Emergence of Life

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7/10 stars
based on  14 reviews
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Coursera online courses
Coursera's online classes are designed to help students achieve mastery over course material. Some of the best professors in the world - like neurobiology professor and author Peggy Mason from the University of Chicago, and computer science professor and Folding@Home director Vijay Pande - will supplement your knowledge through video lectures. They will also provide challenging assessments, interactive exercises during each lesson, and the opportunity to use a mobile app to keep up with yo...
Coursera's online classes are designed to help students achieve mastery over course material. Some of the best professors in the world - like neurobiology professor and author Peggy Mason from the University of Chicago, and computer science professor and Folding@Home director Vijay Pande - will supplement your knowledge through video lectures. They will also provide challenging assessments, interactive exercises during each lesson, and the opportunity to use a mobile app to keep up with your coursework. Coursera also partners with the US State Department to create “learning hubs” around the world. Students can get internet access, take courses, and participate in weekly in-person study groups to make learning even more collaborative. Begin your journey into the mysteries of the human brain by taking courses in neuroscience. Learn how to navigate the data infrastructures that multinational corporations use when you discover the world of data analysis. Follow one of Coursera’s “Skill Tracks”. Or try any one of its more than 560 available courses to help you achieve your academic and professional goals.

Provider Subject Specialization
Humanities
Sciences & Technology
4721 reviews

Course Description

How did life emerge on Earth? How have life and Earth co-evolved through geological time? Is life elsewhere in the universe? Take a look through the 4-billion-year history of life on Earth through the lens of the modern Tree of Life!
Reviews 7/10 stars
14 Reviews for Emergence of Life

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Rankings are based on a provider's overall CourseTalk score, which takes into account both average rating and number of ratings. Stars round to the nearest half.

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Gregory Bush profile image
Gregory Bush profile image
6/10 starsDropped
  • 9 reviews
  • 7 completed
5 years, 1 month ago
This class has been a disappointment so far. I was hoping we would get some interesting information about origins of life, but it looks like the entire OOL content of the course is about 5 minutes of vague, grade-school level explanation with no supporting evidence. You'd learn a hundred times more just from reading Wikipedia for a bit, which is sad. Worse, the initial lectures are full of factual errors and the quizzes are the worst I've seen on Coursera in terms of grading errors and ambiguous questions. The course seems to have been created to glorify Carl Woese and get him name recognition, and it verges on propaganda. It's interesting that he developed a phylogenetic technique and discovered Archaea, but statements like "before Woese, Biology wasn't even a science" seem ridiculous. The lectures do get better as the course progresses, but it wasn't really what I was looking for.
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Kristina Šekrst profile image
Kristina Šekrst profile image
8/10 starsCompleted
  • 102 reviews
  • 102 completed
2 years, 11 months ago
I have thought a lot what to give to this course, but I've decided it should have a nice grade nevertheless. It's a trip from the emergence of life to astrobiology, however you don't go much in details, except for the taxonomy. Both instructors were great, and I thought their teaching style was very nice, nevermind the mistakes. However, the course on the new platforms is extremely tiring, since you don't have the option to choose track: discussion essays - paper essays - quizzes, but you have to do them all. Therefore, you usually have to write 2 essays per week (of which one requires to read at least one or two scientific papers), and take one or two quizzes, which tend to go outside the lecture material. That is really difficult sometimes, and they should reorganize the course to fit the new platform better, hence 4 stars. I enjoyed the trouble that has been put into this course, with various examples, bibliography and graphics, s... I have thought a lot what to give to this course, but I've decided it should have a nice grade nevertheless. It's a trip from the emergence of life to astrobiology, however you don't go much in details, except for the taxonomy. Both instructors were great, and I thought their teaching style was very nice, nevermind the mistakes. However, the course on the new platforms is extremely tiring, since you don't have the option to choose track: discussion essays - paper essays - quizzes, but you have to do them all. Therefore, you usually have to write 2 essays per week (of which one requires to read at least one or two scientific papers), and take one or two quizzes, which tend to go outside the lecture material. That is really difficult sometimes, and they should reorganize the course to fit the new platform better, hence 4 stars. I enjoyed the trouble that has been put into this course, with various examples, bibliography and graphics, so I don't mind I got something different I had though I'll get. I enjoyed it a lot.
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Ramiro Aznar profile image
Ramiro Aznar profile image
9/10 starsCompleted
  • 27 reviews
  • 26 completed
5 years ago
I have deepen my knowledge on this matter. And I enjoyed doing it. I have also acquired new online tools that will be very helpful in a close future. The only flaw that I have seen in this course is the huge amount of work that it is needed to pass it. Especially the assingments, discussions and corrections. Some weeks I could not keep up.
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Charles King profile image
Charles King profile image
2/10 starsTaking Now
  • 6 reviews
  • 4 completed
5 years, 2 months ago
This course seems to be aimed at VERY low level. Don't take it expecting to learn much about Carl Woese's work, despite his prominence in the advert. All the references to him covered were the fact that he discovered Archaea and is a Great Man (really, all they managed to do was convey the idea that someone has a chip on his shoulder). It would have been much more useful if, instead of talking about how many grants he was refused, they covered things like horizontal gene transfer or RNAWorld with more than a passing mention. The videos are certainly quite professional and smart, but the content is severely lacking.
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H R profile image
H R profile image
3/10 starsTaking Now
  • 2 reviews
  • 1 completed
5 years, 2 months ago
This course drew me in with the promise of learning about how life began on earth; instead, it has been a collection of seemingly random topics picked from the first couple of billion years of Earth's existence. Only the first week really dealt with emergence, and very poorly at that. There is no depth to any of the topics. There are three ways to pass the course -- but no option of earning a statement of accomplishment unless you pay. (1) Earn 70%+ on peer-assessed discussion forum posts. (2) Earn 70%+ on peer-assessed "scientific" papers. (3) Earn 70%+ on weekly quizzes (two each week). The forum discussion topics to choose from each week are interesting, but many are not even related to the content for that week. I was initially so concerned about fulfilling the requirements of the discussion post that my posts were not interesting enough for anyone else to respond to -- and I don't blame them. I saw this happen week after week to... This course drew me in with the promise of learning about how life began on earth; instead, it has been a collection of seemingly random topics picked from the first couple of billion years of Earth's existence. Only the first week really dealt with emergence, and very poorly at that. There is no depth to any of the topics. There are three ways to pass the course -- but no option of earning a statement of accomplishment unless you pay. (1) Earn 70%+ on peer-assessed discussion forum posts. (2) Earn 70%+ on peer-assessed "scientific" papers. (3) Earn 70%+ on weekly quizzes (two each week). The forum discussion topics to choose from each week are interesting, but many are not even related to the content for that week. I was initially so concerned about fulfilling the requirements of the discussion post that my posts were not interesting enough for anyone else to respond to -- and I don't blame them. I saw this happen week after week to other people, as well. The three "scientific" papers throughout the course are not scientific at all. In fact, you are not supposed to cite sources. The multiple choice quizzes are probably the most frustrating component. Questions regularly don't make sense or don't have the correct answer in the options. One positive aspect of this course is the students who bring their deep knowledge in various science areas to the discussion forum. They have picked up on countless errors in the lectures and quizzes. I have learned more from my peers than from the professor. This course is lacking quite a bit in quality. I would not recommend it.
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Ellen McGowen profile image
Ellen McGowen profile image
2/10 starsDropped
  • 1 review
  • 0 completed
5 years, 2 months ago
Hands down the lamest MOOC I have ever taken. Most of the material seems intended for the elementary school level, is filled with factual errors, and is badly presented. The quizzes are uncoordinated with the lectures, ambiguous to the point of incoherency, and the "correct" answers are often completely wrong. Stay away from this stinker, and don't give Coursera $49 for it. There are some good astrobiology MOOCs out there; take one of them.
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Student profile image

Student

10/10 starsCompleted
5 years, 1 month ago
I had studied the topic by my own, basically reading about astrobiology but indeed I learned lot of new things, I love the structure of the course and the practical a innovative video-lectures, as well as the assignments and the support from NASA. Thank you
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Student profile image

Student

10/10 starsCompleted
5 years, 1 month ago
Amazing course and well NASA's contribution was great I learned a lot! Thanks
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Student

10/10 starsCompleted
5 years, 1 month ago
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James Long profile image
James Long profile image
10/10 starsTaking Now
  • 1 review
  • 0 completed
5 years, 1 month ago
Will complete the first time offering of the Emergence of Life tomorrow Sept 7, 2014. I have a lot to say about this inspiring course. 1\. I have BS engineering degree, Basic College Biology, no geology classes. 2\. This was one of the best classes I've ever took, I absorbed information, I got to speak a lot about what I learned and what is important to me, thoroughly enjoyed and had fun with all the material. 3\. What I liked: \- I liked Discussion Forums best (having the discussion board ranking really motivated me to raise my score) \- Video presentations - conversational style lecture in the professional studio with art and music. Small vignette videos. I could watch them many times, stop and take notes. The videos were really excellent \- No text book, all the materials on the website \- Writing the Paper assignments - Especially about Carl Woese \- Peer reviewing other student’s papers - I learned so much reflecting back on my ... Will complete the first time offering of the Emergence of Life tomorrow Sept 7, 2014. I have a lot to say about this inspiring course. 1\. I have BS engineering degree, Basic College Biology, no geology classes. 2\. This was one of the best classes I've ever took, I absorbed information, I got to speak a lot about what I learned and what is important to me, thoroughly enjoyed and had fun with all the material. 3\. What I liked: \- I liked Discussion Forums best (having the discussion board ranking really motivated me to raise my score) \- Video presentations - conversational style lecture in the professional studio with art and music. Small vignette videos. I could watch them many times, stop and take notes. The videos were really excellent \- No text book, all the materials on the website \- Writing the Paper assignments - Especially about Carl Woese \- Peer reviewing other student’s papers - I learned so much reflecting back on my paper. Incredible learning tool. \- Nigel Goldenfeld and Dr Fouke posting in discussion boards. \- Introduction posts, reading real people's comments from every continent was exhilarating. \- Emphasis on co-evolution. Incredible to study evolution from big bang to present. \- The pace and difficulty was very comfortable for me. A lot of material, but not overwhelming. 4\. What I disliked: The "themes of the Course" was incomplete in the Paper Rubric. The transcript on the lectures was not printable, or really readable. Better explanation of "emergence". I think some students thought this meant the bio-chemical process for abiogenesis. This concept is key in evolution, and a more precise definition from complexity science would be helpful. 5\. Suggestions Are weekly live sessions with a TA interviewing one lecturer, or other experts in the field? Let students give instant feedback on the course. Perhaps mp3 file downloads for audio only Maybe a video explanation about the instructions for the papers. Emphasize no references, and what is meant by role play. I was confused about what is meant by role play. It became clearer when I read the other student's papers.
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Eliza Bennett profile image
Eliza Bennett profile image
2/10 starsTaking Now
  • 2 reviews
  • 1 completed
5 years, 1 month ago
As others have said, this course has some major problems. It is mis-named since there is very little time spent on the actual emergence of life, and the topics that are covered are done in a very quick way. Factual errors abound in this course, so much so that I have almost dropped it several times. Dr Foulke seems like a pleasant person, and must have some expertise in geology and microbiology, but his knowledge of evolution seemed very thin. The other lecturer that does some of the course is absolutely terrible. Her lectures on plants were the lowest point of the course since she made many, many mistakes. Here are three things that would improve the course in my opinion. 1\. The presenters should take a few MOOCS themselves to see what makes a good one. For example, Intro to Human Evolution on edx with Adam Van Arsdale, Marine Megafauna, Archaeology's Dirty Little Secrets, and the Sports Anthropology course, all on courser... As others have said, this course has some major problems. It is mis-named since there is very little time spent on the actual emergence of life, and the topics that are covered are done in a very quick way. Factual errors abound in this course, so much so that I have almost dropped it several times. Dr Foulke seems like a pleasant person, and must have some expertise in geology and microbiology, but his knowledge of evolution seemed very thin. The other lecturer that does some of the course is absolutely terrible. Her lectures on plants were the lowest point of the course since she made many, many mistakes. Here are three things that would improve the course in my opinion. 1\. The presenters should take a few MOOCS themselves to see what makes a good one. For example, Intro to Human Evolution on edx with Adam Van Arsdale, Marine Megafauna, Archaeology's Dirty Little Secrets, and the Sports Anthropology course, all on coursera to name just a few. 2. The plant section should be completely reconsidered and presented by someone who actually likes plants, knows about them, and finds them interesting. 3. The course should be narrowed down to deal in detail with the actual emergence of life in a much more rigorous way. There were a few times I enjoyed the lectures, despite the above. The second week was interesting since it dealt with the 3 domains, and I did enjoy Dr Foulke's lecture about the alternation of dominance between the synapsids and diapsids towards the end of the course. I also found a few good resources thanks to others on the forums. One, ironically, was a panel of scientists talking to high school students about the KT extinction event, and dealt with the topic at a much higher level than the course! I hope Dr Fouke finds a way to improve this course. As it stands now, there are far better MOOCs out there.
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Stef profile image
Stef profile image
6/10 starsCompleted
  • 2 reviews
  • 2 completed
5 years, 1 month ago
I have a general interest in paleontology and have recently taken a MOOC on dinosaurs. This course is a not-quite-random sampling of various thoughts/methods/facts about paleontology and evolution. I'd say the difficulty level and general tone is pitched at high school children and possibly upper grade school kids with a strong interest in the subject. This was the first time the course was offered and like many first-time MOOCs it had some problems. On the positive side, I very much felt the instructors were having fun with the course and that made me happy. Carly is an especially engaging lecturer. I loved all the background graphics; someone put a lot of effort into those. The course material could use more organization. The quizzes were all over the place. Some questions were interesting and made me think, but others had a lot of problems. Quite a few questions were misleading (i.e. more than one answer fit the question, but only... I have a general interest in paleontology and have recently taken a MOOC on dinosaurs. This course is a not-quite-random sampling of various thoughts/methods/facts about paleontology and evolution. I'd say the difficulty level and general tone is pitched at high school children and possibly upper grade school kids with a strong interest in the subject. This was the first time the course was offered and like many first-time MOOCs it had some problems. On the positive side, I very much felt the instructors were having fun with the course and that made me happy. Carly is an especially engaging lecturer. I loved all the background graphics; someone put a lot of effort into those. The course material could use more organization. The quizzes were all over the place. Some questions were interesting and made me think, but others had a lot of problems. Quite a few questions were misleading (i.e. more than one answer fit the question, but only one answer was arbitrarily assigned as right). Sometimes the correct answer depending on remembering the precise wording of the lecturer. The answers were not explained and because the quizzes had a hard deadline at the end of the course, students were discouraged from discussing the answers in the forums. I did not participate in the other assignments (posting essays to the forums, analyzing scientific papers).
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Student profile image

Student

10/10 starsCompleted
5 years, 1 month ago
This course was exactly what I expected and I liked it all!
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Michael Milburn profile image
Michael Milburn profile image
7/10 starsCompleted
  • 6 reviews
  • 6 completed
4 years, 10 months ago
Summary: I enjoyed the class, but it's not quite what I expected. It's not really so much about the emergence of life, as it is a history of life at various stages in the earth's history, along w/ an out of place final quiz concerned a great deal about NASA's mission to Pluto? My background: I have casual familiarity w/ the topic. I read quite a bit of Stephen Jay Gould as I was growing up, and am generally interested, but I am not a scientist professionally. I just like learning and thinking about these things. Positives: Both Bruce Fouke and Carly Miller are good in the videos. As with any class where the science is still in question there may be some things in the lectures that are disagreeable/contestable (like naked RNA world hypothesis) and you'll see that mentioned in other reviews, but that didn't really bother me so much as it leads to good questions in my mind along w/ spurring me to learn more. Visit the discussion boards ... Summary: I enjoyed the class, but it's not quite what I expected. It's not really so much about the emergence of life, as it is a history of life at various stages in the earth's history, along w/ an out of place final quiz concerned a great deal about NASA's mission to Pluto? My background: I have casual familiarity w/ the topic. I read quite a bit of Stephen Jay Gould as I was growing up, and am generally interested, but I am not a scientist professionally. I just like learning and thinking about these things. Positives: Both Bruce Fouke and Carly Miller are good in the videos. As with any class where the science is still in question there may be some things in the lectures that are disagreeable/contestable (like naked RNA world hypothesis) and you'll see that mentioned in other reviews, but that didn't really bother me so much as it leads to good questions in my mind along w/ spurring me to learn more. Visit the discussion boards that accompany the class as I picked up quite a few good counterpoints/references to studies/other information there. I particularly enjoyed the videos w/ Carly Miller describing the morphological characteristics of fossils - such as hip bone shapes, skull shape features, teeth, etc - and how those features inform identification and infer biological characteristics. There was a quiz section on dinosaur tracks and the mathematical relationships to strides, height, creature speed that I found particularly interesting. Discussion of birds, and with flight evolving 3 separate times independently was good - showing the morphological differences. Negatives: If you're already familiar w/ the topic, much of the class will feel "surfacy." I consider myself having just casual interest and I enjoyed quite a bit of it, but I can imagine others who are wanting to learn in depth will desire quite a bit more detail than is here. (the discussion boards can be your friend in this regard). In the end, I guess I enjoyed the class, but wished there was more about "emergence" - that point when systems transitioned from chemical like reactions into something more life-like. As with anything, what we see is probably through the lens that we bring to the class, but I think it strengthens my view that ecological space is needed for new organisms to evolve. Following extinction events we rarely see the same type of animals evolve again (success of mammals probably doesn't happen without extinction of dinosaurs) - but it does seem to take a catastrophe/extinction event to often open up space for nature to do some radical new experimenting. This observation informs views on other evolving systems - like economic systems - and the dynamics of corporations within those economies.
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