaviour, including evolution, natural selection, anthropomorphism, and the scientific method.

Week 2: Learning, cognition and development
How animals learn to adjust their behaviour to their environment, and how they use their mental abilities to solve practical problems.

Week 3: Communication
An introduction to the various means animals use to send signals to each other, and how these signals are influenced by the environment and social context.

Week 4: Finding food and avoiding predators
How animals find and exploit food resources, and how they avoid becoming food themselves.

Week 5: Mating systems and parental care
The complexities of creating the next generation, from finding and competing for a mate to rearing offspring.

Week 6: Living in groups
The costs and benefits of living with others, how complex social groups arise, and why some animals forego reproduction to help others breed.

Taught by

Prof. Marc Naguib and Dr. James Savage


4.7 rating, based on 104 Class Central reviews

4.3 rating at edX based on 8 ratings

Start your review of Introduction to Animal Behaviour

  • Anonymous
    I've always loved animals and been curious about them, and this course taught me that the reasons underlying animal behaviors are often similar across species. I used to think, "why does that bird mate for life?" Now I think, "what are the reasons why some animal species mate for life, others have multiple mates, etc.?" This course broadened my thinking to consider animal behavior categories and the reasons behind the patterns we see across species. It was also taught in an engaging, achievable manner - perfect for someone like me who has a busy work schedule. The lectures are grouped by topic, and are less than 10 minutes each, making it easy to watch "just one more." Very great class overall. I very much enjoyed it.
  • Anonymous
    The course was amazing! I expected something fun and easy in terms of animal behaviour but it turned out a whole bun of knowledge related to science. I love the video subs, it made everything much easier to understand. Therefore, second language learners, do not doubt to sign up and do the course. I love the communication topic, I am sure you will be surprised at how many different ways animals can communicate with each other in their environment. I am sorry I could not remember the name of the three teachers in the course but they are fabulous with their explanations and polite gestures. Beautiful experience with EdX.
  • Anonymous
    The course was good and informative. However, this course is mostly meant for people who want to learn how to research animal behaviour.

    If you want to learn about specific animal behaviour, you might be better off studying the topic you have in mind. For example, watching videos online or following a more practical education.

    'Introduction to Animal Behaviour' had a good mix of videos, practical assignments and exams.
  • Anonymous
    This course is honestly the best class I have ever taken. It did not stress me out, and never once did I dread having to do an assignment, I was excited the entire time and ready to see what's happening next. The content was easy to grasp, and the ideas were thoroughly explained. Highly recommend taking lots of notes because it helped me understand it better, and the videos are excellent for easy not taking. 10/10 recommend.
  • Anonymous
    This course helped me to understand alot more about animals what i didnt already know. Helped me to understand things more in depth and expand my knowledge on the impact of some things on them . Overall its a great course
  • Anonymous
    I enjoyed this course. Its content will help me in my professional life and to achieve my academic aims in the future. The videos, activities, and recommendations of books were of enormous help to enrich my learning process.
  • Anonymous
    This course help to undestand the animal behaivour in detail, it has a lot of interesting videos and information, and also you could practice what do you learn.
  • Anonymous
    I love animals, especially birds. My job is an anthropogenic one. I have a friend who recommended me this course and it was another initiation in natural world. I'm glad I found this course. Initially I started without paying it to see what is the…
  • Anonymous
    Only an introduction, but interesting breadth and depth of discussion. I finished listening to all the lectures, took notes on them, and read the articles. I found myself telling my friends about some of the interesting animal behavior I learned about! I am sure if I had participated in the discussions and done the projects, I would have learned a lot more.
  • Anonymous
    Animal Behavioiur 101 is the perfect course to grasp the complex reality of socialising in the animal world. After having followed the course, you will be constantly asking yourself random questions upon seeing other animals ; existential problems t…
  • Anonymous
    Interesting if you have the time to watch and complete the MOOC.

    For anyone interested in having a career in this field it's worthwhile to complete.

    I would suggest not paying at the start, if you are doing the assignments and enjoying it, and think having a certificate will help your future career, there is the option to the end to pay and so do the exams.

    There are some videos of birds, mammals, fish behaviour, some interesting facts to share, especially the long tailed monkeys in Bali, vampire bats and song birds.

    The presenters were all excellent and James Savage even gave the Aussie salute at Fowlers Gap. The animals were widely represented from around the world.

  • Anonymous
    As an ecologist I learned a great deal about animal behaviour and have applied what I learned in my daily work. The lecturers are wellspoken and easy to follow. The material is interesting and fun, especially the videos. The exams aren't hard and the assignments are great.
  • Anonymous
    I started this course with the thought to learn more about behaviour and also get some idea what goes on the scientific world. Was I blown away? Definitely. I found out exactly how much detail goes into the background of scientific study, what are the criteria. I also got to practically look at how I would do such studies and what would I wish to focus on. It gave me valuable insight into animal behaviour and also made me take a hard look at human behaviour. I would recommend this course to anyone who is wondering if the behaviour aspect is for them. Be prepared to put in the work, this isn't a walk in the park, but you will love it at the same time.
  • Anonymous
    The course was absolutely brilliant. The vast topic of animal behaviour is covered by giving a broad idea along with precise details, and most wonderfully, with a huge number of examples. I can’t possibly express my full delight and gratitude participating in this course. New areas of research like infochemicals are introduced. I strongly recommend everyone to do this course as it will not only illuminate you on animal behaviour but question our own behaviour, make us more observant towards any animal we come across, may it be a an insect or a bird, and most importantly, enrich our lives by making us fall in love with nature all over again
  • Anonymous
    This class is a great overview of Animal Behavior broken down into 6 modules. It has the perfect combination of videos, assignments, texts and tests. Out of the three professors in the main lecture videos, Professor Marc Naguib was my favorite. It felt like he was talking to me and his lecture was by far the easiest to follow. If you're a visual learner like me then you'll enjoy the animation and charts/photos in all aspects of the course. However, certain topics are definitely more dense than others and can be a struggle to get through. If you can navigate through some of the dense stuff, it's definitely worthwhile and you will be surprised at how much you learn about things you thought you already knew!
  • Anonymous
    This course was really interesting and I would recommend it to anyone who would like an extensive introduction to the many aspects of animal behaviour!
  • Anonymous
    I did this course for fun and really enjoyed it. I like the assignments and videos the most. I wish I had more time to do the course.
  • Nicole Malstrom
    I liked the videos and their length. I am a note taker and I liked the ability to have the transcript play alongside the video as well as be able to pause it as needed.
    I personally don’t like forum boards - I feel lost on them and almost non-existent. I dug in to do the first couple assignments for the boards, then found out they weren’t graded so that also discouraged me from taking my time to do them where my time is so limited already.
    I was pleased, once I chose this course, to find out it was based from a university in the Netherlands since that is the origin of both my parents.
  • This course had a great pace and informally two tracks, since there were videos on scientific methods, data analysis and research for those who had not met with scientific analysis before, which is great for beginners. There are some interesting discussions added, and assignments are fun and forums interesting. Videos hold a nice pace, and there's a vast number of real-life examples. They were really trying so hard, and people's feedback was taken into account after a couple of weeks, so that's a thumbs up as well. Can't wait for a sequel!
  • Anonymous
    It is a very good course, and it does a good job of maintaining a good balance between simple and complex information to keep it understandable, relevant, and interesting. The assignments involve a high content of science in the field, which I think is very helpful for learning and enjoyable. The one thing that I am disappointed about about the course is that it treats the evolutionary theory as universally accepted and does not acknowledge the existence of other theories.

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