University of Colorado Boulder
Deep Time: Discovering an Ancient Earth
University of Colorado Boulder

Deep Time: Discovering an Ancient Earth

Taught in English

Some content may not be translated

1,743 already enrolled


Gain insight into a topic and learn the fundamentals

Alan Lester

Instructor: Alan Lester


(16 reviews)

Beginner level

Recommended experience

10 hours to complete
3 weeks at 3 hours a week
Flexible schedule
Learn at your own pace

What you'll learn

  • Communicate and teach the underpinnings of geology and deep time.

  • Evaluate the evidence supporting the age of the earth, and review the geologic story of the Rocky Mountains.

  • Apply geological data, models, and investigations.

Details to know

Shareable certificate

Add to your LinkedIn profile


4 quizzes

See how employees at top companies are mastering in-demand skills


Earn a career certificate

Add this credential to your LinkedIn profile, resume, or CV

Share it on social media and in your performance review


There are 4 modules in this course

We might well be the first species to ask, and even begin to answer, some big questions about the world around us: Who are we? Where are we? and When are we? Geology joins some heavy hitters, like evolutionary biology and cosmology, when it comes to providing major insights, particularly into the latter question.This first module begins with a look at science in general, how it works and where it came from. We then address the historical beginnings of a “science of the earth” (geology) and how, from its very inception, it pointed towards an earth of immense age, the business of Deep Time. The module wraps up with an introduction to the assessment of rock and mineral age determination using both qualitative and isotopic methods.

What's included

6 videos1 quiz2 discussion prompts

The power of science is no better exemplified than through its ability to peer into the most remote depths of Deep Time. In this second module we take a cursory “highlight trip” through a host of very ancient and key origins, from the universe itself to stars and planets, and then to Earth’s first oceans, atmosphere, crust, and life. We take a literal deep dive into the underpinnings of the North American continent, the so-called Precambrian basement. Using rock and mineral analysis, radiometric dating, seismology, and the treasure trove of deep-earth materials brought to the surface by kimberlitic “diamond-pipe” eruptions, geologists have put together an understanding of how North America, and continents in general, grow through time.

What's included

5 videos1 quiz

We tackle the story of North America, as it emerges from the Precambrian into the Phanerozoic Eon (i.e., Paleozoic, Mesozoic, Cenozoic Eras). The story is read from the book of rock layers, and as such we review some of the language of geology—rocks and the rock-cycle. We VISIT (via both lecture and virtual-video-field trip) the puzzling yet pervasive Great Unconformity, an enormous gap in the rock record that sits directly below the first strata with shell fossils. We consider the marine waters that washed onto and off the land, as climate and tectonics drove changes in sea-level. Lastly, as the Pangea Super-Continent coalesced in the Late Paleozoic, we see the rise of the Ancestral Rocky Mountains. Note: This module contains the first two of three Video Field Trip Outings to Flagstaff Mountain, near Boulder, Colorado.

What's included

6 videos1 quiz1 discussion prompt

Moving into the final phase of Earth history in the Rocky Mountains, the Mesozoic and Cenozoic Eras, the geological record provides greater resolution and reveals, with rather exceptional detail, the location and timing of mountain uplifts, ocean incursions, changing climate, and the fossil record. The modern Rocky Mountains turn out to be a consequence of uplift, erosion, and then renewed uplift with a final sculpting via glacial ice. We conclude by coming full circle, back to science itself— recognizing it as more than simply a tool for reconstructing nature and the past, but also carrying a charge of responsibility for assessing truth and evaluating claims within our own lives and the present world. Note: This module begins with the third and final Video Field Trip Outing to Flagstaff Mountain, near Boulder, Colorado.

What's included

5 videos1 quiz1 discussion prompt


Instructor ratings
4.8 (7 ratings)
Alan Lester
University of Colorado Boulder
1 Course1,743 learners

Offered by

Recommended if you're interested in Environmental Science and Sustainability

Why people choose Coursera for their career

Felipe M.
Learner since 2018
"To be able to take courses at my own pace and rhythm has been an amazing experience. I can learn whenever it fits my schedule and mood."
Jennifer J.
Learner since 2020
"I directly applied the concepts and skills I learned from my courses to an exciting new project at work."
Larry W.
Learner since 2021
"When I need courses on topics that my university doesn't offer, Coursera is one of the best places to go."
Chaitanya A.
"Learning isn't just about being better at your job: it's so much more than that. Coursera allows me to learn without limits."

Learner reviews

Showing 3 of 16


16 reviews

  • 5 stars


  • 4 stars


  • 3 stars


  • 2 stars


  • 1 star



Reviewed on Jun 22, 2022


Reviewed on Oct 21, 2023


Reviewed on Sep 26, 2023


Open new doors with Coursera Plus

Unlimited access to 7,000+ world-class courses, hands-on projects, and job-ready certificate programs - all included in your subscription

Advance your career with an online degree

Earn a degree from world-class universities - 100% online

Join over 3,400 global companies that choose Coursera for Business

Upskill your employees to excel in the digital economy

Frequently asked questions