Online Colleges for Animal Studies: How to Choose

Animal studies is a newer discipline, and therefore most programs are only offered on-campus. However, we can explore some of the available online courses in the field, as well as a few of the schools that offer them.

How to Select an Online Animal Studies School

The field of animal studies covers both animal welfare and companion animal care. It is different from the field of animal science, which deals with the productivity and health of livestock from a strictly biological perspective. Students should weigh the type of coursework with the technical requirements.

Type of Coursework

Animal studies is a relatively new discipline, and while there are a few on-campus programs in this field, there are currently no online programs. A few undergraduate and graduate credit courses in animal welfare are available online, however. Beyond the offerings of animal studies programs, students may find relevant online education about animals by exploring veterinary programs or animal science courses, which provide basic biological and nutritional information useful to animal studies.

Technical Requirements

Classes are presented through a course management system, such as Blackboard, or a proprietary one belonging to the school. Some courses require that students purchase extra supplies or software in order to complete assignments. Teachers are available for consultation during regular office hours through email and chat.

List of Online Animal Studies Courses

On-campus degree programs in animal studies are available, but only a select few courses are available online. The following courses can be taken as part of a program or individually.

Graduate Course in Animal Welfare Assessment

This course combines social science and zoology to explore how animals and humans share the Earth. Although there are no prerequisites, it is recommended that students have some experience with animal physiology, breeding and behavior. This course is taught entirely online, featuring lectures that examine animal and human relationships and interactions, human ethics as applied to domestic and wild animals, definitions of pain and suffering and animal health. The role of economics in human decisions regarding animal life and welfare is also explored.

To help students develop critical thinking skills, they participate in a series of video exercises observing a variety of animals in different environments. Using an assigned set of criteria, they evaluate the welfare of these animals and then compare their responses to those of classmates and teachers. Students are encouraged to communicate regularly with one another via live chat or e-mail. To graduate from the course, students must demonstrate their ability to competently evaluate animals.

Exploring the Human-Animal Bond Course

This course explores the nature of bonding between species from physiological and psychological perspectives. The first part of the course examines the ways in which animals can be used in various types of therapy; children can develop their language skills by reading to dogs and horses can play a role in physical therapy for disabled individuals. The latter section focuses on the integration of the human-animal bond into veterinary treatment of pets and animals. Lectures may be presented as a narrated slide show using a plug-in such as Flash Player.

List of Online Animal Science Courses

While most animal science programs can't be completed entirely online, animal science courses in nutrition and biology are available online. These may be standalone courses or part of a hybrid format degree program.

Companion Animal Nutrition Course

Many behavior problems in pets are related to diet. This course teaches the fundamentals of good nutrition not only for traditional pets such as cats, dogs and birds, but for exotic pets and backyard wildlife. Students learn about nutrient requirements and feeding programs for different animals, as well as diets for animals with special needs. Changes in the pet food industry that have addressed the importance of nutrient sources are also discussed. Previous animal nutrition studies may be required.

Nutrition for Zoo Animals Course

This class focuses on the unique nutrition challenges for zoos. Captive animals live in artificial environments, making appropriate feeding programs vital for the physical and mental well-being of animals. They must have food that is natural to them based on their internal structure and physiology. Many zoo animals also have special feeding routines that mimic how they obtain food in the wild.

Students learn entirely online through lectures, discussions and zoo case studies. Schools often utilize a learning management system, for which a computer with high-speed Internet connection works best. Though the course is designed for animal professionals, such as zoo or shelter employees, it's also open to anyone interested in animals. Prerequisites include animal nutrition.

Schools With Online Courses in Animal Studies

Rutgers University offers an online animal nutrition course at the undergraduate level that looks at how to feed a variety of animals. Students of this course will study topics like anatomy, biochemistry of nutrients and how to feed animals at different life stages. Students can review the classes at a time convenient to them, and interact with classmates and instructors through chat rooms and e-mail.

The University of Florida's College of Veterinary Medicine offers students an online shelter animal behavior and welfare course at the graduate level. This course focuses specifically on the welfare and behavioral care for dogs and cats waiting for adoption in animal shelters. Students will learn to assess shelter practices and make recommendations for improvement.

Washington State University provides a unique online course in human-animal interaction that is taught by faculty from multiple institutions and combines several different disciplines. The course is made up of modules that explore topics in animal welfare, animal science, veterinary medicine, animal behavior, animal nutrition and more. This is a self-paced, non-credit course, but it can be used to meet continuing education requirements for some professions.

Although there are no available online programs in animal studies, students can find several different online courses in animal studies topics, such as animal welfare, animal nutrition and more. Students should consider the course format, as well as how the course applies to their future career goals when selecting an online course.

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