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Course Report

40+ 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, I’ve leveraged the Class Central database to compiled more than 40 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 this list of courses easy to navigate, I’ve broken it down into four subjects. Click on a subjects to jump to the corresponding section:

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 other things. Then, they remigrated back to the sea. Thus, whales (which include dolphins) 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 study this relationship, with roots in biology, and a range of new findings that are continually arising (for example, did you know that some dinosaurs had feathers!?).

However, 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, below are a number of great courses you can take. 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 course collections 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).
★★★★☆ (32 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.
★★★★★ (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.
★★★★★ (1 rating)

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.

生物演化
Peking University via Coursera
本课程以达尔文的“自然选择”和“生命之树”为主线,将重点介绍达尔文演化理论的要点,以及后人对达尔文理论的修订、补充和完善;介绍一些推动生物演化的主要力量,如遗传变异、自然选择、中性选择、遗传漂变等。

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)

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)

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!
★★★★★ (4 ratings)

Biology & Chemistry Online Courses

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.

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.
★★★★★ (114 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.
★★★★★ (13 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)

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.
★★★★☆ (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!

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.
★★★★☆ (9 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.
★★★★☆ (4 ratings)

Teaching Primary Biology: Evolution and Inheritance
National STEM Learning Centre via FutureLearn
Develop sound subject knowledge of primary biology and learn how to identify and overcome pupils’ misconceptions around evolution.

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.

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.
★★★★☆ (5 ratings)

Molecular Evolution (Bioinformatics IV)
University of California, San Diego via Coursera
In the previous course in the Specialization, we learned how to compare genes, proteins, and genomes. One way we can use these methods is in order to construct a “Tree of Life” showing how a large collection of related organisms have evolved over time.

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.

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.

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)

Paleontology & Geology Online Courses

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.
★★★★★ (39 ratings)

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.
★★★★★ (124 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.
★★★★★ (24 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.”
★★★★☆ (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。
★★★★★ (1 rating)

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.
★★★★★ (28 ratings)

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

Invertebrate Paleontology and Paleobotany
Utah State University via YouTube

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.

Natural History of Dinosaurs
via YouTube

Fossils + Geology!
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)

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)

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)

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.

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.

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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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