Class Central is learner-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

University of Pennsylvania

Vital Signs: Understanding What the Body Is Telling Us

University of Pennsylvania via Coursera


Limited-Time Offer: Up to 75% Off Coursera Plus!
7000+ certificate courses from Google, Microsoft, IBM, and many more.
The vital signs – heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, respiration rate, and pain – communicate important information about the physiological status of the human body. In this six-part course we explore the anatomy and physiology underlying the vital signs so that you will develop a systematic, integrated understanding of how the body functions. Relevant body systems are reviewed including cardiovascular and respiratory, followed by explanations of how the function of these systems affects vital signs. We discuss normal ranges, normal variants, and the mechanisms that underlie changes in the objective measurement of vital signs. The course also includes demonstrations of appropriate techniques for measuring vital signs in yourself and others. The course is designed for a broad, general audience but will be particularly interesting for individuals working in healthcare, those considering a career as a healthcare professional, lay caregivers, those with an interest in personal health and fitness, or anyone who simply wants to understand how the body functions.


  • Week 1: Pulse/Heart Rate
    • This week we start our exploration of the vital signs with a look at the heart. We'll study the basic structure of the heart, think about how the heart pumps blood through the body, and learn how clinicians assess and think about heart rate and the pulse.
  • Week 2: Blood Pressure
    • During week 2 we will learn about the anatomy of the blood vessels and how they function. You will have a better understanding of systolic and diastolic blood pressure, mean arterial pressure, and assessing blood pressure accurately.
  • Week 3: Metabolism
    • This week we will explore metabolism. We will discuss anabolism and catabolism, basal metabolic rate, how the body generates heat. You will also have a better understanding of how health care providers assess metabolic rate.
  • Week 4: Temperature
    • During week 4 you will learn the definition of mean body temperature and how the body regulates temperature. We will discuss hypothermia and the difference between hyperthermia and fever. Lastly, you will learn how to assess body temperature.
  • Week 5: Respiration Rate
    • This week we will learn about pulmonary anatomy, capillary gas exchange, and regulation of respiration. You will have a better understanding of how health care providers assess respiration rate and the quality of lung sounds.
  • Week 6: Pain
    • This week we will explore the neurological pathways associated with pain, and the difference between pain tolerance and pain threshold. We will understand what pain is telling us and why accurately assessing and effectively managing pain are important. In addition, we will review how healthcare providers asses pain.

Taught by

Connie Scanga


4.5 rating, based on 51 Class Central reviews

4.8 rating at Coursera based on 6231 ratings

Start your review of Vital Signs: Understanding What the Body Is Telling Us

  • Anonymous
    I love this course! I was pleasantly surprised for how much I did love it. Not only was it informative but it was fun; something a lot of classes don't do that well. Dr. Scanga is an amazing lecturer and I would, gladly, take another class with her. She has a passion for what she does and it shows every time she teaches. I just completed the course; only awaiting my certificate.
  • Loved this course! Learned lots of information in an easy and clear way to understand. Recommended to anyone going into the health field or interested in learning about vital signs.
  • This is a course that I should have taken even before medical school. Dr. Scanga and her team did an excellent job of simplifying and integrating key concepts regarding vital signs - most often the healthcare providers' first source of insight to the condition of the patient in front of them. Very rarely in my medical education have I experienced an integrative approach in discussing the anatomy and physiology of these important entities. Unsurprisingly, this has led to better retention of the knowledge on my part. To those who are planning to study or are already studying medicine or human biology at the very least, this offering is highly recommended.
  • Kristina Bogovic
    Vital Signs is probably one of the best lectured courses on Coursera. The professor Scanga teaches and explains everything with a group of students on screen, making it a great classroom atmosphere. Every information is explained and clarified to be a simple fact.
  • Anonymous
    This is probably one of the BEST of courses on Coursera. Dr. Scanga is an amazing teacher. She is so engrossed in what is teaching that her lectures come out like stories ... it is as if she is narrating a story. She is one rare teacher, who delivers higher education as vividly and dramatically as nursery education!

    THANK YOU Dr.Scanga. You are just wonderful.
  • Rosemarie
    I tried to enroll and they asked for $ is this for free? That is very misleading, I am unemployed and looking to improve my skill set.
  • Anonymous
    Especially enjoyed her use of a small-classroom format, allowing us to feel a part of the group and to ask ourselves the same questions she asked her students-- the retrieval of information from our memories is a known way to enhance learning.
  • Renee Lynes
    I loved this course so much! Dr. Scanga was an amazing teacher who explained each and everything she taught very thorough, which was a huge help since this was my first online college course. It's definitely a course worth taking!
  • Anonymous
    I enjoyed the course very much, including Dr. Scanga's engaging lecture style. I didn't give the course 5 starts because there was no supplementary documentation for medical terms, etc. The only way to review the material was to watch the video again.
  • Interesting, easy-going course. Clear presentation of introductory notions regarding human physiology (good place to start with, for anyone considering taking some more advanced course on human physiology, such as the one proposed by Duke University). Too bad it's missing lecture notes...
  • Peter M Abraham
    The lectures were extremely well done and interesting. The quizzes often had a related case study. The only thing stopping me from giving this 5 stars is that often times the case study items were not discussed in the lectures. So knowing the right answer from the material was not always possible.
  • Anonymous
    I higly recommend this course- it is an excellent course and Professor Scanga is one of a kind teacher. Thank you again for every thing, Professor Scanga!
  • Profile image for Jenny D.
    Jenny D.
    Excellent way of presenting the material and the professor is phenomenal! Even though I've been working in the health care field for some time now and come across most of the material, I still found the knowledge to be insightful. I have a better understanding of these concepts after taking this course. Highly recommended and can easily be done in less than 6 weeks.
  • A Gulati
    Love! Love!! Loved this course!!! Informative, engaging and fun. Dr. Connie Scanga is absolutely amazing as a lecturer and I'd take any course she took even if vaguely interested in the subject. THANK YOU Dr Scanga and the team.
  • I really enjoyed this course and the ease of understanding the content. I printed the whole thing! I CANT WAIT FOR MY CERTIFICATE AND TO SHARE THIS INFORMATION WITH MY COWORKERS..
  • Anonymous
    Dr. Scanga is a wonderful lecturer, has a very well elaborated and effective teaching skills and is a lovely person. I am very thankful to her for her lectures! Enjoyed and learned a lot!
  • Anonymous
    It is important for the society to be aware of what is going on and this platform has made me be able to understand other underlying issue in human body
    Thanks for the course
  • Anonymous
    Awsome i have finished this course, i am waiting th certification with Dr Scanga´signature i feel very happy
  • Marjolein V
    This course was just too hard for me, top many anatomy terms and concepts werd considered known. But it did look professional.
  • Guerrier Rock Lordson
    Hello every body !
    Oh great ! It's a very good course. I learn so much things on the human body. The "vital signs" is one of the more interisting course.

Never Stop Learning.

Get personalized course recommendations, track subjects and courses with reminders, and more.

Someone learning on their laptop while sitting on the floor.