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Open Online Courses in Microbiology

What is Microbiology?

Microbiology is a part of the broader study of biology, focusing on how small living things, such as those made of single cells, small cell clusters, or no cells at all, live and function. Microbiology is split into several other courses of study, such as mycology (the study of fungi), virology (the study of viruses), bacteriology (the study of bacteria), immunology (the study of the immune system), and parasitology (the study of parasites), among other fields. All areas within microbiology, however, focus on the smallest elements of biological systems and how they interact with other biological and chemical agents.

Some microbiology specializations focus on specific elements that occur in multiple microbiological systems or on the applications of microbiology knowledge. These fields include microbial ecology (the relations between small organisms and their environment), microbial genetics (the organization of genes in small organisms), medical microbiology (the relationship between small organisms and human health), and food microbiology (the study of organisms that cause food to spoil).

What Can Online Courses in Microbiology Actually Teach Me?

Microbiology programs are not accredited by a centralized accrediting body in the United States. As a result, you could take different courses during a microbiology program at one university from those you would take at another. However, all college microbiology programs should familiarize you with a similar body of content through courses taught by professors with a Ph.D. in microbiology or a related field. Although an online microbiology course can inform you about the basic theories and practices of microbiology, it generally cannot help you learn the laboratory techniques necessary for success in the field. Online microbiology courses also cannot familiarize you with laboratory equipment such as light microscopes, which are commonly used for microbiology work.

Online courses in microbiology are useful for teaching topics such as introductory microbiology, bacteriology, virology, microbial ecology, and systems microbiology. In an online microbiology class, you can expect to learn how to answer a variety of microbiology questions, including:

  • How do microorganisms impact human life?
  • How do parasites interact with their hosts?
  • How do bacteria grow?
  • Which microorganisms cause which diseases?
  • How can diseases caused by microorganisms be treated?

If you do decide to take online courses in microbiology, you should make sure to do your research on the school you are considering. Does the school have regional accreditation from an accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)? Is the course you intend to take taught by a professor with a Ph.D. in microbiology or a related field from an accredited institution? Does the school have a strong reputation for microbiology?

Free Online Courses in Microbiology From Around the Web

Below, we have created a directory of open courseware related to the field of microbiology for you to peruse. Open courseware consists of free video lectures, tests, lesson notes, and other course materials from prominent colleges in several countries. This courseware does not give you the opportunity to work with experienced faculty and professionals in the microbiology field and is no substitute for a college education. However, this coursework can be a good starting point if you are considering studying microbiology.


Microbiology (5)

MBI200 MicrobiologyTufts University

Open Courseware

Biology, Science, Infectious Disease
Taught by: Joan Mecsas

Course Description:

This 42-week microbiology online course was published in Fall 2004 and is only meant for second-year students and above. While attending, you will examine the behavior and evolution of microbial pathogens as they develop into infectious diseases. Additionally, the instructors make special provisions in the description that this course opts to focus on the biological origin of infectious disease instead of its social and political repercussions. During the course, you will be responsible for completing 37 lectures, six independent lab assignments and a final examination.

Systems MicrobiologyMassachusetts Institute of Technology

Open Courseware

Microbiology, Systems, Diseases
Taught by: Prof. David Schauer, Prof. Edward DeLong

Course Description:

This MIT Courseware covers introductory microbiology from the perspective of biological systems. Topics include genomics, population dynamics and microbial diversity. This lecture-note based course provides an overview of how humans and microbes interact and discusses the what transforms them into infectious disease and antimicrobial resistance. The course covers specific case studies on infectious disease: Legionnaire's disease, tuberculosis, the plague and covers such topics as vaccines, toxins and biodefense. This course is designed for indepdent study and includes exams and assignments.

Environmental MicrobiologyMassachusetts Institute of Technology

Open Courseware

Microbiology, Environment, Microorganisms
Taught by: Prof. Martin Polz

Course Description:

MIT Courseware is designed to provide students access to online learning. This class discusses the diverse role of microorganisms in natural and artificial environments, including cellular architectures and cellular growth. A focus on evolution and gene flow follows, with an overview on how community dynamics affects population. Sub-topics include water and soil microbiology, biogeochemical cycling on microorganisms in biodeterioration and bioremediation. This lecture-notes based course is self-paced and includes pdfs to each segment.

Cell BiologyMassachusetts Institute of Technology

Open Courseware

Microbiology, Environment, Microorganisms, Cells
Taught by: Prof. Hidde Ploegh, Prof. Terry Orr-Weaver

Course Description:

This MIT Courseware covers how the cells of higher organisms function from a biological perspective. It covers oncogenic transformation and cellular growth phases, biosynthesis of cell organelles and discuss cellular membrane formation. This class covers the fundaments of cell transformation, host transport, cellular receptors and how signals works within and with other cells. It also covers RNA synthesis. This self-paced lecture-note based course includes assignments and exams. Recommended prerequisites include an understanding of molecular biology, genetics and general biochemistry.

Fundamentals of BiologyMassachusetts Institute of Technology

Open Courseware

Biology, Molecular Biology, Cells
Taught by: Prof. Eric Lander, Prof. Robert Weinberg, Prof. Tyler Jacks, Prof. Hazel Sive, Prof. Graham Walker, Prof. Sallie Chisholm, Dr. M

Course Description:

This MIT Courseware course covers the basic elements of biology in four units which can be take all at once or one at a time at the student's pace. The principles of genetics, recombinant DNA, biochemisty and molecular biology are taught in this courseware. These fundamentals help students understand how life and biological systems function, while providing an understanding of how biological systems function from the macro to the cellular levels. Relevant topics such as biodiversity, enivoronmental quality and disease are covered in this courseware. This course is designed for independent study and is presented in a video format with self-paced problem sets, exams.