Biology is the study of how living things grow, interact with one another, and function internally. Because its subject matter is so diverse, biology is broken apart into more than 50 sub-disciplines that include botany (the study of plants), genetics (the study of DNA, genes, and hereditary traits), and zoology (the study of animals). However, though it has many niches, all areas of study in biology share a core set of principles: all living things are made of cells, which pass hereditary information to new generations through genes, expressing new traits and creating new species prompted by evolution, while consuming and changing energy in the process. This is all accepted under the main idea that living things naturally maintain their own internal stability (a concept known as homeostasis).
It is important for you to know that there is no programmatic accrediting agency for college biology programs in the United States. This means that curricula are not standardized: a biology graduate from College A may have taken different courses than a graduate from College B. However, it is generally accepted that each of these graduates will have the same basic understanding of the fundamentals of biology, taught by doctorate-holding professionals in the field. An online biology course can expose you to the theoretical foundations of the science, but can do little else beyond that. Biology is a hands-on discipline that requires rigorous laboratory work for a true “three-dimensional” educational experience.
Online courses in biology can be effective for learning things like microbiology, genetics, the principles of disease transfer, cellular biology, developmental biology, protein folding, computational biology, and molecular biology. In these online courses you can expect to be taught how to answer questions like:
If you decide that you want to take an online biology class, make sure you do some research prior to enrolling. What is your choice institution’s reputation in this discipline? Who will be teaching your class—do they have a Ph.D. in biology? Have they been working in a field closely related to what they are teaching? Can you find reviews of other students’ experiences with this professor?
Below, we have compiled and organized open courseware relevant to biology for you. Open courseware is a collection of video-based lectures, tests, quizzes, and other related course material from prominent colleges around the world. This information is offered for free, but does not include an option to work directly with a professor. These online biology courses can be a good start for someone who is considering taking online courses at an established university.