Online basic biology courses are commonly offered as part of many undergraduate degree programs that are taken for credit. More advanced biology classes may be part of OpenCourseWare (OCW) programs, college classes provided online for free with no credit. Online master's degree programs in biology with advanced coursework are also available. These courses can require that students use video-on-demand technology or Blackboard.
Undergraduate degree programs typically require students to take a core set of general education subjects, including biology. Online undergraduate biology classes that may be taken for credit include:
- General biology
- Basic biotechnology
- Environmental biology
- Genetics and molecular biology
- Plant biology
A number of universities participate in the OpenCourseWare program and publish a number of courses online without credit or access to instructors. These courses typically include lecture notes, assignments, examinations and multimedia content.
OCW programs from American colleges are sometimes offered in Spanish and other languages. Accessibility for people who must use assistive technologies is being added to some programs. Courses that don't have certain interactive components of their own often integrate classes with other online sites.
Examples of advanced biology classes available in OCW are:
- Cellular neurobiology
- Chemistry of proteins
- Developmental biology
- Experimental biology
- Memory and synaptic plasticity
- Molecular biology
Master's Degree Programs in Biology
Most online biology master's degree programs require a bachelor's degree with a major or minor in biology or a related scientific field for admission. Many such programs are designed for aspiring biology teachers or students interested in advanced research positions. Classes may be offered through video-on-demand, threaded discussions or Blackboard. Depending on the school, programs require 30-36 graduate credit hours to complete.
A thesis or research project is required in some programs. Students will have required courses, such as statistics or thesis research and writing. Other than that, students generally can choose any biology courses offered by the school. Courses might include:
- Plant pathology
- Insect diversity
- Animal communication principles
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that jobs for postsecondary biological science teachers would increase by 16% (faster than the 7% average for all occupations combined) between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). As of May 2015, the median annual salary for college and university level biology teachers was $75,320, according to the BLS.
Postsecondary teachers work in a variety of post-high school academic settings, from community colleges and vocational schools to public and private universities. As enrollments continue to rise at postsecondary institutions of all levels, so do the job opportunities for instructors.
Taking biology classes online is a viable option for students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students can choose from free OpenCourseWare options or paid options that offer college credit.