Emergence of Life - Online course by University of Illinois

Emergence of Life - Online course

University of Illinois gives a 8 week study on Emergence of life. The course deals with:How did life emerge on Earth? How have life and Earth co-evolved through geological time? Is life elsewhere in the universe? And a look through the 4-billion-year history of life on Earth through the lens of the modern Tree of Life.


About the course
The course will evaluate the entire history of life on Earth within the context of our cutting-edge understanding of the Tree of Life. It also includes reconnaissance of ancient primordial life before the first cell had evolved, the entire ~4-billion-year development of single- and multi-celled life through the lens of the Tree of Life, and the influence of Earth system processes (meteor impacts, volcanoes, ice sheets) on shaping and structuring the Tree. The synthesis emphasizes the universality of the emergence of life as a prelude for the search for extraterrestrial life.

Course Syllabus
Week 1: Course Welcome, Geological Time, and the Nature of Science
Week 2: The Tree of Life and Early Earth Environments
Week 3: Fossilization and Precambrian Life-Earth Interaction
Week 4: Paleozoic Life After the Advent of Skeletons
Week 5: Paleozoic Plants, Reptiles, and the Transition to Land
Week 6: Mesozoic Reign of Dinosaurs and the Development of Flight
Week 7: Cenozoic Mammals and Global Environmental Change
Week 8: Astrobiology and the Search for Life in the Cosmos


  • No specific background is required, other than an open mind and an eagerness to apply critical free thought and approaches of scientific inquiry to explore how life on Earth came to be in its current form, and whether there is life elsewhere in the cosmos.
  • No textbooks are required. A few articles will be recommended to read, but not required.

Course Format

  • The class will consist of 8-12 lecture videos per week, which are between 8 and 12 minutes in length.
  • These contain 1-2 integrated quiz questions per video.
  • There will also be standalone homeworks that are not part of video lectures, weekly quizzes, and other assignments.

Course Sessions
July 14, 2104 - September 7, 2014

For more information, click here.

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