Bruce Fouke teaching MOOC: Emergence of Life

Posted on 08.23.2015

As part of U of I's partnership with Coursera, Bruce Fouke with the help of others in the Geology Dept., have created a new MOOC (Massively Open Online Course), available for free to anybody with access to an Internet connection. No textbook is required, just "an open mind and an eagerness to apply critical free thought and approaches of scientific inquiry to explore how life on Earth came to be in its current form, and whether there is life elsewhere in the cosmos."

The course draws on the pioneering work of Professor Carl Woese at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He revolutionized our understanding of the fundamental structure and evolutionary relatedness of all living entities on Earth. This has resulted in a new "Tree of Life" and a first ever understanding of what life looked like before the base of the root of the Tree had evolved.

"This course will evaluate the entire history of life on Earth within the context of our cutting-edge understanding of the Tree of Life. This includes reconnaissance of ancient primordial life before the first cell had evolved, the entire ~4-billion-year development of single- and multi-celled life through the lens of the Tree of Life, and the influence of Earth system processes (meteor impacts, volcanoes, ice sheets) on shaping and structuring the Tree. This synthesis emphasizes the universality of the emergence of life as a prelude for the search for extraterrestrial life."

The course can be reached at