Life science is a broad term that refers to the study of living organisms; this encompasses biology, anatomy and physiology, botany, environmental science and oceanography. Many students focus on a specialized area rather than taking general life sciences courses. Schools offer stand-alone classes as well as certificate and degree programs online. Examples include a Master of Chemical and Life Sciences and a bachelor's or master's degree in agriculture and life sciences. Sometimes, students can take a single course online to complete an on-campus degree program.
Courses are offered both through science departments and university extension departments. A variety of synchronous and asynchronous technologies, combined with learning management systems, facilitate these online learning programs. Since distance learning students need to be self-motivated, many schools are now requiring prospective students to complete a self-guided questionnaire to determine the likelihood of success with distance learning. Some courses or programs may also require students to complete in-person exams and labs.
Many life sciences classes involve lab work. Some courses offer simulated labs, while others require students to come to campus to complete labs or take exams; these are generally considered hybrid courses.
Life Sciences Course Descriptions
Cell and Molecular Biology
After reviewing basic chemistry concepts, students learn about the physical and chemical processes essential for life at the cellular level. They also learn about genetics, DNA, inheritance, DNA sequencing and protein structure and function.
Introduction to Human Physiology
This course provides an introduction to fundamental concepts of physiology and covers most of the body systems, including the nervous, respiratory, cardiovascular, reproductive, endocrine and urinary systems. This course is appropriate for those who wish to enter health professions.
Introduction to Genetics and Human Diseases
Students learn about inherited traits in humans and how they are passed between generations. The course covers the basic principles of molecular genetics and addresses areas such as the human genome project, inheritance patterns of genetic diseases, Mendelian inheritance and the concept of personalized medicine.
This course covers basic concepts in microbiology, including microbial metabolism, genetics and structure. It also touches on the application of microbes in drug discovery. Other topics include the surge of infectious diseases, interactions between microbes and their environment, green chemistry and environmental metagenomics.
Fundamentals of Biology: Organisms to Ecosystems
This course serves as an introduction to the structure, functions and ecological roles of the major groups of living organisms. It also covers genetics, demography, evolution and natural selection. This online course is appropriate for undergraduate students interested in medicine, clinical research, teaching and other areas.
Students can pursue a variety of courses in the life sciences online, including microbiology and human physiology; some fully online courses are available, though many have an in-person component like labs. Whether a student wishes to pursue a single course online or complete an entire certificate program or degree online is a personal choice, since both options are available.