Biology as a discipline is one of the most important subjects that can be studied. Biology is the central component of the study of all living things. Biology shapes the medical field, agriculture, genetic studies, ecology, paleontology and more. For the contribution to the betterment of society, no field of study is more important than biology. Thanks to biology, individuals in 2018 live much more comfortably than they would have several hundred years ago. Because of this, many individuals including students and professionals may choose to advance their education in the field of biology even if they do not have a formalized interest in the subject. Anyone can benefit from online biology classes.

Studying Biology is Beneficial for All

That’s right. Even if you aren’t specifically studying biology, or any science for that matter, you can still benefit from an advanced understanding of biological concepts.

Since Biology is the study of all living things it has multiple applications for our lives. Biology helps us

  • Better understand our bodies and how to properly nourish them for the most effective use of nutrition
  • Better comprehend illnesses, how to avoid them, and how to treat or cure them if we encounter them
  • Keep our bodies and minds strong through studying the effectiveness of various physical fitness methods
  • Progress the importance of nature conservation efforts
  • Improve agriculture and food production

​The list could go on and on.

​Top 8 Best Online Biology Classes

In this guide, we’ll outline some of the best online biology classes offered on the web.  

​5 Brief Lessons on Biology: A Concise Study of Our Living World – Udemy

This course, offered by Udemy, is a very bare-bones overview of the subject of biology. While it is not an in-depth course on any particular subject, it serves the purpose of introduction or refresher course perfectly.

The course is taught by Mary Poffenroth, a Fear Researcher, Speaker and University Biology Lecturer. Mary began her initial scientific research in the field of astrophysiology for NASA but now researches the intersection of fear science, communication, and personal & social change.

The course is currently being offered for $9.99, an 80 percent price reduction, which includes lifetime access to the course.

The course primarily has video and audio elements but includes some supplemental research information as well. Because this course is an introduction to biology, no prior science background is required.

​Introduction to Genetics and Evolution – Coursera

Genetics and evolution are two fundamental studies within the field of biology. Genetics studies heredity and inherited characteristics of humans and animals. Evolution is the process that living organisms developed through. An understanding of the two areas of study provides a solid overview of much of the scientific aspects of life as we know it.

On Coursera, this is one of the specialized online biology classes offered for free. The class is offered through Duke University and can be taken beginning at one of about 13 average yearly start dates. All course materials including lectures, quizzes, tests and other supplementary materials are available to the student completely free of charge. The only way you will need to pay for anything in this course is if you choose to pay for a shareable certificate of completion which costs a one-time fee of $49.

This particular course is offered simultaneously as the in-person section at Duke University.

​Introduction to the Biology of Cancer – Coursera

Cancer is clearly not a conventionally pleasant subject, but in our day and age, it is becoming increasingly necessary that we understand prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of the disease. To understand cancer better, we turn to biology.

Introduction to the Biology of Cancer is a course created by Johns Hopkins University. It is offered as one of Coursera’s free online classes. The only need to pay for this class is if you wish to receive a shareable certificate to prove you completed all of the coursework – the course with the final certificate costs $49.

The course consists of lecture videos, readings, and quizzes. You are expected to complete the entire course in six weeks and to spend 1-4 hours approximately every week. Topics covered include:

  • Incidence and etiology of cancer
  • Genetics of cancer
  • Cellular hallmarks of cancer
  • Metastasis
  • Oncological Imaging
  • Treatment of cancer

Johns Hopkins University is clear in stating who this course is for and who it is not for. The course is intended for future or current medical professionals, those who are generally interested in the biological aspects of cancer, or researches. The class is “not intended for patients seeking treatment guidance.”

Quantitative Biology Workshop – edX

Quantitative biology is the study of life and organisms that always accompanies the term “biology” but coupled with the use of technological tools and programming to better understand conducted research. The courses integrate programming languages including MATLAB, PyMOL, StarGenetics, Python, and R to better understand a few biological topics.

Biological topics covered in the course include:

  • Population biology
  • Biochemical equilibrium and kinetics
  • Molecular modeling of enzymes
  • Visual neuroscience
  • Genetics
  • Gene expression and development
  • Genomics

Students with either a background in programming or in biology will find interest in the course. Some weeks will be easier for one group and not for the other and vice versa.

The Quantitative Biology Workshop offered on edX is offered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or MIT. The course is offered free of charge but, similarly to Coursera, a certificate can be purchased to provide official proof of completion. Licensure for that certificate costs $49, though all course materials are fully accessible in the free version of the course.

The course has six instructors – all from MIT – and include biology and physics professors and academics.

The course is eight weeks long and should require about 4-8 hours weekly.

​Music as Biology: What We Like to Hear and Why – Duke Coursera

Music is universally understood. Across the globe, one passion unites much of humanity: musical interest.

Music as Biology explores that topic and explains why music is enjoyed to the extent that it is. In an era where it seems like no one can agree on anything, how does one aspect of daily life sit so well with so many people?

The answer lies in biology.

Music as biology is offered by Duke University through Coursera. It is one of the more interesting online biology classes available.

Music is a display of untamable creativity, but can also be studied scientifically. When examined through the lenses of biology, music can be deconstructed into tones that we find pleasant or unpleasant, that we find to elicit specific emotions, and that are largely similar across the globe.

Around 50 percent of those who completed the course report having found a new job after completing this course and upwards of 83 percent of those who saw the course out to completion say they received at least one tangible benefit in their existing career from having taken this course.

This course is self-paced and will take about 13 hours. It is recommended that the course lasts around two weeks.

​Introductory Biology – Udemy

Again, Udemy provides a fantastic example of online biology classes that are a general overview of the subject. The introductory biology course on Udemy is offered by Thomas Amann, a biology professor at Macomb Community College in Michigan.

Amann reports that this class takes a unique approach to learning that helps students better understand presented materials. He calls it a “flipped classroom.” Keeping in mind that in a traditional classroom setting, lectures have specified starting and stopping points and that students must be able to retain all the information presented within those times, Amann notes that classes are more efficient when students control their own pace.

“If a student is given access to the content, they can control lecture pace and be able to pause and ‘rewind’ when necessary. With biology being a details-based science, having that control can make a significant difference in understanding lectures better.”

The course is comprehensive and completely free. It contains over 35 lectures.

For $, the student can receive an official certificate of completion for the course that they can share with their work, put on their resume, or online profile.

​Animals at the Extremes: Polar Biology – The Open University

The Open University is a UK-based university that specializes in off-campus learning. It is actually classified as one of the world’s largest universities, having over 200,000 enrolled. It is also one of only three UK-based universities to be accredited by a U.S. accreditation commission. The Open University is officially recognized as an accredited university by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

The Open University offers their course Animals at the Extremes: Polar Biology completely free. The course explores the biology of life at the most extremely cold regions on the planet: the poles. The Arctic is filled with interesting life like reindeer, polar bears, and even humans.

The course also provides a glimpse at adaptation and evolution, showing how life is affected by the environment surrounding it.

The course is made up of 14 hours of study and is rated as a level 2 class, or an intermediate level class.

As far as online biology classes go, this one is certainly a valid course. It is offered directly from a university, though, there is nothing wrong with various other courses that are offered on third party learning platforms.

One specific benefit of taking this Open University course is that, upon completion, you are provided with a certificate of completion without having to pay an additional fee.

​Dino 101: Dinosaur Paleobiology – Coursera

The University of Alberta offers this interesting course on the biology of dinosaurs through the Coursera platform. Topics covered apply specifically to non-aviary dinosaurs and cover a lot of the lifestyle of some of the oldest studied creatures. The course covers:

  • Anatomy
  • Eating
  • Locomotion
  • Growth
  • Environmental and behavioral adaptations
  • Origins and extinction

The course is instructed by Dr. Phillip John Currie, a Professor and Canada Research Chair of Dinosaur Paleobiology at the University of Alberta.

The course is free if you do not mind completing it without receiving a certificate at the end. If you wish to receive the certificate showing you completed the course, it will cost you $​$.

This class is labeled as a beginning course and should only take around 15 hours to complete in totality. It is recommended, however, that you extend the course to around 12 weeks, spending 1-2 hours weekly.

A unique feature of this course is that all lectures are presented from museums, dig sites and other important locations for the field of paleontology.

Though paleontological biology seems like a specialized subject, previous students of this course report on the ease and even equate it with “watching nature documentaries.” You are not expected to be an expert on dinosaurs, this class is enjoyable for everyone who just wants to learn something new about the world around us.

Online Biology Classes Can be Quite Rewarding

While it may seem daunting, biology is a field of study that pays you back for studying it. By gaining a better understanding of the various aspects of the world around us, we are able to better appreciate the life we live.

The earth is intricate, and science shows us that it always has been and always will be. Whatever your station in life is, you have something to gain from learning more about biology. Whether you’re a researcher, a student, a working professional, or any other kind of learner, you may want to look into finding a biology class that will spark your interest.

In this guide, we provided a brief overview of ten online biology classes. Hopefully, one of them seems interesting to you. But if not, there is no reason to worry. In 2018, there are nearly endless options for online education and many of them are even accessible for free. A quick search around our site or around the web will provide you with enough options for you to be able to find the perfect class for you.

What are you waiting for? You’re living on this planet, why not learn a little bit more about it?