In 2014 I presented a massive open online course to more than 40,000 learners worldwide. This course was supported by the University of Wisconsin–Madison and hosted on the Coursera platform.
I have been doing online education for many years. My core philosophy is that if we take the classroom away from students, we should give them something equally or more valuable in return. For this course, I knew we could do something extraordinary if we brought students with me virtually to the field.
With the extraordinary collaboration of scientists around the world, I was able to visit and film at many fossil and archaeological sites where my friends and colleagues have uncovered evidence of human origins. I interviewed experts in primatology, paleoanthropology, archaeology, and genetics about some of their most current work. I also brought students virtually into the laboratory to guide them through the fossil record and interpretations from DNA. And UW–Madison graduate students—led by Sarah Traynor and Alia Gurtov—shared their own experiences with fieldwork.
The course brought together learners from six continents and more than 100 countries. It was inspiring to see how people from many walks of life were eager to interact with each other as they explored the science.
Since 2014, I have shared many of the course videos freely on YouTube. I've now brought those together here. Of course this has been a fast decade in human origins research, and some of the segments filmed in 2013 and 2014 are now less timely or out of date. I've selected the videos that show a unique perspective on sites, many of them discussing historic discoveries shortly after they were made.
I hope you enjoy them!