BIO101A: Introduction to Molecular and Cellular Biology

Course Syllabus for "BIO101A: Introduction to Molecular and Cellular Biology"

Please note: A fully-supported version of BIO101 is available at https://learn.saylor.org/course/bio101. This legacy version of BIO101 does not offer a certificate and may contain broken links and outdated information. Although archived, it is open for learning without registration or enrollment. Please consider contributing updates to this course on GitHub (you can also adopt, adapt, and distribute this course under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license). To find fully-supported, current courses, visit our Learn site.

This introductory course in biology starts at the microscopic level, with molecules and cells. Before we get into the specifics of cell structure and behavior, however, let’s take a cursory glance at the field of biology more generally. Though biology as we know it today is a relatively new field, we have been studying living things since the beginning of recorded history. The invention of the microscope was the turning point in the history of biology; it paved the way for scientists to discover bacteria and other tiny organisms and ultimately led to the modern cell theory of biology. You will notice that, unlike the core program courses you took in chemistry and physics, introductory biology does not have many mathematical “laws” and “rules” and does not require much math. Instead, you will learn a great number of new terms and concepts that will help you describe life at the smallest level. Over the course of this semester, you will recognize the ways in which the tiniest of molecules are involved in the way we go about our everyday lives. Note that this course is an alternative to BIO101B, and that you may choose to take either BIO101A or BIO101B in order to learn about molecular and cellular biology. These courses cover the same material but in a slightly different way.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • describe in general terms how life began on Earth;
  • identify early scientists that played important roles in furthering our understanding of cellular life;
  • describe the characteristics that define life;
  • list the inorganic and organic molecules that are necessary for life;
  • list the structure and function of organelles in animal and plant cells;
  • list the similarities and differences between animal and plant cells;
  • describe the reactions in photosynthesis;
  • explain how the different photosynthetic reactions are found in different parts of the chloroplast;
  • describe the sequence of photosynthetic reactions;
  • explain the use of products and the synthesis of reactants in photosynthesis;
  • explain how protein is synthesized in eukaryotic cells;
  • describe the similarities and differences between photosynthesis and aerobic respiration;
  • list the reactions in aerobic respiration;
  • explain the use of products and the synthesis of reactants in aerobic respiration; and
  • describe the similarities and differences between anaerobic and aerobic respiration.

Course Requirements

In order to take this course, you must:

√    have access to a computer;

√    have continuous broadband Internet access;

√    have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g., Adobe Reader or Flash);

√    have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer;

√    have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.);

√    have competency in the English language; and

√    have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

Course Information

Welcome to BIO101A: Introduction to Molecular and Cellular Biology. General information about this course and its requirements can be found below.

Course Designers: Liang Wang, Johanna Choo, Ann Schlosser and Katie George

Primary Resources: This course is comprised of a range of different free, online materials. However, the course makes primary use of the following materials:

Requirements for Completion: In order to complete this course, you must review the material from all units (1–8). You will also be required to complete:

  • Unit 1 Quiz
  • Subunit 2.8 Problem-Based Learning Assessment
  • Unit 2 Quiz
  • Unit 3 Quiz
  • Subunit 4.7 Problem-Based Learning Assessment
  • Unit 4 Quiz
  • Unit 5 Quiz
  • Unit 6 Quiz
  • Unit 7 Quiz
  • Unit 8 Quiz
  • Final Exam

Note that you will only receive an official grade on your final exam. However, in order to adequately prepare for this exam, you will need to work through the required assignments listed above. 

In order to “pass” this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the final exam.

Your score on the exam will be tabulated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again.

Time Commitment: Completing this course should take you a total of 126 **hours**. Each unit includes a “time advisory” that lists the amount of time you are expected to spend on the subunits inside. These should help you plan your time accordingly. It may be useful to take a look at these time advisories and determine how much time you have over the next few weeks to complete each unit and then set goals for yourself. For example, Unit 1 should take you about 7.75 hours. Perhaps you can sit down with your calendar and decide to complete subunits 1.1 and 1.2 (a total of 1.25 hours) on Monday night, subunit 1.3 (a total of 5.5 hours) on Tuesday night, and so forth.

Table of Contents: You can find the course's units at the links below.