Duke again offers free Coursera course: “Introduction to genetics and evolution”

August 5, 2014 • 8:45 am

I’m happy to see that my second Ph.D student, Dr. Mohamed Noor (now chair of biology at Duke) is again offering his immensely popular “Introduction to Genetics and Evolution” course online, as a MOOC (I hate that word!).

The course will start on January 2 of next year and extend until March 23, and I’ve heard very good things about it. (If you’ve taken it, weigh in below.) Course information is here. I’m also glad to see that one of the suggested books is WEIT, although some nefarious students try to pirate the book from bootleg sites. (Note: don’t do that!)  Be sure to read the last Q&A exchange on the page.

You can sign up for the course, and I’d recommend your doing it soon, as I think there’s a course limit. Just click the “Join for Free” button on the right.  I highly recommend the course; Mohamed is a great teacher (and yes, he does talk fast!); and the material is good. But prepare to work hard—you can’t learn much if you slack off!


h/t: Merilee~

27 thoughts on “Duke again offers free Coursera course: “Introduction to genetics and evolution”

  1. I’m here because of Dr. Noor! Your book got a big plug in that course, and I thought to check out your blog too. I came for the evolution, but I stayed for Hili (and evolution and cherry pie).

    Dr. Noor is probably the best teacher I’ve ever had. Anyone who signs up for the class won’t regret it. You’ll learn a lot, and yes, you will work hard.

  2. The fact that your book was suggested reading helped prompt me to take the course. I thoroughly enjoyed it, learned a lot, and add my high recommendation to Dr. Noor.

  3. I took this course last year, and it’s the best online course I’ve done! It’s challenging, fascinating and exciting. It’s also fair to say that Dr Noor is a Coursera LEGEND! Sign up now – you won’t regret it.

  4. Yes, an excellent course. Not for the casual student, however – be prepared to work hard. It may be cliche, but you will get out of this course what you put into it.

    1. To really learn any reasonably advanced subject matter requires that you put in effort, i.e., it is always the case that you will only get as much out of a course as you put in. The trick as a professor is to enhance the motivation of the students to put in the effort.

  5. It was a very good course, there was an optional interview video with Dr Coyne as well I recall. Highly recommended.

  6. I participated in the first running of this course and it was a lot of fun. Highly recommended. I used WEIT and Evolution:Making Sense of Life by Zimmer as the course textbooks (the second book wasn’t on the course reading list although I found it to be a great book). There was a Discovery Institute guy taking the course at the same time (a Scottish fellow that tried to give PZ Myers a hard time when he gave a talk in the UK a few years ago)

    1. I thought that guy dropped out after the first couple weeks, or at least got a lot quieter than he started out. He was flattened, like a squirrel running randomly on a road.

      1. I have to confess I find the class discussion forums half the fun. The conversation is mostly intelligent, but there are always a few creationists to add comic relief.

      2. Yeah, he at least dampened down in the forums fairly early on. I remember looking at his profile and seeing that he enrolled in several other Coursera courses, perhaps he provided more entertainment in the forums for those classes too.

  7. So sad that this has to be said:

    What if I don’t believe in evolution? What if it conflicts with my faith?
    The course presents evidence for evolution in the first lecture, and delves into extensive detail on evolutionary processes later. Enrolled parties need not in any way modify or abandon their belief system, but test questions will be based on the material as it is covered in the lectures.

    Back in the Permian, when I was in school, no one every said this. 🙁

    I think MOOC sounds wrong too but I like it when Buffy calls a big demon a “mook” when he smashes her designer lamp. 🙂

    1. Amazing isn’t it? ‘You will be tested over facts and conclusions that can be logically inferred from the facts. Don’t be concerned, however. You can retain any belief system you like, even if it contradicted by reality.’

  8. Sure- you can continue believing that 2+2=5 to your heart’s content, but you ain’t gonna get marks for that answer…

    I signed up for the Jan course. Seems I looked at it last year when the timing wasn’t right. I’ve been very impressed with the coursera and edx courses i’ve taken. I love that you can usually do them at your own pace. If you don’t have enough hours in a given week you just finish late ( i most def don’t need the credits). I usually try to do all the exercises.

  9. I suppose this course is not one of those “on demand”, so I suppose I cannot watch the lectures whenever I like. And I have to enroll, although I don’t need any certificate.

    I like the way Yale offers a number of courses. They are available to anybody at any time, try Stephen Stearns course “Principles of evolution, ecology and behaviour” for instance. Stearns is obviously most interested in evolution, so the ecology part I found less interesting.

    1. At least in the iteration of the class that I took, the videos were released daily, one or two at a time, over the course of the 11 weeks. Once they were available, you could watch them whenever you wanted, however. The tests did have hard deadlines.

      I guess the reason the videos are not released all at once is to keep the discussion forums, which are a big part of the class, focused on the same topic at around the same time.

    2. No, I think I’m remembering incorrectly. The videos may have been released in a weekly batch available for viewing whenever, but there was definitely a classroom feel to how the focus was kept on a particular topic each week.

      I’m making it sound maybe a little stodgy or regimented but it wasn’t at all. It turned into the sort of college class you’re excited to go to each week and then discuss the class afterwards in the library.

  10. I shan’t be enrolling cause it’s Maui time. I took the Brief History of Humankind this spring and did enjoy the comments too, but was amazed how quickly the nut jobs came out of the woodwork. I swear they would be lurking if it was a math course.

  11. I signed up for the course. I never took any biology classes in college because of my major, so better late than never.

  12. I really enjoyed doing the course – it got into the specifics of the mathematics that science books for the public just don’t go into. I guess the only quibble I would have is that it focused too much on the details and not enough on the big picture. I.e. There wasn’t much on what genetics tells us about evolutionary time and relatedness. Still, doing the course was more than worthwhile for me. I had fun, learnt a lot, and Dr Noor was a fantastic instructor.

  13. I LOVED this course, even though I had to take it twice to pass it. With no calculus background, I was at a bit of a disadvantage when it came to some of the more analytical stuff, but it was totally wort it to hang in there. People who are critical of all online learning need to be aware that when it’s done right, like this class was, it can have tremendous benefits. How else was I ever going to really learn this material? Going to a university is not a option for me right now.

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