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Online course

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.

What’s the difference between a free course and an upgraded course?

Free:

  • Access to the course for its duration + 14 days, regardless of when you join (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • No certificate

Upgraded:

  • Unlimited access to the course, for as long as it exists on FutureLearn (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • A Statement of Participation when you complete over half the course

Find out more

Soils: Introducing the World Beneath Our Feet

Why join the course?

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 secondsHave you ever thought about the soil beneath us?

Skip to 0 minutes and 22 secondsDid 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 secondsSoils 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 secondsWe'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 secondsSo 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?

  • Date to be announced

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?

Carly Stevens

Lecturer in Lancaster University environment Centre

Who developed the course?

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

Buy a personalised, digital and printed certificate

You can buy a Statement of Participation for this course — a personalised certificate in both digital and printed formats, to celebrate taking part.

£34.00 + shipping

Estimate prices in preferred currency

Charges to your account will be made in GBP. Prices in local currency are provided as a convenience and are only an estimate based on current exchange rates.

Course highlights Get a taste of this course before you join: