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Learner Reviews & Feedback for Paleontology: Theropod Dinosaurs and the Origin of Birds by University of Alberta

1,496 ratings

About the Course

Paleontology: Theropod Dinosaurs and the Origin of Birds is a five-lesson course teaching a comprehensive overview of the origins of birds. This course examines the anatomy, diversity, and evolution of theropod dinosaurs in relation to the origin of birds. Students explore various hypotheses for the origin of flight. Watch a preview of the course here:

Top reviews


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Excellent course! Very thorough. Very knowledgable presenters. Loved how well the course was laid out. I with there could be more interactive activities like the dinosaur foot!


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This course was packed full of interesting information. The only thing i would change is the length of individual classes. This could easily have been a 10 week course.

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1 - 25 of 452 Reviews for Paleontology: Theropod Dinosaurs and the Origin of Birds

By Daniel T

Jan 7, 2019

W. Scott Persons is a spectacular presenter. He speaks clearly and articulates himself in such a way that he can explain a complex subject in an easy-to-understand way. He doesn't speak too quickly nor too slowly. If anyone wants to be a better presenter, they should follow the example of Persons.

I like the questions being asked during the video. Sometimes they are just to make sure you are paying attention, but most times they require you to make inferences based on what you have learned, which is great. If you complete the reading material before watching the videos, you should have no problem at all answering the video questions.

The reading material is extremely in-depth and very informative even beyond what the videos offer. One complaint I have would be that the estimated time of completion for the reading is inaccurate. They say it takes about 10 minutes but if you want to actually read and get a good grasp of all of the material presented in the notes, it will take far longer. Personally, it takes me several hours to consolidate the material in my head and to take notes. Like I said, the reading goes very in-depth.

The reading material also uses anatomical terms of location very frequently. I would recommend learning the anatomical terms of location (rostral, caudal, distal, proximal, etc.) to assist you while you read the notes. Also take some time to learn how to interpret cladograms.

One thing that stands out to me is the Tree of Life, which is basically an interactive learning objective that shows how ALL life to have ever existed on this planet is connected. It is an AMAZING supplement to the course and a lot of fun to explore.

Overall, I HIGHLY recommend this course to anyone interested in dinosaurs; paleontology as a whole; evolution and phylogenesis; and ornithology.

By Carlo

Sep 9, 2017

Fascinating class! Covers a lot of material very clearly in five weeks. The use of the media is good with in-video quizzes, some games and an interactive phylogenetic tree of life. Course notes are provided for each lessons (they are very well done). The presenter, Scott Persons, a PhD student at the time if I am not mistaken, is great, though he is very surprisingly not credited on the homepage of the course, which is a shame (especially given that he has also written his scripts among other things...) I have attended all four paleontology courses from the University of Alberta and this is the one I preferred. Having first hand accounts of the discovery of Therapod fossils by Professor Currie is great and as a result the course strikes a good balance between giving facts and explaining the scientific method. Moreover, the historical part of the course, on the debate on the origin of dinosaurs, is very interesting and, as an added bonus, gives an idea of what the state of the field is today.

By Piyush R M

Jun 14, 2020

Amazing course!! I always wanted to learn about dinosaurs but most material that was available on the internet was either too easy or hard and filled with scientific jargon.This course had the right mix of scientific terms and analogies and Scott Persons and Dr.Currie made the complex terminology of dinosaurs quite easy to understand.

By M. C

Mar 15, 2018

This course was great! It explains everything clearly, and it keeps you involved by asking questions about the material, and keeps you amused with some interesting anecdotes. Highly suggested by me!

By Celyna H

Jan 7, 2021

I loved taking this course. I learned a lot (The first course I did was DINO 101 and I wanted to dig deeper). The teachers are really passionate and engaging. Cannot wait to do the others courses!

By Julia C

Aug 22, 2017

I loved this course. It was informative, easy to understand, and exciting. The lecturer's knowledge and passion shone through in the lectures, and the course notes were a great supplement too.

By Michael S R

Oct 2, 2017

An excellent well presented, so very exciting! I just loved it! I'm a retired neuroscience researcher (dementia) and held held positions as a Research Fellow and Adjunct Professor, Australian Catholic University. Since retiring I have been pursuing a long dormant passion for palaeontology and have worked on dinosaur projects in Outback Australia and have studied formal units in Palaeontology through the University of New England, Australia, and now this course through the University of Alberta! I have also obtained credentials as a laboratory technician with the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum. I look forward to doing another course via Coursera through the University of Alberta! Bloody beauty, mate!


May 6, 2020

I found this course to be fascinating, and it was a real achievement to get to grips with the biology and evolutionary changes that led to the Modern Dinosaurs - birds - surviving and thriving. I had, like many others, thought that this was a planet that was now dominated by mammals, after the dinosaurs became extinct. However, the enormous variety of birds that exist means that we co-evolved, and the mammalian branch of modern life is not quite so dominant as we had been taught! This is a really enjoyable course, if you like an intellectual challenge and a genuine sense of educational achievement when completed!

By Manuel A A B

Jun 25, 2020

Hello, I am Manuel Aguirre, from Chile, for 25 years that I have not studied about Paleontology and dinosaurs. Since I presented my photography thesis project with a slide show of "Dinoaurs in Chile" 1995. Today, thanks to the University of Alberta, Canada and thanks to Professors Scott People and Phill Currie, at 56 years old I have become re-enchanted with these "prehistoric critters". And of course with the knowledge of the Evolution of the Birds. Despite the language barrier, I managed to do a good course. Just say thank you very much and I would like to continue studying Dinosaurs with you.

By Bobby H

Aug 15, 2016

Loved it. I wish there were a 10 minute review at the end where everything is pulled together in a meaningful and cohesive way with a summary of the key evolutionary paths from dinosaurs to modern birds. I will go back through all the course material to sketch this out for myself. It would be nice to have an overview/summary/chart to study from though. I'd like to memorize key points and some more signposts to help with that would be great.

I finished the course in less than a week and loved every minute. I am left wanting more. P.S. I have a master's degree in biological sciences.

By Owain E

Dec 1, 2020

Originally took the class to keep up with my daughter who is in the childhood Paleontology phase. However, I found the class to be very informative and learned way more than I was expecting.

By Caleb A S

Sep 14, 2018

Highly educational, even for a veteran paleontologist like myself. I would indeed reccomend this course to anyone who has an interest in paleontology, evolutionary biology, or ornithology!

By Dhaval S

Jun 11, 2019

That was one of the Best Experience of Learning u people Nailed it Perfectly, waiting for some new courses from your side, Dhaval Shukal

By Silver H

May 24, 2022

A really enjoyable class to go through if you're interested in evolution! However, I would certainly recommend studying up on paleontology and maybe ornithology as well before taking this class, as theres a lot of assumed knowledge that can bog you down if you don't already have it. I reccomend checking out the University of Alberta's Dino 101: Dinosaur Paleobiology first, which is a longer course but contains a lot of information that'll help you through some of the stickier portions of this class.

By George H S

Aug 9, 2021

A lot to inhale in a week or so, but very worth it. Hadn't taken any dinosaur course previously, so initially some of the terminology took some energy to assimilate. The course notes were worthy of far more attention than just the 10 or so minutes budgeted; I think they are given short shrift if read only cursorily. I would, however, recommend another editing pass to clear up the odd typo and grammar glitch to kick them up a notch and bring them to the same high quality as the videos.

There's good parallelism between the notes and the videos. The videos are thus very reinforcing of the notes, and vice versa. At times, it felt like trying to swallow a torrent of information - but my mindset was to remember everything said. That's not necessary; perhaps the greatest value of the course is the general sense of the flow of Theropod evolution, and of the diverse mechanics of evolution overall, revealed in that general sense.

As for content, at the course start I felt like my mind was an empty closet, and the facts were just being thrown in, onto a pile on the floor in the hope that later a coherent vision would emerge; at this point, I feel like the closet now has hooks and hangers and drawers by which those facts can be organized into that coherent collection. That's a very satisfying feeling, and encourages further exploration - which is one of the measures of a great course: engendering the desire to learn more.

On a practical level, the development of the understanding of dinosaur evolution as it evolved in the scientific community over time is a great reminder that science is rarely "settled," but rather is an exercise of trying to draw a detailed picture of a complex ship when you can only see parts of it through occasional openings in the fog, in little glimpses. Missteps and misinterpretations that need later correcting are intermingled with ongoing debates about what we are seeing and what it means. Scientists need always to be ready to throw out their most dearly-held beliefs in the face of new data - one of the hardest mental and emotional challenges we have to face in the search for truth. That's a pretty practical value to have reinforced by a course on dinosaurs - equally applicable to many aspects of life.

Finally, and with gratitude, I appreciate not only Coursera for making this available, but the people at University of Alberta for the major effort it took to put this course together, synthesizing and editing down the information into a nicely, well-rounded compendium that told an interesting and imagination-capturing story. Dinosaurs are one of the superstar interest areas in paleontology - captivating because of their amazing diversity and extreme size, as is obvious from their penetration so widely into the entertainment world. More than just their ability to hold our fascination, however, they are a gateway to interest in a broader study of life's diversity and origins, as well as a deeper respect for nature.

That's a good thing.

By Djalu A Y

Jul 22, 2020

The truth is, ever since a little, I love dinosaurs. I even has several books about dinosaur. It is amazing that dinosaur still exist, the modern birds. The topic about theropod and origins of birds interests me. I figured out that birds are the only theropods with better physiology and adaptations. I don't need to revive those extinct dinosaurs, because in farms, forest, savanna, bird shop, park, city, Antartica, and all around the world, dinosaurs living among the mammals and other animals. There is another fact based on Molecular evidence, seven collagen types obtained from T rex's leg bone fragments, compared to collagen data from living birds (specifically, a chicken), suggest that older theropods and birds are closely related. And when you look at all the birds' legs, cooked or uncooked, they're still scaly like the dinosaur and their other relatives, the crocodilians.

In 2017, a study found that a peptide was present in the bone of the modern ostrich that was identical to that found in the Tyrannosaurus and Brachylophosaurus specimens. AND LIKE I SAID, you don't need to revive the dinosaurs, because they are still surround us.

I am a dinosaur lover. I even dreamed to have a Canary, pet finch bird, and budgerigar as a cheap dinosaur companion in my house, although dad doesn't agree with that.

One thing that I am still curious about is, if the birds are dinosaurs just like the non avian theropods, why the hip bone shape or structure of the birds are different than the non avian theropods' hip bones (saurischian hip bone). Which is why I hope Alberta University do more research abouth this

By Matt M

Apr 16, 2019

Excellent and informative course! I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it and the class notes will be cherished and re-read every now and again. I'm really happy that the course wasn't too easy and was more aimed at those of us with already a decent understanding of palaeontology and zoology as it really taught me a lot.

The only thing I would mark it down on is that the course notes did not always correspond correctly and were out of order to the videos. I like to make notes and highlight as I watch and it took a lot of page jumping to do that. At the same time I am uncertain if the notes were supposed to be done this way, or worked through after the course.

I look forward to other courses by this University as this one was absolutely fantastic! I would love to see a course that goes more into detail on modern bird evolution and adaptions, the last lesson felt very rushed. I would also love to see courses covering other prehistoric species, perhaps the evolution of cats, whales etc or other dinosaur clades.

The instructors were a joy to listen to and easily understood too. I felt very involved and now have a much better understanding of theropods and their descendants. As an amateur paleoartist this helps me a lot!

Thank you so much for this wonderful course!

By Anne J

Oct 15, 2019

Entertaining, well designed and organized, thought-provoking course with enusiastic presentors and spectacular graphics.

Because I have never paid any attention to dinosaurs from the Mesozoic, and din't have a clue about the variety and naming conventions, I was initially overwhelmed by all the 15+ (seemed like 100+) character long names that were tossed about like popcorn tossed at the villan in a melodrama. It took a while, but I adjusted. Beware if you are not a dino connisseur.

While the course offers a primer in bird anatomy at the very beginning, the more you know about modern bird anatomy the better you will see the convulted map of evolution (and where you are heading) from the outset. My knowledge of bird anatomy was a helpful counter balance to my ignorance of Mesozoic dinos!

I thought that this course would simply be a nice side bar to my understanding and appreciation of birds. Instead it added a remarkable depth to my understanding, respect, and appreciation for the birds I observe and photograph every day.

Many thanks to the University of Alberta faculty and staff that make this course available!

By David M J

May 3, 2018

Exceptional course! This course is great for anyone trying to get into Paleontology or even get a basic understanding of the evolution of adaptions for changing to evolutionary needs and ecology. All lessons are incredibly informative and easy to understand. i took this course because I have always had an interest in Paleontology, but never knew whether I wanted to pursue a career in it. I am in the US Navy and thanks to these paleontology courses presented by University of Alberta, I am now looking to continue forward with a career into Paleontology and pursue this interest that has been there since childhood. Paleontology: Theropod Dinosaurs and the origins of Birds is only one of the courses from the University of Alberta I would recommend. To the University of Alberta, Thank you for giving me the opportunity to dip my toe into this field and truly differentiate whether or not, I just loved the concept of dinosaurs or if I actually wanted to pursue a career in Paleontology and research. Fantastic course overall and truly changed my idea of what i want to pursue in my future career. Thank you.

By Diana P B

Jul 8, 2019

A very good and in-depth course that can be taken with very little previous knowledge on the subject. Lecturers go in great detail, not simply giving you information, but really making sure you understand how we infer dinosaur's behaviour and function of different body parts. Biomechanics are taught at a level that is very easy to understand and allow you to apply your learning to different areas. The course is interactive, with many quizzes along the way that ensure you are not just memorising, but actually engaging and learning how to develop your thinking so that you can also interpret fossils to determine function and behaviour. Both illustrations and fossils are shown throughout the course, which are helpful in guiding one's learning. Recommended even for those not interested in Paleontology but are passionate for biology in general.

By Christiane B U

Nov 28, 2016

With Theropod Dinosaurs and the Origin of Birds MOOC I finally completed all Paleo Online Courses offered by University of Alberta. I enjoyed all Paleo MOOCs given their very interesting content and outstanding presentation, but I must say that Early Vertebrate Evolution was far the best one, in my opinion. It is also true to say that all University of Alberta MOOCs, as usual, provided first class lecture notes. I would like to thank all the personnel involved in developing and making available this amazing tool for propagating science and knowledge. And I would like to suggest standardizing the measuring unit system throughout all courses, because there is an interchangeable use of either imperial or metric, and since most of the world uses metric system, that could be a good way to go.

By Dennis K

Nov 18, 2020

Thank you everyone at Coursera and University of Alberta for a fascinating and enjoyable course. I found the presentation engaging, full of interest and thought-provoking. I particularly liked the interactive questions during the videos. The Lesson Notes are a tremendous resource and support the learning very well. The lesson Quizzes were challenging and appropriate, but not too challenging that they became off-putting.

If I suggest one improvement, it would be to use photographs instead of artists' impressions where possible - especially in Lesson 5, where even short video clips of current bird behaviours would bring the subject to a fitting close. However, this did not detract from the course as a whole.

Thanks again.

By Elayne C

Mar 30, 2021

I found out about this excellent course from a friend's husband, who is a paleontologist. As an 80s kid, it turns out that I had a LOT to learn about the changes from the "Dinosaur Renaissance" (and its aftermath and current research) in paleontology. I learned so much! I think my family did, too, because there were so many interesting tidbits, I couldn't help but share the many times some new piece of information blew my mind. Not only did I learn a huge amount about therapods very quickly, but also it was so interesting to connect it to modern-day birds in such an engaging way and with lively and passionate presenters/researchers. Thank you for putting together such an excellent learning experience.

By Erin J

Mar 18, 2020

a great introductory course, interestingly organized and full of detail which introduces avian characteristics of early theropods, talks a lot about specifics of evolution, and demonstrates clearly some of how dinosaurs - and other archosaurs - are classified. I would recommend reading up a bit on the positions in medical anatomy before taking this (distal/anterior/posterior/dorsal etc) but you can also look up terms as you go along. This course doesn’t have a strenuous testing procedure for you to move through the lessons, so the amount you get out of it is really down to your own interest, especially with the course notes, which offer a wealth of resources. Really fun and engaging, thanks!

By kathleen C W

Feb 18, 2016

One of the first big books I remember reading was about dinosaurs and their world: much of the information changed with further discoveries, but the book gave me such a sense of wonder at the big "lizards" that roamed the earth!

I found this course fascinating, especially since it follows on Dino 101. This helped me to see the various evolutionary tracks that were possible, and how the wide avian diversity came about. Looking at the anatomy development was very helpful to this bird-watcher/dino-watcher.

Thank you so much for opening this program -- it has been a joy and I am looking forward to the other course openings as they come up.