Welcome to Evolution: A Course for Educators! We’re excited to have almost 13,000 students enrolled in the course and look forward to spending the next four weeks together as we learn about the Tree of Life, natural selection, the history of life, and human evolution, as well as how to incorporate an exploration of these issues into your classrooms.You can earn a "Verified Certificate" by paying $29.00.
Additional support staff ...
Samuel Crane holds a Ph.D. in Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and Behavior from the Biology Department at City University of New York. His research focuses on the molecular ecology and evolution of small populations, chiefly agricultural pests. He has developed science curricula for NYC public high schools, taught undergraduate courses in biology, and was an NSF GK-12 Teaching Fellow.
Armistead Booker is a media and information designer at the American Museum of Natural History with a background in geology, art history, education, and digital strategy. He produces the visual elements of the Museum's professional development courses and other online resources for students and teachers.
Dan Wolff is the project coordinator for Seminars on Science at the American Museum of Natural History. He earned a B.S. in Geology from Vassar College and an M.S. in Environmental Studies from Montclair State University. Dan is a Ph.D. candidate in the Science Education program at Teachers College, Columbia University.
Maria Janelli is the manager of Online Teacher Education Programs at the American Museum of Natural History. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from Saint Peter’s University, an M.A. in English Literature from Rutgers University, and an M.A. in Anthropology from Columbia University. She has spent the past decade working in the educational technology world.
- Change over time
- Change in heritable features over time within populations
- Origin of new life forms (species and groups of species): diversity
- Descent with modification: descendants inherit their characteristics from common ancestors
Cracraft then went on to describe Darwin's two most important ideas: descent with modification and natural selection.
The only way that a MOOC can really be effective is in the discussion groups. Ideally, these should be mandatory and they should consist of small numbers of students, like a real tutorial. There are 13,000 students enrolled in the course. This is impossible.
There are several threads in the discussion forums. The most popular is the "Introduce yourself" thread where there are 175 posts. I think this represents about 150 different students for a whopping 1.3% of the class! That thread has 766 views but that's likely to represent only 500 different students. I think it's safe to say that the vast majority of students are not going to participate in the discussion groups.
I started a lively discussion on "What is evolution?" There are 63 posts but that only represents about 30 students. It's clear that most of those students have never heard of random genetic drift and have no idea why why we should even bring it up. Most of them think that this course should be taught at the same level as a typical American high school course since that's the level that they will be teaching at.
The debate, such as it was, attracted the attention of Joel Cracraft who posted this message a few hours ago.
First, I specifically did not want to define evolution. I did present a slide showing how various scientists see evolution. As many of you pointed out, some see evolution as gene change, descent with modification, origin of species etc. Those views are generally along disciplinary lines. So population geneticists have often seen evolution as gene change, systematists think in terms of speciation or descent with modification. But evolution is all of these things, and encapsulating them in a single definition is difficult and not entirely useful to describe a broad field of knowledge. Evolution as change over time is fine, and that applies to all evolutionary systems (physical, chemical, geological, biological).That pretty much sums up what this course is going to be like for the next few weeks. The instructor doesn't even seem to mind if we mix up biological evolution with other forms of evolution. Nor does he care whether the change is genetic or whether it is individuals who are changing or populations. Any change will count.
My blood pressure may not allow me to finish this course.