Introduction to Genetics and Evolution is a college-level class being offered simultaneously to new students at Duke University. The course gives interested people a very basic overview of some principles behind these very fundamental areas of biology. We often hear about new "genome sequences," commercial kits that can tell you about your ancestry (including pre-human) from your DNA or disease predispositions, debates about the truth of evolution, why animals behave the way they do, and how people found "genetic evidence for natural selection." 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). No prior coursework is assumed.
Welcome to Genetics and Evolution General introduction to this MOOC, including coverage and expectations.
Evidence for Evolution This module discusses the definition of the word "evolution" in a biological context, evidence for the truth of evolution and common ancestry of species, and public thoughts and misconceptions about biological evolution. This module is optional and will not be included in the course assessments. There are not class discussion forums for this section, as we feel such discussion can happen on other, non-course-related, sites on this topic (of which there are a great many on the internet).
Genetics I An introduction to basic transmission genetics and inheritance. This module reflects what is often covered in high school biology courses in the USA.
Genetics II This module delves somewhat more deeply into genetics and specifically the concept of "recombination." It begins to discuss how recombination is leveraged in classic genetic works as well as mapping simple genetic traits using crosses or data from natural populations.
Genetics III This module delves even more deeply into the complexities of the genetics underlying traits,the origin of genetic variation, and how "complex" traits (ones controlled by multiple genes) are studied genetically.
Heritability and Population Growth This module begins the transition to evolutionary genetics by looking at the relative contributions of genetics and environment to traits, and also introduces how population growth is studied.
Population Genetics I Rather than looking at individuals, this module discusses how multiple individuals from natural populations can be studied genetically to begin to understand the evolutionary forces acting upon the populations.
Population Genetics II This module extends the previous one to specifically examine the effects of natural selection and genetic drift on genetic variation in natural populations.
Molecular Evolution This advanced module explains why sexual reproduction (involving recombination) is evolutionarily advantageous, and discusses how the analysis of DNA sequences can be used to understand the evolutionary forces acting on populations or species, either in general or at specific genes.
Adaptive Behaviors and Sexual Selection This module changes gears a bit to look at the exciting field of animal behavior-- specifically, how particular behaviors are or may be adaptive, and why individuals choose particular others as mates.
Speciation and Phylogenetics This module gets into the nitty gritty of what causes the formation of new species, and how evolutionary relationships between species are inferred.
Applied Evolution This final module talks about applications and misapplications of many of the concepts discussed in the course to human health, understanding, and well-being. This module is optional and not included in the assessments.
MOOCs stand for Massive Open Online Courses. These arefree online courses from universities around the world (eg. StanfordHarvardMIT) offered to anyone with an internet connection.
How do I register?
To register for a course, click on "Go to Class" button on the course page. This will take you to the providers website where you can register for the course.
How do these MOOCs or free online courses work?
MOOCs are designed for an online audience, teaching primarily through short (5-20 min.) pre recorded video lectures, that you watch on weekly schedule when convenient for you. They also have student discussion forums, homework/assignments, and online quizzes or exams.
I'm taking this course currently and already running ahead of schedule on Week 3 despite the course set to begin 10 days later. It's solely because of the interesting way in which the material is presented by Professor Noor and how well he organises the ideas he has to convey. He also offers great resources. The quizzes aren't too easy and aren't too hard. They just require some effort, which is nice.
I have a little bit of advice though. It would be great to have an understanding of basic genetics and cellular reproduction before you take this course: things like mitosis, meiosis, DNA replication, transcription, translation, basics of Mendel's laws etc. I took a semester of General Biology before this course, which made me comfortable even as he whizzed by these topics in the first two weeks. I'd definitely have had to put in more effort on my own to understand these things had I not known them before.
This is an excellent class. The topic is interesting and very relevant today with the availability of direct-to-consumer DNA analysis. Prof. Noor has put together a wide array of material that will enable you to much better understand and appreciate the beauty of evolution and the power genomics is bringing to our world.
There are no prerequisites. The class took a fair bit of effort to answer a problem set each week. The problem sets were well designed. The two exams were challenging and fun. If you've gotten an analysis from 23andMe, you should take this class.
My biggest reward came a day ago when I looked at a journal paper online with an interesting title. While I didn't understand everything, I could read and make sense of much of the material. Thank you Prof Noor!
Very well done with an engaging, enthusiastic professor. Material presented in a clear, logical format. Challenging enough to make you think, but within the scope of an "Introduction" level class. Problem sets and exams were fairly framed using the information presented in the course but requiring some thought, not taken right from the lectures. Professor was actively involved in the discussion forums directly with students.
I've taken about half a dozen courses at coursera and udacity so far, and this has been the best - mainly because of the enthusiasm of Prof. Noor and his ability to get even complex ideas across in an entertaining & clear manner. The content of the course is mid-level - not trivially simple and not excessively hard. Expect to put in some work, but it's well worth the effort.
Excellent class! Dr. Noor is an outstanding professor...very down to earth with a good sense of humor. All topics are explained clearly. Exams can be challenging, but are reasonable. If you have an interest in evolution and genetics, you should take this class. Dr. Noor teaches it in a way that anyone can understand, with no pre-requisites.
Lectures are from a high energy and enthusiastic teacher who encourages questions on the forum and participates in discussions. Content is up to date and engaging. It's hard to keep up, but when you're learning so much it's worthwhile.