List of Free Online Biology Courses and Classes
See our list of the top free online biology courses. Learn about what courses are available, what topics they cover and whether you can use them to get college credit.
Online Biology Courses for Credit
College credit isn't usually available through free online courses, so students who plan to pursue a college degree might want to look into online courses that do offer a credited option. These courses charge a small fee, but at a much lower rate than what the course would cost at a traditional college campus.
Education Portal's Biology 101: Intro to Biology course provides an efficient and affordable path to college credit. You can read the transcripts for these lessons at no cost, or you can become a member and have access to all the video lessons for this course. Your membership also includes quizzes that you can use to test your knowledge of the subject matter. Chapters in this course include:
- Introduction to Organic Chemistry - Topics in this chapter include organic molecules, carbohydrates, lipids and proteins.
- Cell Biology - Learn about the fluid mosaic model, passive and active cell transport, the cytoskeleton, plant cell structures and viruses.
- Plant Reproduction and Growth - Subjects covered in this chapter include alternation of generations, life cycles of moss and ferns, asexual plant reproduction, photoperiodicity, seasonal growth cycles and plant hormones.
- Genetics: Principles of Heredity - This chapter covers alleles, Mendel's laws, chromosomal linkage and exceptions to simple dominance and independent assortment.
- Phylogeny and the Classification of Organisms - Find out about taxonomy, evolution classifications, plant and fungi evolution and the evolution of animals and humans.
Free Online Non-Credited Biology Courses
Many universities offer free, online biology classes for students without prior knowledge who are interested in the field as well as for those who have a biology background and are ready to further their knowledge of biology. It's common for the classes to include online readings and lectures, with a handful of classes allowing students to download video and audio lectures to help them understand the material. These classes do not offer credit. No classes need to be completed in a specific amount of time. Rather, the classes allow students to work independently.
African Virtual University
African Virtual University provides course material in various formats, including QuickTime video files, Microsoft Word downloadable documents and PDF files. The course Evolution Biology discusses how environmental factors influence evolutionary change through natural selection. It delves into evidence that supports the theory of evolution, including cell biology and biochemistry studies. Students can get a unique perspective on biological diversity and learn about human evolution. The course is accessible through various formats, and in addition to text lessons, students are provided with quizzes, assignments and useful links.
Johns Hopkins University
John Hopkins University provides a course syllabus, links to readings and lecture notes. Public Health Biology uses biological and molecular biology concepts to explore the issues surrounding public health. Students can learn about topics such as cancer, pathogens, treatment and genetics. Through lessons and readings, they can develop an understanding of the latest biological research.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Introduction to Biology
- Introductory Biology
- Fundamentals of Biology
- Biological Chemistry II
- Experimental Biology & Communication
- Topics in Experimental Biology
- Systems Biology
- Genomics and Computational Biology
MIT courses generally include some or all of the original courses' lectures. These may be presented in PDF, audio and/or video formats. Assignments and exams may also be provided, though not necessarily with answers. Reading lists are also often included, though online users may not be able to access these for free.
Introduction to Biology is an undergraduate class that gives an overview of the field, covering cell biology, biochemistry, genetics and molecular biology. Students have online access to 35 video lectures, a few readings and assignments with solutions. There are also quizzes and answers available. There is another undergraduate class that gives students an entry-level synopsis of the field, Introductory Biology. Students can access video and audio lectures that cover concepts including cancer, cloning fertility and cell biology. Fundamentals of Biology focuses on biochemistry, DNA and genetics. This undergraduate-level class gives students the ability to learn about the field through lectures, videos and handouts. Students can work independently and test their knowledge by downloading exams that have answer keys.
Biological Chemistry II provides students with an overview of high-level biochemical activities. It covers topics like cell regulation, metabolism, biosynthesis and protein degradation. Students can access 35 lectures and 6 problem set assignments in addition to links to useful training websites.
Students who would like to learn about experiments and laboratories can take Experimental Biology & Communication, which covers experimental design, procedures and research design. There are handouts that students can download to understand the terms and key phrases used in a lab setting. Another class, Topics in Experimental Biology, is designed for students who want to learn about the research process. Students learn about ethics, research designs and journal writing through lecture notes. Students can also access online study groups to share information with fellow students.
The class Genomics and Computational Biology is meant for the undergraduate and graduate levels of study. There is a series of online audio slides that highlight complex biological networks and models and show how they could be applied to real-life issues, such as medicine and genetic engineering. Students can download problem sets and then go over them with the answer keys, which are also available online. Systems Biology is a graduate-level class that covers topics like cell biology and genetics. Students can download online lectures that explore key research and findings in the field, on topics like chemotaxis, oscillation, and eukaryotic gradient sensing. Links to reading assignments are also available.
Open University includes a selection of courses that range in level and amount of time needed to complete them. Courses usually include a list of learning outcomes, set of lessons that include images and/or diagrams, questions and a summary. Evolution Through Natural Selection is an introductory course that focuses on Charles Darwin and his biological theories. Students can learn about key evolutionary concepts, including genetic drift and mutation, through online lessons.
Through Tufts University's OpenCourseWare (OCW) system, online students can typically access some or all lecture notes from original courses as well as reading lists. Biology of Water and Health includes 10 sets of lecture note slides and 10 sets of reading links that cover topics like waterborne diseases and chemicals, epidemiology, water sanitation and water needs in areas of natural disaster. Online students can gain a new perspective on how biological agents in water affect human health.
Yale's open courses usually include sets of lectures that can be viewed through video, audio or text format. Principles of Evolution, Ecology and Behavior is designed for undergraduate students who want to learn about the role of evolution and ecology in human behavior and biology. There are 36 online lectures that cover concepts like species and selection, natural selection and natural selection. Students can also download exams to test their understanding of the material; answers are included.