• Lancaster University

Soils: Introducing the World Beneath Our Feet

Learn about soils, the variety of life they contain and how humans impact this fragile system, with this free online course.

23,351 enrolled on this course

Soils: Introducing the World Beneath Our Feet
  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

Soils are a vital part of our planet’s functioning, but all too often we take soils for granted. In this free online course, we introduce you to soils and explore the world beneath our feet.

Get an introduction to soil science

Soils are a fantastically complex environment, teeming with life and supporting our most fundamental environmental processes. However, they are increasingly under threat and our soil resource is a finite one.

Starting from what soil is and how soils form we will take a journey through the soil, not just learning about the basics of soil science but also about life in the soil.

Then we will look at why soil is so important and investigate the topic of soil security - a topic relevant to the past and present.

Finally we will learn about how and why soils are under threat both at a local and global scale. Throughout this course we will ask questions such as:

  • What is soil made of?
  • Why are soil microbes so important?
  • How does the rise and fall of civilisations depend on soils?
  • How is climate change impacting on soils?

You will also get the chance to get your hands dirty with a series of activities aiming to give you practical experience of assessing soil properties and conditions.

Understand soil from a physical, chemical and biological perspective

By the end of this course, you will have a basic understanding of soil science from a physical, chemical and biological perspective.

You will have met researchers, who will tell you about cutting-edge soil science research at Lancaster University and elsewhere, and had an insight into how some of the threats to soils could be addressed in the future.

Soils are really important. How much do you know about the world beneath our feet? Take this just-for-fun quiz and find out…

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Skip to 0 minutes and 12 seconds Have you ever thought about the soil beneath us?

Skip to 0 minutes and 22 seconds Did you know that the rise and fall of civilizations depends on soils, or that there are more living things in one teaspoon of soil than there are people on the planet? We rely on soil for many resources, not least food and water. But soils can take thousands of years to form. And they are fragile. We are damaging it in many ways. If we want to protect our soils, we need to understand them.

Skip to 0 minutes and 52 seconds Soils are amazing. They’re complex and full of life. And yet few of us give soils a second thought. In this course, I’m going to take you on a journey through the world beneath our feet.

Skip to 1 minute and 9 seconds We’ll start by learning about the basics of soil science, what soil is made of, and how soils are formed. We’ll also look at the variety of soils around the world. We’ll find out about why soil is so important and about the life within soils. Finally, we’ll look at threats to soil and why we need to be doing more to protect it. Throughout the course, you’ll have the chance to learn about cutting edge research in soil science taking place here at Lancaster University.

Skip to 1 minute and 41 seconds So if you already have an interest in the environment, this course will be perfect for you. You don’t need any specialist expertise or knowledge. And it’s open to students from anywhere in the world. You will get the chance to participate actively by joining discussions, taking part in quizzes, and getting your hands dirty with activities related to the soil where you live. By the end of this course, you will have a basic understanding of soil science and some of the threats to soils. Join us and learn that soil is more interesting than you might think.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and learn at your own pace. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

You can take this self-guided course and learn at your own pace. On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

Who is the course for?

This course is aimed at anyone with an interest in soils, biology, geography and environmental science. No prior knowledge is required but will be of particular interest to sixth formers and undergraduates studying these subjects.

Who will you learn with?

Lecturer in Lancaster University environment Centre

Who developed the course?

Lancaster University

Lancaster University is a collegiate university, with a global reputation as a centre for research, scholarship and teaching with an emphasis on employability.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps, but you can complete them as quickly or slowly as you like
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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