Best Online Biology Courses

by Charlie Saville

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If you want to know more about the science behind plant, animal and human life a Biology course is the ideal place to start. There are hundreds of online Biology courses where you can learn the answers behind some of life’s big questions. 

However, biology is a vast topic covering everything from genetics to evolution to ecology and more. With so many different aspects of the subject it can be hard to tell where to start and which course is right for you. 

I’ve spent some time researching the best Biology courses and assessed each course on the basis of their content, length, the quality of instruction, and much more. 

This list contains the very best Biology classes out there. Many of these courses on this list offer a certificate of completion, are provided by prestigious universities (such as Harvard or MIT), introduce you to the fundamentals of Biology (DNA, cell theory, evolution and much more) and show you how these ideas can be applied to everyday life.    

So, whether you're a high school student who wants to ace their Biology test, a young professional looking for a career change in the sciences or someone who is just interested in the science of life, you’ll find the course for you here. 

Let’s get started. 

What is the best online Biology course?

These are our top Biology course recommendations:

  1. Introduction to Genetics and Evolution (Coursera) 
  2. Introduction to Biology – The secret of life (edX)
  3. General Biology 1: Foundations of Biology (Udemy)
  4. Biochemistry: The molecules of life (Future Learn)
  5. Introduction to Biology: Ecology, Evolution, & Biodiversity Specialization (Coursera)
  6. Diploma in Biology (Alison) 
  7. Cell Biology: Mitochondria (edX)
  8. Molecular Biology – Part 1: DNA replication and repair (edX)
  9. Master the fundamentals of Biology (Part 1 of 4) IGCSE (Udemy) 
  10. Dr Jane Goodall teaches conservation (MasterClass)

Introduction to genetics and evolution is my top choice. The most specific and detailed course on the list, here you’ll take a deep dive into the key fundamentals of the biological sciences. It’s taught by a professor at a world-leading university. To top it all off, you can access this class for free. 

Introduction to Biology – The secret of life is a good option for anyone who finds the university-quality and free access of the first pick appealing, but is looking for a broader introduction to the subject. 

Both these courses are very long and comprehensive. You can check out General Biology 1: Foundations of Biology for a shorter, more accessible look at the Biology fundamentals. 

Finally, it’s worth mentioning MasterClass, which focuses less on technical and practical courses, instead producing high-quality insights from celebrities and leaders in their field. 

Some examples of MasterClass courses include cooking with Gordon Ramsey and singing with Mariah Carey, however, they also have scientific options, such as Dr Jane Goodall teaches conservation. 

Best Biology course reviews

1. Introduction to Genetics and Evolution (Coursera) 

Introduction to Genetics and Evolution

Platform: Coursera | Teachers: Dr Mohamed Noor | Course length: Approx. 25 hours 

This course offers an in-depth approach to a key component of biological sciences. No prior knowledge is assumed, but you will be prepared with the fundamental aspects of Biology. 

You’re taught by Dr Mohamed Noor, who is the Eric D. Mclean Professor at the prestigious Duke University. With over 25 hours of content, it’s clearly helpful for those interested in detail. 

All of the above would be reason alone to put this class as number one. But perhaps the greatest factor is that you can audit the course and access its content for free. All 25 hours of lessons from a university professor are available to you without you needing to pay. 

It’s no wonder 141,060 students are already enrolled. 

You will learn:

  • The definition of evolution in a biological context 
  • Evidence of Evolution and common ancestry 
  • Public thoughts and misconceptions about Biology 
  • Introduction to basic transmission genetics and inheritance 
  • The concept of recombination 
  • The origin of genetic variation 
  • How complex traits are studied genetically 
  • Heritability and population growth 
  • How multiple individuals from a natural population can be studied genetically 
  • Molecular evolution 
  • Adaptive behaviors and sexual selection 
  • Speciation and phylogenetics  
  • Applied evolution 


  • Extremely in-depth with 25 hours of content 
  • Introductory but does challenge its learners 
  • Gradually expands your knowledge by introducing more complex topics 
  • A top-quality instructor from a prestigious university 
  • Great explanation and teaching quality
  • Can be audited for free 


  • Can be quite complicated, especially for beginners  

Best for: Anybody with a burning interest in Biology who wants to take a deep dive into genetics and evolution 

Overall: With free access to 25 hours of content delivered by a professor from a top university, this is truly the 21st-century way of learning Biology. Not only is the content super in-depth, detailed and sometimes even challenging, but you’re also taught by a top-quality instructor who explains everything clearly. And with over 100,000 students enrolled and a 4.8-star rating from over 1,000 reviews, don’t just take my word for it.  

2. Introduction to Biology – The secret of life (edX)

Introduction to Biology - The secret of life

Platform: edX | Teachers: Eric S. Lander, Michelle Mischke and Graham Walker | Course length: Approx. 16 weeks with 5-10 hours per week recommended 

The second choice on this list is a broader option that covers wider concepts in Biology over a longer period of time. It’s offered by edX and has over 207,000 students enrolled. 

This course is provided in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the most prestigious universities in the world. Here, you’ll be learning from MIT professors about the fundamentals of Biology, and therefore, the fundamentals of life. 

Once again, this class can be audited for free as long as you don’t require certification. 

You will learn:

  • How to describe the building blocks of life 
  • How their interactions dictate Biology 
  • How to predict genotypes and phenotypes given genetics data
  • Explaining the central dogma of molecular Biology
  • Converting DNA sequence to RNA sequence to protein sequence
  • How to use molecular tools to study Biology
  • Describing the principles of early sequencing as well as modern sequencing and the effects of these technologies on the field of genomics
  • Applying the principles of modern Biology to issues in today's society


  • Taught in collaboration with one of the best universities in the world 
  • Covers the basics and fundamentals in an academic manner 
  • Instructor-led, making it feel more like a traditional classroom 
  • More applied, with reference to the use of Biology in day-to-day life 
  • Can be accessed for free 


  • Needs to be taken within a specific time frame  

Best for: Those who still want an academic introduction to Biology, but want something broader and more digestible 

Overall: edX collaborates with some of the top universities and academics to produce their classes, and this course is no exception. This class is not necessarily worse than the Coursera one. Rather, it just offers a broader, wider introduction to the field. It also matches my first pick with top-quality instructors, comprehensive lessons and the fact that it’s free. 

3. General Biology 1: Foundations of Biology (Udemy)

General Biology 1: Foundations of Biology

Platform: Udemy | Teachers: Sophia Banton | Course length: Approx. 2 hours 

The third spot on this list is occupied by a more preliminary course that’s a lot shorter than the other two. 

This class also promises to offer you an introduction to Biology, but with 2 hours of content, it’s more of a whistle-stop tour. 

So if you're looking for something that requires less of a timed commitment, but will still give you an insight into the key aspects of Biology, it might be worth checking this one out. 

General Biology 1: Foundations of Biology is offered by Udemy. Whilst the courses on this site are not free, they do often have sales where you can purchase their classes for much cheaper than the original price. 

You will learn:

  • The classification of living systems 
  • The diversity of life on our planet 
  • Living systems and the scientific method 
  • The elements and chemistry of life 
  • Molecules of life 
  • Carbohydrates, proteins and lipids 
  • Nucleic acids  


  • Provides a clear and thorough explanation of the key concepts 
  • Very accessible for beginners 
  • Each aspect of the course is well connected 
  • Led by a professional instructor and data scientist with over 2,000 Udemy students 
  • Course often available for sale and includes a certificate of completion 


  • Could go into more detail  

Best for: Newbies who want a very clear and basic introduction to Biology 

Overall: Biology is a vastly complex topic that can seem impenetrable to many people, especially if you don’t have a scientific background. So it’s great that courses like this exist which provide students with a very clear, quick and accessible breakdown of the key concepts. 

4. Biochemistry: The molecules of life (Future Learn)

Biochemistry: The molecules of life

Platform: Future Learn | Teachers: Richard Bowater and Fraser Macmillan | Course length: Approx. 3 weeks with 3 hours per week recommended 

At number 4, we have a course offered by Future Learn. With over 45,000 students enrolled, this course is unique on this list because it focuses on Biochemistry, which is a field that combines both Biology and chemistry. 

This is a great course to consider if you have a general interest in science, or if you haven’t heard much about biochemistry but already have a reasonable understanding of Biology. 

It’s offered by Future Learn which is a site that, like edX and Coursera, offers courses from top universities (this one is a collaboration with the University of East Anglia), many of which can be accessed for free. 

You will learn:

  • Skills from biochemistry 
  • A brief history of biochemistry 
  • Metabolism and biogenetics 
  • Future developments in bioenergy 
  • Natural products and healthy living 
  • New technologies in molecular sciences 
  • Getting involved in biochemistry 


  • Unique; there aren’t many biochemistry courses out there 
  • Digital certificate available on completion 
  • More applied, showing how biochemistry is involved in everyday life 
  • Cutting edge, teaching students about new developments in the field 
  • Offered in collaboration with a leading British university 
  • Can be accessed for free 


  • Free access expires soon (first July 2023)  

Best for: Anyone with a general interest in science who has no background in biochemistry  

Overall: Biochemistry is a discipline that shows just how interlinked the sciences are. And this course is one of the best introductions to biochemistry out there. It stands out because its content focuses on the cutting edge of the discipline. And you can access it for free. 

5. Introduction to Biology: Ecology, Evolution, & Biodiversity Specialization (Coursera)

 Introduction to Biology: Ecology, Evolution, & Biodiversity Specialization

Platform: Coursera | Teachers: Scott Solomon | Course length: Approx. 4 months with 3 hours per week suggested 

Halfway down the list, we have another entry from Coursera. This is a similar course to the other Coursera option, in that it is an introductory course, but it focuses specifically on topics within Biology. 

This time you’ll be looking at ecology, evolution and biodiversity specialization. Again, because this is Coursera, this course can be accessed for free, and is offered in collaboration with a leading university; this time it's offered by Rice University. 

You will learn:

  • Introduction to ecology 
  • Darwin’s theory of evolution 
  • Subsequent advancements in evolution 
  • Applications of evolution to everyday life
  • Introduction to biodiversity 
  • Characteristics and functions of plants, animals and microorganisms 


  • Covers key concepts in Biology 
  • Lessons draw links between each other 
  • Introduces big concepts in an accessible way 
  • Offered in collaboration with a top university 
  • Accredited certification


  • Quite broad lessons so could be more detailed  

Best for: Anybody interested in the ecology and biodiversity side of Biology 

Overall: This is another great introduction to the subject of Biology. Like the other Coursera option, this is offered by a top university, contains high-quality content and teaching and offers fully accredited certification. So this is just a great pick if your interests lie in biodiversity and ecology rather than genetics. 

6. Diploma in Biology (Alison)

Diploma in Biology

Platform: Alison | Teachers: XSIQ | Course length: Approx. 4-5 hours 

At number 6, we have a course offered by Alison. 

The unique selling point of this course is that it offers an online diploma. Many of these options have some kind of certification, however, this certification is accredited by the Continuing Professional Development Service. So it is a more professional option. 

This is also one of the shorter options on the list, with around 4-5 hours of content on offer here. Over 24,000 students have taken this course already. 

You will learn:

  • Organisms, nutrients and digestion 
  • Cell theory 
  • Plant Biology 
  • Evolution 
  • Mitosis and meiosis 
  • Genetics 
  • Gene technology 


  • A very brief course doesn’t require much timed commitment 
  • Includes a professionally accredited certification 
  • Includes assessments that challenge you and ensure you’ve learnt from the course 
  • Covers the fundamentals of Biology 
  • Can be accessed for free 


  •  Could go into more detail 

Best for: Anyone who wants to learn the fundamentals of Biology and a diploma to show for it 

Overall: For many people, online courses can be a place to explore a hobby. However, an online course can also be the starting place for a change in career. This class is the best option for anyone who wants to take a Biology course and have a professional certification that demonstrates what they have learnt. 

7. Cell Biology: Mitochondria (edX)

Cell Biology: Mitochondria

Platform: edX | Teachers: Robert A. Lue | Course length: Approx. 4 weeks with 2-4 hours per week recommended 

Pick number 7 marks a re-entry for edX, however, this time the course is a lot more specific. With over 110,000 students enrolled, it is one of edX’s most popular Biology courses. 

Cells are an essential component of Biology, and understanding them is a necessary step for developing your knowledge of the biological sciences. This course takes a deep dive into the mitochondria. 

Like other edX courses, this class is available for free and is offered in collaboration with a top educational institution. This time, you’ll be taught by Harvard University, which truly needs no introduction. 

You will learn:

  • How the structure of a cell demonstrates how cells work 
  • The role mitochondria play in the cell 
  • Why it is important for the cell to make ATP
  • How cells metabolize food 
  • How the structure of the F1F0 ATP synthase leads to the production of ATP
  • Experimental techniques used to investigate the mitochondrial structure


  • Taught in collaboration with one of the world’s best university 
  • Takes a deep dive into a very specific aspect of Biology 
  • Very comprehensive, with 4 weeks of learning 
  • Requires no prerequisites yet takes a very academic approach 
  • Can be accessed for free 


  • Payment is required for certification and additional materials  

Best for: Those interested in the specific functions of the cell and the mitochondria in particular 

Overall: Most options on this list have been general introductions to Biology. However, this course is ideal for anyone who wants to take a closer look at cells and the functions of the mitochondria. If you’ve already taken edX’s (or another sites) introductory course this is a great place to continue learning. All of edX’s selling points are present including teaching from Harvard University and the opportunity to access the content for free. 

8. Molecular Biology – Part 1: DNA replication and repair (edX)

Molecular Biology - Part 1

Platform: edX | Teachers: Stephen P. Bell, Tania A. Baker and Mary Ellen Wiltrout | Course length: Approx. 9 weeks with 4-6 hours per week recommended 

At spot number 8 we have another entry from edX. This course is also taught by MIT, with a slightly smaller enrollment of over 67,000. 

These lessons focus on DNA and how DNA replicates and repairs itself, which is absolutely fundamental to life. This is a very complex process, so Introduction to Biology – The secret of life is mentioned as a prerequisite. 

Again, this class is free to audit, so if you have taken the introductory course and you were interested in the molecular side of things, this is a great place to continue learning, especially as it is offered by the same institution. 

You will learn:

  • How to compare the mechanisms of DNA replication 
  • Prokaryotes and eukaryotes
  • Describing several enzymatic mechanisms that the cell uses to repair or tolerate DNA damage
  • How to analyze protein structures to infer functional information
  • Methods for the best experiment to test a hypothesis related to DNA replication or repair proteins
  • Interpreting data from DNA replication and repair experiments


  • Teaches you about a fundamental aspect of life 
  • Offered by a world-leading institution 
  • Provides you with wider scientific knowledge and skills such as experimentation 
  • Introduces curious learners to more complex topics 
  • Can be accessed for free 


  • Payment is required for certification and additional materials  
  • Difficult to know whether it is too complex  

Best for: Anyone who has taken Introduction to biology – The secret of life and was interested in molecular Biology and DNA

Overall: Learning is a continuous process, so if there’s one thing I love about a course or a site it’s when they give you the opportunity to continue learning. This option builds on Introduction to Biology – The secret of life, going into detail about DNA; an absolutely fundamental concept in Biology. 

9. Master the fundamentals of Biology (Part 1 of 4) IGCSE (Udemy)

Master the fundamentals of Biology

Platform: Udemy | Teachers: Dr Reece Wartenberg | Course length: Approx. 7 hours. 

The penultimate option on this list marks the second appearance of Udemy. 

This course is a little longer than the Udemy pick, lasting approximately 7 hours. It is also unique on this list as it contains 28 downloadable resources and additional materials. 

This course is designed for students who are taking high school exams but will be helpful for anyone new to Biology. 

You will learn:

  • The characteristics of living organisms 
  • Variety and features of living organisms 
  • Levels of organization 
  • Cell structure 
  • Biological molecules 
  • Enzymes 
  • Movement of substances in and out of cells 
  • Nutrition in plants and humans 
  • Respiration 
  • Gas exchange 
  • Excretion
  • Homeostasis in humans 
  • Responding to stimuli 


  • Directly covers the content for a Biology exam 
  • In doing the above, gives you insight into the essentials of Biology
  • Concise very easy to understand 
  • Contains a range of additional materials and a certificate of completion 
  • Breaks everything down into swift, bite-sized lessons 


  • Some might be thrown off by the pace, as it goes by very quickly 
  • Could be a bit more original, as some of the content can be found in other places for cheaper  

Best for: High school students (specifically of iGCSE, GCSE and AP Biology) preparing for their exams 

Overall: These lessons provide a breakdown of the essential aspects of Biology with easily digestible, quick and accessible video lessons. This is combined with a range of additional materials that will prepare students for their exams. However, because these exams clear the key elements of Biology, anyone new to the subject can learn something from this course, which is often on sale. 

10. Dr Jane Goodall teaches conservation (MasterClass)

Dr Jane Goodall teaches conservation

Platform: MasterClass | Teachers: Dr Jane Goodall | Course length: Approx. 5 hours 

The final course on this list isn’t a Biology course per se but does cover conservation, which is essential to the furthering of our understanding of Biology. 

Here, you’ll be given insight into animal intelligence as well as the activist elements of conservation, from Dr Jane Goodall, one of the most renowned conservationists and primatologists in the world. 

This course is offered by MasterClass. If you subscribe to this site, you’ll receive access to 180+ classes in different disciplines all led by celebrity instructors who are leaders in their field. 

You will learn:

  • Chimpanzee behavior 
  • Chimpanzee learning and development 
  • Animal intelligence 
  • The relationship between chimps and humans 
  • Humans and the environment
  • Threats to animals and animal cruelty 
  • Climate change 
  • Industrial agriculture 
  • Advocacy strategies 


  • Taught by a world-renowned expert on conservation and animal behavior 
  • Lessons are constructed around anecdotes and the instructor’s wealth of experience 
  • High production quality, with super engaging lessons and helpful visuals 
  • More practical, showing the importance of science to politics, society and social change 
  • A subscription to MastercClass grants you access to courses from a range of celebrity instructors 


  • Not a Biology course per se 
  • Less scientific and technical than some of the other courses  

Best for: Anybody interested in the insights from a leading primatologist and someone at the forefront of both scientific research and activism

Overall: If you’ve already taken another course on this list, you have a background in Biology already or you’re just generally interested in the topic, this course is a high-quality, entertaining insight into the effect science and research can have on our world. It is led by one of the biggest names in the field of conservation and animal rights. 

What are the advantages of taking an online Biology course?

Biology is a fascinating subject. Understanding the process behind life itself has intrigued scientists for centuries. There are many advantages of taking a Biology course:

  • An understanding of the scientific processes behind the world around you 
  • Can be practically applied, giving you a greater insight into how to look after the world 
  • Allows you to become more scientifically literate; there are many examples where biology can prepare you for other sciences 
  • Can be used as a professional qualification, particularly in a market where protecting the planet is an increasing priority 
  • Also helpful academically, whether you need to do a Biology test for school or college, or you are taking a course where Biology could be useful 
  • A foundational knowledge allows you to ask deeper questions that haven’t been answered and allows you to engage in research and experimentation

We often think of Biology as a traditional, academic subject that belongs in schools. But this list proves that it is easier to learn the fundamentals of Biology than ever. 

There are also many benefits to learning Biology online: 

  • Access to top instructors and academics from all around the world 
  • You can learn when you like and fit everything around your schedule 
  • You can combine different platforms with in-person teaching to achieve your personal goals (e.g. an introductory course from edX and a more specific class from Coursera)
  • There’s access to endless additional materials including Biology tests and additional resources 
  • Your new knowledge will stay with you for life and allow you to contribute to scientific discussions  
  • Learning a new skill is great for engaging the brain

Buyers guide: what to look out for

Coursera biology courses

With so many choices, it can be hard to know what to look out for when selecting the best Biology course for you.

So here’s a helpful buyers guide to look out for: 

  • Positive reviews from both users and sites like Learnopoly 
  • Positive feedback from biologists and scientists 
  • The credentials of the instructor e.g. are they a professor or experienced teacher of Biology 
  • How long the course is and what each lesson will teach you 
  • Any additional materials like Biology tests, visual examples (such as cell images) and more 
  • Does the course focus on a specific field within Biology e.g. evolution or genetics or ecology etc.? 
  • How many people are enrolled 
  • Is there any free trial or refund available? 

How much does it cost?

The courses on this list range from being free to costing $54.99. 

Remember, when thinking about the right course for you, try to reflect on what you want in terms of value for money. 

For example, courses from edX, Coursera, Future Learn and Alison can be accessed for free. However, you will need to pay for either a subscription or a one-off course if you want to access additional features, such as assessments and a certificate of completion. 

Comparatively, Udemy courses are not available for free. However, they are often on sale and the fee includes access to assessment resources, additional materials and a Udemy certificate. 

You might also want to consider the difference between a subscription service and a site that sells courses separately. 

Whereas Udemy charges between $15.99 and $54.99 for their Biology courses, MasterClass is a subscription service costing $120.00 annually. However, this grants you access to MasterClass’ entire range of courses from a variety of global icons in their field for only $10 per month.

Ultimately, it depends on what you’re looking for. But you are spoiled for choice, especially considering you can access some of these courses without paying a cent. 

How long does it take to learn Biology?

edX biology courses

The courses on this list range from lasting 2 hours to 4 months

However, this does not mean that you’ll learn all of Biology within this time frame. Most of these are introductory courses so you are encouraged to keep learning through further reading and taking additional classes in order to enhance your mastery of the subject. 

Additionally, it’s important to consider that Biology can be a very difficult discipline, or at least contains some difficult concepts. 

So, taking the time to engage with additional resources, rewatch lessons you struggle with or even do some of your own research might be necessary. 


Overall, each course on this list has its own merits and the best Biology course truly depends on what's right for you. 

My top recommendation is Introduction to Genetics and Evolution offered by Coursera. With 25 hours of teaching, it covers the most content, going into real detail about genetics and evolution. 

The instructor is super engaging, it’s made in collaboration with a top university and, like most Coursera courses, you can access the content for free. So there is truly nothing to lose by trying it out. 

Alternatively, if you’re looking for a course that also has top instructors, academic quality and a free option but covers the broader aspects of Biology, why not check out edX’s Introduction to Biology – The secret of life.  

Finally, if you want insight into how our understanding of the biological sciences, specifically animal intelligence and animal rights interacts with our society, I recommend Dr Jane Goodall teaches conservation. 

Ultimately, every course on this list has something unique to offer. I hope to have given you enough insight into each of these courses for you to decide on the best Biology course for you. 

See also our article, best online zoology classes.

Frequently asked questions

What is the best online Biology course?

Introduction to Genetics and Evolution (Coursera)  is our top choice.

How much does a Biology course cost?

The courses on this list range from being free to costing $54.99. 

How long do Biology courses take?

The courses on this list range from lasting 2 hours to 4 months

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