Dino 101: Dinosaur Paleobiology

Take the Course For Free

Here's how:

  1. Sign up with Coursera.
  2. Register for the Dino 101 Course.
  3. Start the course at your leisure.

Take the Course For Credit as Paleo 200

For UAlberta students, here's how:

  1. Login to Bear Tracks and search for "Dinosaurs."
  2. Sign up and Register for the online portion at Coursera.
  3. The class begins Sept. 6.

The course being offered

UAlberta’s Dino 101 is the world’s first paleobiology Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) and Canada's first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) available for credit to its both University of Alberta students and available for credit-by proxy for a fee to the world. 

Dino 101 is led by Dr. Phil Currie, renowned  Curator of Dinosaurs at the University of Alberta Laboratory for Vertebrate Paleontology, Canada Research Chair in Dinosaur Paleobiology,  Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and recipient of the prestigious Explorer’s Club Medal. 

UAlberta is drawing on the reputational strengths of our world class paleontology team and our researchers working with our Canada Research Chair in Educational Measurement.

The course will be available in three versions: 

  • to the world for free (no exams);
  • to University of Alberta students for UAlberta credit, as either the online course version (PALEO 200) or the in-class experience version (PALEO 201); and
  • to students from around the world for course accreditation for a modest fee.  

Dino 101 will not only be engaging for individuals, but also for families and community members to share in the learning experience of the scientific method through the inspirational world of dinosaurs. It will also help highlight the best of Alberta’s rich dinosaur assets.

About the Course

Dino 101: Dinosaur Paleobiology is a 12-lesson course teaching a comprehensive overview of non-avian dinosaurs. Topics covered: anatomy, eating, locomotion, growth, environmental and behavioral adaptations, origins and extinction. Lessons are delivered from museums, fossil-preparation labs and dig sites. Estimated workload: 3-5 hrs/wk for non-credit; 7-10 hrs/wk for credit.

Workload: 3-10 hours/week 

The course will be available in three versions: 

  • to the world for free (no exams);
  • to University of Alberta students for UAlberta credit, as either the online course version (PALEO 200) or the in-class experience version (PALEO 201); and
  • to students from around the world for course accreditation for a modest fee. 
     

Dino 101 will not only be engaging for individuals, but also for families and community members to share in the learning experience of the scientific method through the inspirational world of dinosaurs. It will also help highlight the best of Alberta’s rich dinosaur assets.


New lesson added January 2014

A baby Chasmosaurus found at Dinosaur Provincial Park will be included in the new session starting in January.

Course Preview

Watch a brief preview of a lesson with presenter Betsy Kruk.

See first-hand some of the cool interactive learning pieces in the course, including:

  • Navigate the Geologic Time Scale
  • Put Together a Tyrannosaurus Skeleton
  • Label a Phylogenic Tree

Take a Test Drive
 

More Course Information


Course Syllabus
Week 1: “Appearances and Anatomy” 
covers the diversity in dinosaur appearances, and will be able to identify major features of the major groups of dinosaurs.

Week 2: “Death and Fossilization” 
describes how fossils form, how we interpret the taphonomy of skeletons and bonebeds, and looks at the possible biases taphonomic events may create in the fossil record.

Week 3: “Eating” 
looks at the variety of food types, feeding habits, and feeding adaptations amongst the major groups of dinosaurs

Week 4: “Moving Around” 
helps students understand the general modes and styles of locomotion in the major dinosaur groups. The lesson also describes general methods of evaluating hypotheses on locomotion.

Week 5: “Birth, Growth, Reproduction” 
provides a generalized life history of a dinosaur, from birth through adulthood, including reproduction. The student will be able to describe major techniques of evaluating growth stages and rates in dinosaurs.

Week 6: “Attack and Defence” 
examines the behaviours and structures that may have served for attack or defence through the lifetime of a dinosaur.

Week 7: “What is a Species” 
will teach the different ways of defining what a species is. Students will be able to compare the strengths and weaknesses of different species concepts for different situations.

Week 8: “Evolution” 
will describe the basic theories of speciation, and discusses how how these different methods of speciation may have occurred, including both hypothetical and empirical examples.

Week 9: “Stratigraphy and Geologic Time” 
provides basic stratigraphic concepts and the scale of earth history. Students will understand the evolution of dinosaurs through time, including which groups evolved when and where.

Week 10: “Palaeogeography and Plate Tectonics” 
presents the basic concepts in plate tectonics and the evolution of the earth’s surface.

Week 11: “Dinosaur Origins” 
will look at the evolution of dinosaurs from non-dinosaurian archosaurs.

Week 12: “Dinosaur Extinction” 
will examine the end-Cretaceous extinction event, and provide examples of vertebrate groups that both persisted and died out during the event.

Recommended Background

No background is required; all are welcome! 

Suggested Readings

Although the lectures are designed to be self-contained, there are many good books available on dinosaurs. Recent books we can recommend for the interested students include: 

  • The Complete Dinosaur, 2nd edition, (edited by Brett-Surman, Holtz and Farlow), Indiana University Press.
  • Dinosaur Paleobiology (by S. Brusatte), Wiley Blackwell. 

Course Format

The class will consist of lecture videos, which are 1-2 minutes in length, interposed with integrated quiz questions in addition to a unit test after each of the 12 lessons. Students taking the course for credit at the University of Alberta will be required to take a midterm and final exam as well.

FAQ

What resources will I need for this class?
An internet connection and a sense of adventure.

What is the coolest thing I'll learn if I take this class?
In addition to learning about dinosaurs, you will learn about how they lived, what they ate, how they fought, about their origins and extinction. 

Can I receive credit from other universities for Dino 101?  
You will need to do two things if you are not a University of Alberta student: 

  1. Register for Signature Track
    Only students who are registered for Signature Track will be allowed to take the midterm and final exams. See Signature Track Guidebook for more details. You can also just take Signature Track for the verified Coursera certificate if you are not interested in taking the exams. 
     
  2. Sign up for the midterm and final exams
    Signature Track students who are not enrolled at the University of Alberta who want to take the exams will pay a $263 fee (Please note: This is the September-December 2013 price so it could be subject to change). The exam option for students not enrolled at the University of Alberta is currently being developed. Enrolled students will be alerted when that option is up on Coursera. It is important to understand that Coursera and the University of Alberta can't actually grant you credit at your university or college.

    The decision to grant you credit is always up to the professors at your university or college. The University of Alberta and Coursera are committed to giving you everything you need to take to your university to request credit. We have built a complete course explanation package available to you when the course starts that gives you everything you need to take to your professors at your university for them to evaluate. You can take the exams to add to your resume or CV or for the sheer challenge of taking a university-level midterm and exam and be graded, but if you are hoping your university will grant you credit for Dino 101, please make sure you have your university's support before you pay to take the exams.
     

If I'm a UAlberta student, do I need to register for Signature Track?
UAlberta students do not need to register for Signature Track because we are verifying who you are via your CCID and you will be writing midterms/finals on North campus, online in our computer labs, with TA proctors in the room.If you wish to have a Coursera-verified certificate, you can sign up for Signature Track and pay, but it is not required for Paleo 200 or Paleo 201 students. You can learn more about Signature Track here.