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Leiden University and Naturalis join forces to launch new ‘Evolution Today’ MOOC

Evolution is all around you every day. This is the message of the new Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) of Leiden University and Naturalis that begins on September 19.


The online university course (MOOC) shows that evolution is not just a thing of the past, but is still ongoing. Evolution impacts our health, agriculture, the economy and culture on a daily basis. Naturalis and Leiden University collaborate closely in the area of research and education. The course was developed and is taught by Menno Schilthuizen, who is Professor of Trait Evolution and Biodiversity and holds positions at both institutions, together with Naturalis researcher Rutger Vos and evolutionary biologist at the Insitute of Biology Leiden, Maurijn van der Zee.


The instructors take MOOC enrollees outside, where they illustrate evolutionary processes using examples that everyone can observe on any given day. The MOOC also shows that evolution takes place on different levels, from molecular and cellular level to individuals and collaborating groups. An example of this is the way cancer cells evolve inside a patient's body, or the way animals and plants in cities adapt to the presence of humans. The three instructors are constantly drawing parallels with the reality of our everyday world, whether the topic of discussion is illnesses caused by viruses, aging or urban environments.

The future

‘In the final week we look at the future,’ says Schilthuizen. ‘How will humans evolve? And how do we influence our own evolution and that of other organisms? In times of globalisation, urbanisation and climate change, evolutionary biology is an essential branch of science if we are to be prepared for the future.’

The online course is offered free of charge to anyone who enrols through Coursera. The course lasts five weeks, and the language of instruction is English.  

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