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Understanding Plants - Part I: What a Plant Knows

Tel Aviv University via Coursera


For centuries we have collectively marveled at plant diversity and form—from Charles Darwin’s early fascination with stems and flowers to Seymour Krelborn’s distorted doting in Little Shop of Horrors. This course intends to present an intriguing and scientifically valid look at how plants themselves experience the world—from the colors they see to the sensations they feel. Highlighting the latest research in genetics and more, we will delve into the inner lives of plants and draw parallels with the human senses to reveal that we have much more in common with sunflowers and oak trees than we may realize. We’ll learn how plants know up from down, how they know when a neighbor has been infested by a group of hungry beetles, and whether they appreciate the music you’ve been playing for them or if they’re just deaf to the sounds around them. We’ll explore definitions of memory and consciousness as they relate to plants in asking whether we can say that plants might even be aware of their surroundings. This highly interdisciplinary course meshes historical studies with cutting edge modern research and will be relevant to all humans who seek their place in nature.

This class has three main goals: 1. To introduce you to basic plant biology by exploring plant senses (sight, smell, hearing, touch, taste, balance). 2. To introduce you to biological research and the scientific method. 3. To get the student to question life in general and what defines us as humans.

Once you've taken this course, if you are interested in a more in-depth study of plants, check out my follow-up course, Fundamentals of Plant Biology (

In order to receive academic credit for this course you must successfully pass the academic exam on campus. For information on how to register for the academic exam –

Additionally, you can apply to certain degrees using the grades you received on the courses. Read more on this here –

Teachers interested in teaching this course in their class rooms are invited to explore our Academic High school program here –

Taught by

Daniel Chamovitz and Aviva Katz

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4.7 rating, based on 11 reviews

Start your review of Understanding Plants - Part I: What a Plant Knows

  • E.A.D

    E.A.D completed this course.

    Presented by Professor Daniel Chamovitz, Ph.D., and Aviva Katz, Ph.D, both at Tel Aviv University, the course explored plant biology from the cellular level all the way to the function of the part of a plant. I had only a passing interest in this subject,...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I started the class on a whim and became really interested. I usually dislike MOOCs with a talking head and slides, which this one, for the most part, is, but somehow Prof. Chamovitz kept my attention and was really enjoyable to listen to. He also is that rare presenter who knows how to use slides to illustrate a point with a picture or diagram.

    The videos are clear and moderately technical, but not so detailed that I got lost. It's worth noting that the class is about the science of plants. The exams are well suited to the level of the lectures.

    All in all a beautifully-designed class. L really enjoyed it and learned a lot.
  • Karen Carlson completed this course, spending 8 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    I discovered this mooc while reading Chamovitz' book of the same title at the recommendation of a Twitter friend. I’ve lived a relatively plant-oblivious life – until about six months ago - so while I’d taken all these moocs on biology, physiology, biochem,...
  • Kristina Šekrst completed this course and found the course difficulty to be easy.

    A perfect course! This one went very high on my top-list (and this is cca my 90th completed MOOC, so this says a lot). The professor is excellent, has a great teaching style, and I like his jokes. The material is sometimes difficult, but is accompanied with lots of interactive videos, images and animations, so it becomes easy to follow. Quizzes are sometimes difficult, but you learn a lot while taking them. I've learned a lot of things about plants I couldn't have imagined, and it made me purse the topic furthers, so I cannot wait to enroll into part 2. Good job, University of Tel Aviv (loved the bloopers!).
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    One of the very few moocs I enjoyed, and most importantly, that i finished. You can retake your test as much as you can, and since they are challenging, it really brings you to a point where you actually master the knowledge. The design is cool. The content is extremly interresting. The teacher is tallented. I took his second mooc, which was a bit more challenging. I recommand 100% this mooc (it sound extatic, but this is really a VERY good mooc)
  • Carol Fitzgerald completed this course, spending 6 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    A fascinating course, well presented. A little challenging in parts if one does not have a background in biology, but the more complicated parts were explained in great detail.
    Thoroughly enjoyable. I highly recommend this course.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I love this guy he is a fantastic instructor. He makes me happy and really links the deep science to the common tongue with ease. Purely a hidden jem in the world.
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    Luis Ribeiro

    Luis Ribeiro completed this course.

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    Alain Schwab

    Alain Schwab completed this course.

  • Francisco Javier Jiménez

    Francisco Javier Jiménez completed this course.

  • Lieke Vlaar completed this course.

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