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2014 Annual Science Report

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Reporting  |  SEP 2013 – DEC 2014

EPO Activity: Formal Online University Course

Project Progress

In the Spring 2014 semester we offered a new formal General Education UIUC online course entitled GEOL 111 Emergence of Life. The class was offered for 3 formal UIUC course credit hours and took place during the second 8 weeks of the Spring 2014 semester. GEOL 111 is a modified version of the MOOC, requiring many additional homework and project assignments, as well as formal testing. This offering of GEOL 111 was also quantitatively assessed. GEOL 111 evaluates the entire history of life on Earth within the context of our cutting-edge understanding of the Tree of Life and the emerging field of Astrobiology. This includes the pioneering work of Professor Carl Woese on the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus, which revolutionized our understanding with a new “Tree of Life.” Other themes include: (1) reconnaissance of ancient primordial life before the first cell evolved; (2) the entire ~4-billion-year development of single- and multi-celled life through the lens of the Tree of Life; (3) the influence of Earth system processes (meteor impacts, volcanoes, ice sheets) on shaping and structuring the Tree of Life; and (4) emphasis on the universality of the emergence of life as a prelude for the search for extraterrestrial life and development of the science of Astrobiology.