• 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.

24,021 enrolled on this course

Soils: Introducing the World Beneath Our Feet
  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours
  • 100% online

    Learn at your own paceHow it works
  • Unlimited

    $23.33/monthLearn more

Soils are a complex environment, teeming with life and supporting our most fundamental environmental processes.

We will take a journey through the soil, learning about the basics of soil science and also about life in the soil.

We will look at why soil is so important and investigate threats to soil - a topic relevant to the past and present.

Finally we will learn about how and why soils are under threat at a local and global scale.

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

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.

What topics will you cover?

  • Basic soil science - what is soil made of
  • Soil organisms - why soil microbes are so important
  • The rise and fall of civilisations and how they depend on soils
  • The impact of climate change on soils

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.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Develop an understanding of what soil is made of and how it forms
  • Describe soil texture including how to test it yourself
  • Explore the variety and diversity of life in the soil
  • Evaluate the importance of soils throughout history
  • Identify threats to soil security
  • Assess threats of global environmental change to soils

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.


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Billed at $279.99 for a year

Endless possibilities!

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  • Access to ALL eligible short courses with additional benefits, for a year
  • Discuss your learning in comments
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  • All of the above* for this course only, plus a printed certificate when you’re eligible

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  • Limited access to course content for 6 weeks

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