About this Course
We currently face unprecedented challenges on a global scale. These problems do not neatly fall into disciplines. They are complicated, complex, and connected. Join us on this epic journey of 13.8 billion years starting at the Big Bang and travelling through time all the way to the future. Discover the connections in our world, the power of collective learning, how our universe and our world has evolved from incredible simplicity to ever-increasing complexity. Experience our modern scientific origin story through Big History and discover the important links between past, current, and future events. You will find two different types of lectures. ‘Zooming In’ lectures from multiple specialists enable you to understand key concepts through the lens of different disciplines, whilst David Christian's ‘Big History Framework’ lectures provide the connective overview for a journey through eight thresholds of Big History.
Globe

100% online course

Start instantly and learn at your own schedule.
Clock

Approx. 16 hours to complete

Suggested: 6 weeks of study, 2-4 hours/week
Comment Dots

English

Subtitles: English, Romanian
Globe

100% online course

Start instantly and learn at your own schedule.
Clock

Approx. 16 hours to complete

Suggested: 6 weeks of study, 2-4 hours/week
Comment Dots

English

Subtitles: English, Romanian

Syllabus - What you will learn from this course

1

Section
Clock
4 hours to complete

Big History, Critical Thinking, & Transdisciplinarity

Welcome to Big History! This is where we use the power of a transdisciplinary perspective to explore broad trends in the grand narrative of 13.8 billion years. In this module you'll learn how Big History works, explore critical-thinking, how we know what we know, and learn about the first "3 Thresholds of Increasing Complexity", milestones around which Big History is organized, starting at the beginning of the Universe, space, time, and everything in existence....
Reading
5 videos (Total 45 min), 15 readings, 2 quizzes
Video5 videos
ZOOMING IN: Richard Menary - What is the relationship between historical & scientific explanation?5m
ZOOMING IN: Jenny Duke-Yonge - How do we decide what to believe?9m
BIG HISTORY FRAMEWORK: David Christian - How did our Universe get more complex?14m
BIG HISTORY FRAMEWORK: David Baker - Big History, Critical Thinking, & Transdisciplinarity6m
Reading15 readings
Resources10m
Glossary10m
How This Course Works10m
The Big History Forums10m
International Undergraduate Scholarship Opportunity10m
The Big History Bonus Points Scheme10m
Resources10m
Timeline10m
Glossary10m
Resources10m
Glossary10m
Resources10m
Timeline10m
Glossary10m
LOOKING BACK, LOOKING FORWARD: David Baker - Starting Out10m
Quiz2 practice exercises
Big History, Critical Thinking, Transdisciplinarity14m
Claim Testers2m

2

Section
Clock
5 hours to complete

The Universe, Stars, and Planets

Our journey across space and time has begun. In this module, in a timeline that covers billions of years, we'll explore the origins of the universe, new stars & elements, and the solar system. You'll have the opportunity to examine cosmology, astronomy, physics, chemistry, and geology....
Reading
9 videos (Total 82 min), 22 readings, 2 quizzes
Video9 videos
ZOOMING IN: Quentin Parker - What is the observable evidence for the Big Bang?9m
ZOOMING IN: Quentin Parker - How do we know how stars form?10m
ZOOMING IN: Ian Jamie - Where did the elements come from?6m
ZOOMING IN: Ian Jamie - What is the periodic table?9m
BIG HISTORY FRAMEWORK: David Christian - Why is Threshold 4 significant?8m
ZOOMING IN: Craig O'Neill - How did the solar system form?17m
ZOOMING IN: Dick Flood - What is our Earth's history and how do we know it?13m
BIG HISTORY FRAMEWORK: David Baker - The Universe, Stars, & Planets4m
Reading22 readings
Resources10m
Timeline10m
Glossary10m
Resources10m
Timeline10m
Glossary10m
Resources10m
Timeline10m
Glossary10m
Resources10m
Timeline10m
Glossary10m
Resources10m
Timeline10m
Glossary10m
Resources10m
Timeline10m
Glossary10m
Resources10m
Timeline10m
Glossary10m
LOOKING BACK, LOOKING FORWARD: David Baker - From the Inanimate Universe to Life10m
Quiz2 practice exercises
The Universe, Stars, and Planets24m
Claim Testers2m

3

Section
Clock
5 hours to complete

The Evolutionary Epic

Travel through the evolutionary epic from the origin of life c.3.8 billion years ago, the evolution of complex forms after c.550 million years ago, to the evolution of some very odd primates - humans. Zoom in and explore evolutionary biology, geology, palaeontology, and anthropology....
Reading
8 videos (Total 72 min), 21 readings, 2 quizzes
Video8 videos
ZOOMING IN: Michael Gillings - Where did life come from?7m
ZOOMING IN: Simon George - How do we get dates for Earth's history?13m
ZOOMING IN: Michael Gillings - How does evolution work?9m
ZOOMING IN: Glenn Brock - How do palaeontologists study the history of life?10m
BIG HISTORY FRAMEWORK: David Christian - Why is Threshold 6 important?8m
ZOOMING IN: Greg Downey - Why did our ancestors evolve such unusual abilities?11m
BIG HISTORY FRAMEWORK: David Baker - The Evolutionary Epic2m
Reading21 readings
Resources10m
Timeline10m
Glossary10m
Resources10m
Timeline10m
Glossary10m
Resources10m
Glossary10m
Resources10m
Timeline10m
Glossary10m
Resources10m
Timeline10m
Glossary10m
Resources10m
Timeline10m
Glossary10m
Resources10m
Timeline10m
Glossary10m
LOOKING BACK, LOOKING FORWARD: David Baker - The "Two Cultures" Meet10m
Quiz2 practice exercises
The Evolutionary Epic30m
Claim Testers2m

4

Section
Clock
4 hours to complete

Human History

After billions of years of cosmic evolution, our own rather peculiar species has emerged to cultivate even greater heights of increasing complexity. In this module, we will explore the long trend of human development from the origin of our species c.200,000 years ago to the eve of the Industrial Revolution. You will explore archaeology, paleography, and ancient, medieval, and early modern history....
Reading
7 videos (Total 61 min), 15 readings, 2 quizzes
Video7 videos
BIG HISTORY FRAMEWORK: David Christian - Why is Threshold 7 important?11m
ZOOMING IN: Susanne Binder - Where did writing come from?9m
CASE STUDY: Susanne Binder - Reading Hieroglyphs3m
ZOOMING IN: Peter Edwell - What were the Silk Roads?12m
BIG HISTORY FRAMEWORK: David Christian - What were the main changes in agrarian civilizations?11m
BIG HISTORY FRAMEWORK: David Baker - Human History3m
Reading15 readings
Resources10m
Timeline10m
Glossary10m
Resources10m
Timeline10m
Glossary10m
Resources10m
Timeline10m
Glossary10m
Resources10m
Timeline10m
Glossary10m
Resources10m
Glossary10m
LOOKING BACK, LOOKING FORWARD: David Baker - Collective Learning's "Snowball Effect"10m
Quiz2 practice exercises
Human History20m
Claim Testers2m

5

Section
Clock
4 hours to complete

Modernity

We have now arrived at one of the most dynamically changing periods ever seen in human history - our own times. This module will explore how the agrarian era that had lasted for 10,000 years transitioned to the modern era with its explosion of production and complexity. We will explore modern history, political science, and economics....
Reading
6 videos (Total 57 min), 16 readings, 2 quizzes
Video6 videos
ZOOMING IN: Mark Hearn - How did Modernity evolve after the Industrial Revolution?14m
ZOOMING IN: Stephanie Lawson - How far can globalization go?5m
ZOOMING IN: Wylie Bradford - Why is the world economy so integrated?10m
BIG HISTORY FRAMEWORK: David Christian - Why is Threshold 8 important?9m
BIG HISTORY FRAMEWORK: David Baker - Modernity4m
Reading16 readings
Resources10m
Timeline10m
Glossary10m
Resources10m
Timeline10m
Glossary10m
Resources10m
Timeline10m
Glossary10m
Resources10m
Timeline10m
Glossary10m
Resources10m
Timeline10m
Glossary10m
LOOKING BACK, LOOKING FORWARD: David Baker - Onward to Threshold 910m
Quiz2 practice exercises
Modernity16m
Claim Testers2m

6

Section
Clock
4 hours to complete

The Future

We've looked far into the deep past, now is the time to take what we've learned and look ahead. In this module we will explore the near and distant future, what challenges we face this century, how we study the future on the scale of billions of years, and where complexity may go from here. The section incorporates climatology, cosmology, physics, and foresight....
Reading
4 videos (Total 32 min), 9 readings, 3 quizzes
Video4 videos
ZOOMING IN: Lesley Hughes - How is our climate changing and what does this mean for our future?8m
ZOOMING IN: Quentin Parker - Why is the future of the Universe easier to study than the future of humanity?9m
BIG HISTORY FRAMEWORK: David Christian - What have we learned from the Big History story?3m
Reading9 readings
Resources10m
Glossary10m
Resources10m
Timeline10m
Glossary10m
Resources10m
Timeline10m
Glossary10m
Course Contributors10m
Quiz2 practice exercises
The Future12m
Claim Testers2m
4.7
Briefcase

83%

got a tangible career benefit from this course

Top Reviews

By BGJan 7th 2016

Finally! A creation myth based on evidence and multiple scientific disciplines for all humans is here! The time for stories based on speculation and superstition for the chosen group is finally over.

By MSAug 1st 2017

Very informative, cross and inter-disciplinary course. Lot of effort is put into formulating and developing the course. Thanks for all the people who have contributed to run the course successfully.

Instructors

Avatar

David Baker

Associate Lecturer

About Macquarie University

Macquarie is a hub of inspired and unconstrained thinking. Macquarie was founded with a unique purpose: to bring minds together unhindered by tradition. Created to challenge the education establishment, Macquarie has a rich track record of innovation. Macquarie actively shapes the complex issues that define the future of humanity....

Frequently Asked Questions

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