Sunday, April 20, 2014
Picture from Flickr
I recently completed this free online cours e offered by the University of Alberta on Coursera and would recommend it to anyone interested in dinosaurs to get a brief overview of the different types, their extinction and evolution along with time lines and geography or even a home-schooling segment for students junior high age and up (there is the option to receive a Certificate of Achievement for a fee of around $49, but a time scheduled needs to be adhered to in completing quizzes).
While the course is currently over, they are offering it again in September 2014
I chose to take it as I have had a fascination with dinosaurs ever since seeing a traveling promotional display by Sinclair Oil of a Brontosaurus at a gas station in a nearby town as a very young child., which found out that it was a misclassification and is actually an Apatosaurus. (There are more pictures and information about the Sinclair traveling exhibit from late '60-early 70's at Monster Bash News)
It was huge, I believe I read somewhere it was 70 feet long. I just remember straining my neck to look up at it and from head to tail ti seemed to go on forever and I was afraid at first, but as my Mom said it was a plant-eater and it had a non-threatening looking face and then I became enthralled and for awhile was into all things dino.
When my son was young, he was into dinosaurs as well and we went to see a lecture by Richard Bakker, "The Dinosaur" man, who was also a technical advisor on the "Jurassic Park" films in the mid 1990's and I was surprised how much theories had changed since I was a kid and Bakker's hypothesis that dinosaurs were not cold blooded like reptiles, but warm blooded creatures. I decided to take the course as I was curious as about learning more and what some of the updated theories might be and it seemed like the perfect opportunity.
It consists of 12 video lectures cut down into 3 to 5 different segments that are 5 to 20 minutes long and average probably around 11 minutes, so you don't have to commit to a major chunk of time and you can work at your own pace (if not seeking a certificate). There are 5 question multiple choice quiz at the end of each lesson to test your knowledge, but if you get an answers wrong you have the opportunity to take the quiz one more time.
There are also interactives within the lectures, such as the Dinosaura tree where you match the picture of the dinosaur to their type and the hip type to their classification. There is also where you can check out bones from a 3-D angle, a timeline and quizzes within the lectures that are meant to get you thinking what the correct answer might be, but are not part of any grading.
I would suggest taking notes early on. I didn't start until the 4th week and wished I had started earlier. You really need to read and comprehend the material to pass the quizzes.
There is also the opportunity to interact with the other students in the forums. There were students as young as a 12 year old home-schooler to retired people. Two of the retired people had completed the course within a few days.
So if you want to learn interesting information such as there is evidence that a T-Rex had feathers and it is thought that a meteor hitting Earth caused the extinction of the large dinosaurs but that we see whey evolved into in order to survive every day, I recommend checking out the course.