I was one of the “guinea pigs” of Queen’s University of Belfast in 1985 when along with 5 others from the Class of 1985, I was awarded a scholarship to be the pioneer batch of Master of Science students in the newly minted Biotechnology programme.

A lot the then state-of-the-art knowledge that I was imparted with have indeed been superseded over the last 20 odd years of intense research in this domain. However, the basics in genetics, I hope do not change much.

When I first review this course, Genes and the Human Condition from The University of Maryland under Coursera, I thought to myself, since this course does not have any requirements in advanced biology, it may be too easy for me. I guess I did not know how much I have forgotten about genetics that I picked up about 30 years ago. After taking Week 1 classes, I have decided to stick to this course till its completion. I guess I have a lot of unlearning and re-learning to do. 

Although the course information states that there is no requirement for advanced biology. I think one will have to have at least some knowledge of high school level biology to appreciate the course fully. Professor Tammantha O’Brien (who gives Week 1 classes) is very animated in the way she teaches and the lectures can be a bit too fast at times, her enthusiasm to teach is infectious on the learners’ mood to learn. In short, you will learn a lot if you make the effort to keep up with her. Professor. O’Brien’s co-instructor, Professor Raymond J. St. Legar’s classes has yet to start.

There is still a couple of days to the end of Week 1 and I urge those who want to know about how genes work and how genetics affects you should give this MOOC a go.

Already this “revision” course for me has kept me updated on the subject of genetics. I will be a better teacher if I get to teach my plant tissue culture class again! It took me less than 3 hours to complete Week 1, but I expect that I will need to put in more in later weeks because Week 1 is a sort of revision for me!

(This article is contributed by Dr. Chow Yong Neng)

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