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Course review: Extinctions – Past & Present

Learn about the five big past extinctions on Earth with a captivating course that takes you into the past with fun and ease.

I recently did a free course presented on Future Learn. The course is: Extinctions – Past & Present by University of Cape Town.

The course focuses on the five big past extinctions on Earth and how it impacted on the biodiversity of the time. It also touches on the looming sixth extinctions facing us today.

This course is also featured on the best free online courses of all time.

Why did I take this course?

Professor Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan, course instructor, showing a dinosaur

My daughter has always been absolutely fascinated with dinosaurs. I thought she would outgrow it, but even at 9 years old now, she still loves them.

I have always been interested in Geology, but never thought to study it. When I saw the course, Extinctions Past & Present, I simply had to jump and do it.

Satisfying my interest in Geology and being able to teach my daughter a bit more about dinosaurs, how awesome Earth is and what we can do to preserve it, were all inspirations for me to do this amazing course.

For someone who has not studied any type of geology or related subjects, this is a great course to start with.

The Lecturer

The course is presented by the amazing Professor Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan.

Not only is she an acclaimed paleobiologist and author, but also a former South African Woman of the Year.

The enthusiasm Professor Chinsamy-Turan has for her subject is very inspiring. She radiates confidence and excitement.

The course

The course presents great visuals of fossil’s structure.

As someone who comes from a Sales & Marketing background and has absolutely no prior knowledge of extinctions and evolution, I truly appreciated that Professor Chinsamy-Turan presented the course in an easy-to-understand manner.

The best part of this course is that you don’t need any prior knowledge of extinctions. The course is laid out beautifully with graphs and easy to read articles.

All you need to be successful in this course is pure interest in science and a thirst for understanding how our biodiversity came into being.

I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the five past extinctions, the earliest life forms and how simple life forms evolved into more complex life forms.

The subject I was most fascinated with was the Fossils & the Geological Record. I was absolutely engrossed in how they manage to find fossils, how they date the fossils and what they can tell about a specific time in history, just by exploring the soil and stones.

The interviews with other experts in their field were really interesting and informative. I especially enjoyed the interview with Pippa Haarhoff at the West Coast Fossil Park.

I live in Cape Town and would definitely be making a trip to the West Coast Fossil Park, with my daughter, of course. We can’t wait to submerge ourselves in the magnificent fossils and learn more about the wonderful biodiversity I learned about in this course.


There are tests after each week in the course. I enjoyed the tests as it was a way for me to check if I understand the course correctly and that I am retaining what I have learned.

You can get a certificate for the course, if you choose to buy the course or sign up to FutureLearn, for a monthly fee. I, however, chose not to do so.

Time commitment

The course runs over five weeks, and you only need three hours per week to get through the work. If you are interested in fossils, geology or paleontology, this is time well spent.

I took a bit longer than three hours per week, as I chose to read every extra article added to the daily work. You don’t have to read the extra articles as they don’t form part of the tests or course, but it was really fascinating, and I just wanted to learn as much as I possibly could.


Professor Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan at an excavation site.

I absolutely loved this course and highly recommend it.

It is a captivating course and takes you into the past with fun and ease. This course opened my mind to a whole new world. It is a course that not only teaches you about the past, but also about human impact on our beautiful planet.

I hope that more people take this course as a journey to understanding how we can prevent a future catastrophe.

What’s next?

Now that I know a lot more about past extinctions and the risk of a sixth extinction, the next courses I’m looking into are Climate Change, Sustainable Food Security and Water Security.

If we all keep learning, we can all do our bit where we are to bring about change and save our planet.

Linda Kumm Profile Image

Linda Kumm

I am a mother and a wife. I love learning and expanding my mind.

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