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Wageningen University

Introduction to Animal Behaviour

Wageningen University via edX


Do you want to understand how and why animals behave the way they do, and how we test hypotheses about behaviour scientifically? This biology and life sciences course provides an introduction to the complexities of wild animal behaviour, and how it is studied.

Over six weeks, learners will explore the various behaviours animals adopt in order to meet the challenges of their daily lives. We begin with how animals learn and communicate with each other, then move on to discuss how they find food, avoid predators, choose their mates, and rear their offspring.

The MOOC Introduction to Animal Behaviour is aimed at anyone looking to broaden their understanding of animal behaviour beyond nature documentaries or a typical high school education. No previous knowledge is required, only curiosity and enthusiasm for the subject.

This course is taught by three top-researchers of Wageningen University & Research, a top-ranked university. Prof. Marc Naguib is professor and chair of the behavioural ecology group and shares his fascination for birds behaviour as they are incredibly mobile and have an amazing repertoire of behaviour. Dr. James Savage is currently a postdoctoral fellow at University College Cork, where he is studying the social behavior of birds across different habitats in a fragmented landscape. Dr. Lysanne Snijders shares her passion for social dynamics of animal populations.


Week 1: The science of animal behaviour
An introduction to key concepts for studying animal behaviour, including evolution, natural selection, anthropomorphism, and the scientific method.

Week 2: Learning, cognition and development
How animals learn to adjust their behaviour to their environment, and how they use their mental abilities to solve practical problems.

Week 3: Communication
An introduction to the various means animals use to send signals to each other, and how these signals are influenced by the environment and social context.

Week 4: Finding food and avoiding predators
How animals find and exploit food resources, and how they avoid becoming food themselves.

Week 5: Mating systems and parental care
The complexities of creating the next generation, from finding and competing for a mate to rearing offspring.

Week 6: Living in groups
The costs and benefits of living with others, how complex social groups arise, and why some animals forego reproduction to help others breed.

Taught by

Prof. Marc Naguib and Dr. James Savage


4.7 rating, based on 86 Class Central reviews

Start your review of Introduction to Animal Behaviour

  • Anonymous
    The course was amazing! I expected something fun and easy in terms of animal behaviour but it turned out a whole bun of knowledge related to science. I love the video subs, it made everything much easier to understand. Therefore, second language learners, do not doubt to sign up and do the course. I love the communication topic, I am sure you will be surprised at how many different ways animals can communicate with each other in their environment. I am sorry I could not remember the name of the three teachers in the course but they are fabulous with their explanations and polite gestures. Beautiful experience with EdX.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I love animals, especially birds. My job is an anthropogenic one. I have a friend who recommended me this course and it was another initiation in natural world. I'm glad I found this course. Initially I started without paying it to see what is the structure...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I've always loved animals and been curious about them, and this course taught me that the reasons underlying animal behaviors are often similar across species. I used to think, "why does that bird mate for life?" Now I think, "what are the reasons why some animal species mate for life, others have multiple mates, etc.?" This course broadened my thinking to consider animal behavior categories and the reasons behind the patterns we see across species. It was also taught in an engaging, achievable manner - perfect for someone like me who has a busy work schedule. The lectures are grouped by topic, and are less than 10 minutes each, making it easy to watch "just one more." Very great class overall. I very much enjoyed it.
  • Anonymous
    A good basic overview of many different topics in animal behaviour! Perfect for absolute beginners or those with an interest in animal behaviour, with some good links for further reading and discussion. Weekly talks and interviews with experts on their work is interesting too!
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    The course was absolutely brilliant. The vast topic of animal behaviour is covered by giving a broad idea along with precise details, and most wonderfully, with a huge number of examples. I can’t possibly express my full delight and gratitude participating in this course. New areas of research like infochemicals are introduced. I strongly recommend everyone to do this course as it will not only illuminate you on animal behaviour but question our own behaviour, make us more observant towards any animal we come across, may it be a an insect or a bird, and most importantly, enrich our lives by making us fall in love with nature all over again
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    This class is a great overview of Animal Behavior broken down into 6 modules. It has the perfect combination of videos, assignments, texts and tests. Out of the three professors in the main lecture videos, Professor Marc Naguib was my favorite. It felt like he was talking to me and his lecture was by far the easiest to follow. If you're a visual learner like me then you'll enjoy the animation and charts/photos in all aspects of the course. However, certain topics are definitely more dense than others and can be a struggle to get through. If you can navigate through some of the dense stuff, it's definitely worthwhile and you will be surprised at how much you learn about things you thought you already knew!
  • Anonymous
    Nice, concise video's by enthusiastic skilled teachers of Wageningen University, NL. I recommend this course for a true introduction to animal behaviour.
  • Nicole Malstrom

    Nicole Malstrom is taking this course right now.

    I liked the videos and their length. I am a note taker and I liked the ability to have the transcript play alongside the video as well as be able to pause it as needed.
    I personally don’t like forum boards - I feel lost on them and almost non-existent. I dug in to do the first couple assignments for the boards, then found out they weren’t graded so that also discouraged me from taking my time to do them where my time is so limited already.
    I was pleased, once I chose this course, to find out it was based from a university in the Netherlands since that is the origin of both my parents.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    It is a very good course, and it does a good job of maintaining a good balance between simple and complex information to keep it understandable, relevant, and interesting. The assignments involve a high content of science in the field, which I think is very helpful for learning and enjoyable. The one thing that I am disappointed about about the course is that it treats the evolutionary theory as universally accepted and does not acknowledge the existence of other theories.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    It is a great intro to animal behavior for those who would like to learn more about the natural world around them and the variability it presents. The challenges in research caused by this variability, as well as general information on how to perform objective studies with clear, concise research papers are greatly emphasized. I would highly recommend this course to any animal lover. The information you learn can not only be applied to careers and specialists, but the general public to apply to both wild and domestic animals.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    The quality of the information presented and the ways it was presented were impressive. I didn't know what to expect when I signed up. I appreciated the fact that the course is presented by those working in the field of animal behavior research. Their first-hand knowledge comes across in every lesson. Very highly recommended.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Extremely interesting course! I got so much more than what I was expecting and would definitely recommend it to anyone who loves and is interested in animals in general.
  • Profile image for Fred Pallu
    Fred Pallu

    this course is really pleasant to follow, very well structured and very well illustrated!

    the team presenting this MOOC communicates a lot of enthusiasm.

    after having followed this MOOC with a lot of pleasure, we would like to be able to go further with the same team!
  • Anonymous
    This is a great course to find out if you are interested working with or learning about animals, wild or domestic. It is general but contains basic scientific methods in evaluating and discovering about animal lives. The lectures are short and easy to stay up with. The assignments are on the simple side, but you can develop an interesting angle to get the most out of the class. Uplifting to see guest speakers that use this science to do conservation and protection for natural wildlife. Take this course to be part of that ethic, and to be able to contribute to the effort.
  • Anonymous
    Great course! Very informative, over a range of subjects relating to animal behaviour. Also actively encouraged participants to get involved with animal observation and get out into nature.
  • Anonymous
    Interesting topic with kind/motivating presentators, varied themes, different teaching methods (pictures, graphs, videos, multiple choice questions) and an overall exciting course
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
    Animal behaviour was one of the subjects which I took during my zoology B.Sc. degree at Kuwait University in the 1980s. So this course was a real refreshment which I enjoyed. The course was divided into 6 modules, which covered the main animal behavior topics, with videos, texts, assignments, short questions and module exams. The course was done with a lot of elaborate efforts. BIG THANKS to the lecturers: Prof. Dr. Marc Naguib, Dr. James Savage, Dr. Lysanne Snijders and the Behavioural Ecology Group.

    with Best Wishes

    Prof. Dr. Norman Ali Bassam Khalaf

  • Anonymous
    The course is balanced for be understandable both for the expert and for those who are introduced to the animal world.
  • Kristina Šekrst completed this course and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    This course had a great pace and informally two tracks, since there were videos on scientific methods, data analysis and research for those who had not met with scientific analysis before, which is great for beginners. There are some interesting discussions added, and assignments are fun and forums interesting. Videos hold a nice pace, and there's a vast number of real-life examples. They were really trying so hard, and people's feedback was taken into account after a couple of weeks, so that's a thumbs up as well. Can't wait for a sequel!

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