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Course Report

60+ Free Online Courses on Evolutionary Science

These free courses cover all facets of evolutionary science, including biology, genetics, and paleontology.

Archaeopteryx, for a long time considered the oldest known bird.

The history of science is long and full of important milestones. But few are as profoundly impactful of the realisation that all living things share a common ancestor. Evolutionary science draws from all branches of biology ⁠— from genomics to paleontology ⁠— to explain the mechanisms of evolution.

In this article, we’ve leveraged the Class Central database of over 150k courses to compiled more than 60 online courses on evolution and its different facets. The courses are all free or free-to-audit, meaning you’ll have access to all the learning content.

To make the list easy to navigate, we’ve broken it down by subject. Click on a subjects to jump to the corresponding courses:

Evolution: An Unusual Journey

You may recall that whales are mammals. But did you know about their unusual journey? Their ancestors migrated from the sea to land, developing lungs and hip bones, among others. Then, they migrated back to the sea. Thus, whales are more closely related to hippos than to anything that lives in the sea!

All life on earth is related, it is just a matter of degree. Evolutionary science studies this relationship, and it has led to fascinating discoveries — did you know that some dinosaurs had feathers?

Additionally, evolutionary biology is increasingly being used in other fields, from public health to psychology and anthropology, to generate rich hypotheses.

If you’re interested in learning more, you’ll find a great courses selection below. So satisfy your curiosity and get your evolutionary science on!

More Courses

And if you don’t find what you need here, or if you already know all there is to know about evolution (is that even possible?), have a look at our other collections of scientific courses:

You can find all our free certificate courses here.

General Evolution Online Courses

Introduction to Genetics and Evolution
Duke University via Coursera
This course provides the basic biology you need to understand all of these issues better, tries to clarify some misconceptions, and tries to prepare students for future, more advanced coursework in Biology (and especially evolutionary genetics).
★★★★★ (31 ratings)

Origins – Formation of the Universe, Solar System, Earth and Life
University of Copenhagen via Coursera
The Origins course tracks the origin of all things – from the Big Bang to the origin of the Solar System and the Earth. The course follows the evolution of life on our planet through deep geological time to present life forms.
★★★★★ (7 ratings)

Super-Earths and Life
Harvard University via edX
Learn about the Earth, life, and how we can search for life elsewhere in the universe.
★★★★☆ (5 ratings)

Evolution: A Course for Educators
American Museum of Natural History via Coursera
How are all of the species living on Earth today related? How does understanding evolutionary science contribute to our well-being? In this course, participants will learn about evolutionary relationships, population genetics, and natural and artificial selection. Participants will explore evolutionary science and learn how to integrate it into their classrooms.
★★★★★ (2 ratings)

Evolution Today
Leiden University via Coursera
In this course you will learn how evolution works. You will develop an understanding of evolutionary processes and their formative power. You will see how evolution has shaped biodiversity, and continuously influences our daily life. Evolution impacts human endeavors as varied as medicine, agriculture, psychology, economy, and culture. It is the major unifying principle for biology and a fundamental natural law.
★★★★★ (1 rating)

Understanding and Teaching Evolution
University of Bath via FutureLearn
Learn key concepts in biological evolution and find out how to integrate them into the classroom.
★★★★★ (1 rating)

Emergence of Life
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign via Coursera
How did life emerge on Earth? How have life and Earth co-evolved through geological time? Is life elsewhere in the universe? Take a look through the 4-billion-year history of life on Earth through the lens of the modern Tree of Life! This course will evaluate the entire history of life on Earth within the context of our cutting-edge understanding of the Tree of Life.
★★★★★ (4 ratings)

The Big Stuff: Evolution and Ecology
University of Colorado Boulder via Coursera
In this course, we will explore how evolution works to generate new species, the wide variety of life on earth. We will also touch on the importance of biodiversity for the overall health of our planet, and for our well being as humans. Then we will discuss ecology and the interconnectedness of life and touch on one big ecological issue in today’s society, conservation.

Introduction to Biology: Evolution
Rice University via Coursera
Evolution is one of the most interesting fields within biology, and one that’s central to a complete understanding of modern biology. We begin by tracing how Charles Darwin developed a theory of evolution by natural selection and the many ways that biologists have advanced the science of evolution since his lifetime. We then go on to learn about the many applications of evolutionary biology to our everyday lives.

Evolution through natural selection
The Open University via OpenLearn
In this free course, Evolution through natural selection, we describe the theory of evolution by natural selection as proposed by Charles Darwin in his book, first published in 1859, On the Origin …

Natural selection and evolution
Shomu’s Biology via YouTube

Evolution: artificial selection and domestication
The Open University via OpenLearn
In the 18th and 19th century evolutionary biologists, including Darwin, emphasised the similarities between natural evolution and artificial ‘improvement’ of livestock under domestication. They …

Evolution Examples
via YouTube

The science of evolution
The Open University via OpenLearn
This free course, The science of evolution, debates the issues surrounding the science of evolution and religion.

Peking University via Coursera

Biology & Chemistry Online Courses

Introduction to Biology – The Secret of Life
Massachusetts Institute of Technology via edX
Explore the secret of life through the basics of biochemistry, genetics, molecular biology, recombinant DNA, genomics and rational medicine.
★★★★★ (131 ratings)

Principles of Biochemistry
Harvard University via edX
This introduction to biochemistry explores the molecules of life, starting at simple building blocks and culminating in complex metabolism.
★★★★★ (12 ratings)

Bioinformatic Methods I
University of Toronto via Coursera
Large-scale biology projects such as the sequencing of the human genome and gene expression surveys using RNA-seq, microarrays and other technologies have created a wealth of data for biologists. However, the challenge facing scientists is analyzing and even accessing these data to extract useful information pertaining to the system being studied. This course focuses on employing existing bioinformatic resources.
★★★★☆ (9 ratings)

Tales from the Genome
23andme via Udacity
This course is a journey into the biology of the human genome and will highlight the scientific, social, and personal perspectives of people living with a variety of traits.
★★★★★ (7 ratings)

Introduction to Systems Biology
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai via Coursera
This course will introduce the student to contemporary Systems Biology focused on mammalian cells, their constituents and their functions. Biology is moving from molecular to modular. As our knowledge of our genome and gene expression deepens and we develop lists of molecules (proteins, lipids, ions) involved in cellular processes, we need to understand how these molecules interact with each other to form modules that act as discrete functional systems.
★★★★☆ (5 ratings)

Bioinformatic Methods II
University of Toronto via Coursera
Large-scale biology projects such as the sequencing of the human genome and gene expression surveys using RNA-seq, microarrays and other technologies have created a wealth of data for biologists. However, the challenge facing scientists is analyzing and even accessing these data to extract useful information pertaining to the system being studied.
★★★★☆ (4 ratings)

Introductory Biology (Spring 2005)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology via MIT OpenCourseWare
The course focuses on the application of fundamental principles, toward an understanding of microorganisms as geochemical agents responsible for the evolution and renewal of the biosphere and of their role in human health and disease.
★★★★★ (2 ratings)

The Extremes of Life: Microbes and Their Diversity
Kyoto University via edX
Microbes are everywhere! Find out how diverse microbial life is, and what their genome sequences tell us.
★★★★☆ (2 ratings)

AP® Biology – Part 3: Evolution and Diversity
Rice University via edX
The third course in a comprehensive series designed to prepare you for the AP Biology exam, focusing on evolution and diversity.
★★★☆☆ (1 rating)

DNA: Biology’s Genetic Code
Rice University via edX
DNA carries the defining data for life in a simple genetic code that comes with its own “back-up” system. Explore DNA structure with us!
★★☆☆☆ (1 rating)

Foundations of Computational and Systems Biology (Spring 2014)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology via MIT OpenCourseWare
This course is an introduction to computational biology emphasizing the fundamentals of nucleic acid and protein sequence and structural analysis.

Molecular Evolution (Bioinformatics IV)
University of California, San Diego via Coursera
In the first half of the course, we will discuss approaches for evolutionary tree construction that have been the subject of some of the most cited scientific papers of all time, and show how they can resolve quandaries from finding the origin of a deadly virus to locating the birthplace of modern humans. In the second half of the course, we will shift gears and examine the old claim that birds evolved from dinosaurs.

Protists: Evolution and Ecology of Microbial Eukaryotes
Saint Petersburg State University via Coursera
Life on Earth appears to be dominated by higher plants and animals. Yet an immense variety of microbial eukaryotes swarm in the foliage, grass, soil, bogs, ponds, streams, lakes, and oceans. These inconspicuous organisms are flagellates, algae, ciliates, sarcodines, slime molds, apicomplexans. This assemblage is generally termed the protists. Our course is to build a comprehensive picture of protistan diversity. The major steps of eukaryotic evolution will be in focus.

Heredity And Evolution Biology CBSE Class 10
via YouTube
You will learn about inherited traits, Mendel’s experiment, dominant and recessive traits, chromosomes, homologous and heterologous chromosomes, principles of inheritance, evolution, speciation, evidence of evolution, human evolution, and much more.

Computational Molecular Evolution
Technical University of Denmark (DTU) via Coursera
In this course you will learn about how and why DNA and protein sequences evolve. You will learn the theory behind methods for building and analyzing phylogenetic trees, and get hands-on experience with some widely used software packages.
★★★★☆ (4 ratings)

Bio 312 (evolution)
via YouTube

MIT Computational Biology: Genomes, Networks, Evolution, Health – Fall 2018 – 6.047/6.878/HST.507
Massachusetts Institute of Technology via YouTube

Life Science and Biology Year in Review – Cells-Genetics-Evolution-Symbiosis-Biomes-Classification
MooMooMath and Science via YouTube

Paleontology & Geology Online Courses

Dino 101: Dinosaur Paleobiology
University of Alberta via Coursera
Dino 101: Dinosaur Paleobiology is a 12-lesson course teaching a comprehensive overview of non-avian dinosaurs.
★★★★★ (143 ratings)

Paleontology: Theropod Dinosaurs and the Origin of Birds
University of Alberta via Coursera
Paleontology: Theropod Dinosaurs and the Origin of Birds is a five-lesson course teaching a comprehensive overview of the origins of birds. This course examines the anatomy, diversity, and evolution of theropod dinosaurs in relation to the origin of birds.
★★★★★ (43 ratings)

Paleontology: Ancient Marine Reptiles
University of Alberta via Coursera
Paleontology: Ancient Marine Reptiles is a four-lesson course teaching a comprehensive overview of the evolutionary changes that occur when air-breathing terrestrial animals return to water. This course examines the diversity, adaptations, convergence, and phylogenetic relationships of extinct marine reptiles. Students will explore three major groups of marine reptiles: ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, and mosasaurs. Watch a preview of the course here: https://uofa.ualberta.ca/courses/paleontology-marine-reptiles
★★★★★ (30 ratings)

Paleontology: Early Vertebrate Evolution
University of Alberta via Coursera
Paleontology: Early Vertebrate Evolution is a four-lesson course teaching a comprehensive overview of the origin of vertebrates. Students will explore the diversity of Palaeozoic lineages within a phylogenetic and evolutionary framework. This course examines the evolution of major vertebrate novelties including the origin of fins, jaws, and tetrapod limbs. Students also explore key Canadian fossil localities, including the Burgess Shale (British Columbia), Miguasha (Quebec), and Man On The Hill (Northwest Territories).
★★★★★ (28 ratings)

The Dynamic Earth: A Course for Educators
American Museum of Natural History via Coursera
The AMNH course The Dynamic Earth: A Course for Educators provides students with an overview of the origin and evolution of the Earth. Informed by the recently released Next Generation Science Standards, this course examines geological time scales, radiometric dating, and how scientists “read the rocks.” We will explore dramatic changes in the Earth over the last 4 billion years, including how the evolution of life on Earth has affected its atmosphere. In addition to looking at geology on a global scale, participants will take to their own backyards to explore and share their local geologic history.
★★★★☆ (2 ratings)

Dinosaur Ecosystems | 恐龙的生态系统 | Los Ecosistemas de los Dinosaurios
The University of Hong Kong via edX
A global adventure to learn how palaeontologists use animal and plant fossils as well as living forms to reconstruct dinosaur ecosystems. 一个环球的探索,了解古生物学家如何运用动植物化石以及现存生物来重建远古恐龙的生态系统。Una aventura global para aprender cómo los paleontólogos utilizan fósiles de animales y plantas, así como organismos vivientes, para reconstruir los ecosistemas en donde vivían los dinosaurios。
★★★★★ (2 ratings)

Vertebrate Paleontology
Utah State University via YouTube
★★★★★ (1 rating)

Extinctions: Past, Present, & Future
Emory University via Coursera
This course introduces you to the five mass extinctions of the pre-human past, their causes and significance to the history of life on earth, and the current mass extinction happening during our time. We’ll also explore the history of paleontoloigical and geological study and review the key players that influenced the science today. Regardless of your familiarity with the topic, you’ll get portable handouts, lively demonstrations, and quizzes that bridge and enhance your knowledge.
★★★★☆ (1 rating)

Life on Land: Ecology, Evolution, Challenges, and Solutions
University of the Sunshine Coast via FutureLearn
Discover the human impact on terrestrial ecosystems, biodiversity, and animals as you learn how to protect life on land.

Invertebrate Paleontology and Paleobotany
Utah State University via YouTube

Natural History of Dinosaurs
via YouTube

Fossils + Geology!
via YouTube

Morphology, Disparity, and Evolution of Theropod Teeth in the Late Cretaceous in Alberta
Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology via YouTube

Tyrants of the Cenozoic: Evolution of Bone-Crushing Hyenas and Dogs
Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology via YouTube

A Big Step for a Fish – The Evolution of Four-Legged Land Animals
Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology via YouTube

Echinoderms (Crinoids, Starfish, Sand Dollars, & More)- Invertebrate Paleontology | GEO GIRL
GEO GIRL via YouTube

Late Ice Age Mammals on Vancouver Island
Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology via YouTube

Human Evolution Online Courses

Introduction to Human Evolution
Wellesley College via edX
Explore human evolutionary history through the human fossil, archaeological and genetic records.
★★★★★ (8 ratings)

Genes and the Human Condition (From Behavior to Biotechnology)
University of Maryland, College Park via Coursera
To acquire an understanding of the fundamental concepts of genomics and biotechnology, and their implications for human biology, evolution, medicine, social policy and individual life path choices in the 21st century.
★★★★★ (12 ratings)

Human Evolution: Past and Future
University of Wisconsin–Madison via Coursera
Introduction to the science of human origins, the fossil and archaeological record, and genetic ancestry of living and ancient human populations. The course emphasizes the ways our evolution touches our lives, including health and diet, and explores how deep history may shape the future of our species.
★★★★☆ (5 ratings)

A Question of Time: How We Date Human Evolution
Griffith University via FutureLearn
Discover the role that dating human fossils plays in the reconstruction of human evolution: explore examples from around the world
★★★★★ (1 rating)

Charles Darwin, Evolution, and Tropical Australia
Charles Darwin University via Open Education by Blackboard
This free, open course is offered by Charles Darwin University to provide an introduction to Charles Darwin, the theory of evolution, Alfred Russel Wallace, and an overview of adaptation of tropical organisms in the Northern Territory of Australia. You will experience highly engaging interactives, videos and innovative media.

Evolution of the Human Sociality: A Quest for the Origin of Our Social Behavior
Kyoto University via edX
Learn about the origins of human beings and primatology, the scientific study of primates.

Evaluating Animal Breeding Programmes
Wageningen University via edX
Learn how to evaluate an ongoing breeding programme in terms of both genetic progress and genetic diversity, and how to translate that genetic progress from the breeding programme to the farmer’s work.

The Future of Human Evolution | What Darwin Didn’t Know
Wondrium via YouTube

Bipedalism: The Science of Upright Walking
Dartmouth College via edX
Upright walking is a hallmark of being human. Explore how this unusual form of locomotion evolved and why.

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Rui Ma

With a background in Health Statistics and Sociology, she has built a career path in Data Analytics.
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Manoel Cortes Mendez

Software engineer and online graduate student in computer science passionate about education, technology, and their intersection.

Comments 2

  1. Daryl Aldridge

    Do all colleges and universities accept the courses for transfer

    • Manoel Cortes Mendez

      No, the courses in this article are free to audit, but don’t include a free certificate nor academic credit. Few courses can lead to academic credit, and in my experience, those are never entirely free.


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