Learn about microbiology and its broad applications

Microbiology is an increasingly important area of science; not only because of its obvious significance to human health, but also its significance to environmental management, veterinary care, farming and horticulture.

In this course, you will develop a broad based understanding of the science of microbiology. You will explore microbiology and its relationship to:

  • Human, animal and plant disease
  • Routine functions in biology (e.g. absorption of nutrients, immunology, managing waste, etc)
  • Farming - horticulture, agriculture
  • Food industries - food treatment, storage, preservation, etc.
  • Environmental management

You'll also discuss different practical applications of microbiology.

  • Microbes have the potential to have a much greater impact upon cleaning up otherwise troublesome pollutants, everything from oil spills to plastics in the environment.
  • Microbes can change the nature of soils, improving their ability to grow certain plants.
  • Microbes can combat diseases in humans, animals and plants.

The application of microbiological knowledge is expanding along with advancement in microbiological research, but to understand the potential and apply yourself to the opportunities that are emerging you must first acquire a foundation in the subject. This is what this course sets out to do.

Course Content

There are nine lessons in this course:

  1. Scope and Nature of Microbiology
  2. Microscopes
  3. Cultures
  4. Microbial Taxonomy
  5. Bacteria
  6. Viruses
  7. Other Microbes - Protists, Fungi, Helminths
  8. Immunology
  9. Applied Microbiology

Course Duration - 100 hours



  • Discuss the nature and scope of microbiology and its potential application to human life and society.
  • Determine appropriate tools for studying microorganisms, and how to utilise those tools in a variety of different contexts.
  • Describe how to culture different microorganisms in a laboratory.
  • Differentiate between different types of microorganisms.
  • Determine appropriate ways of finding and applying current information to differentiate between microorganisms you are not familiar with.
  • Explain the taxonomy, function and significance of a range of different types of bacteria.
  • Explain the taxonomy, function and significance of a range of different types of viruses.
  • Explain immunity in plants, animals and humans.
  • Identify and explain different practical applications for an understanding of the applications of microbiology.

Why Study Microorganisms?

  • They impact directly upon our health and well being.
  • They impact upon the quality of physical world we live in.
  • They impact upon the other living organisms we depend upon: everything from crops and farm animals to our pets.
  • Studying them can give us insights into all life.

Given the scope and nature of microbiology, this course cannot hope to teach you about every type of microorganism.  There are in fact so many different microorganisms that microbiology experts don’t know even a fraction of what is to be learned. This is however such an important subject because microorganisms have a huge impact upon both us and the world around us.

The starting point is to become aware of the scope and nature of these organisms, to understand how they can be examined and the general characteristics of different types of microorganisms. The bulk of this course focuses on giving you that broad foundation, with a particular focus on some of the more significant types.  Toward the end of the course you will explore some of the practical applications for microbiology.

Who Uses Microbiology?

Microbiologists work with microbiology all day every day, commonly working in laboratories. Their work can involve routine laboratory diagnostics, or production of microbiological products, through to cutting edge research.  Other professions also apply a knowledge of microbiology on a day to day basis.

This course can be a first step toward becoming a microbiologist. It may also be a step toward being a better farmer, food processor, health or veterinary professional or horticulturist.

Microbiologists are hired across all these fields, but may also have input into areas such as patent law (especially in the case of genetically engineered organisms and structures), policy change (as understanding of microbe function and transmission is required in implementing some health policies), humanitarian causes (ensuring potable water, testing and implementing sanitation measures to reduce disease in the developing world), even climate change (using microbes to help reduce pollution). The following pages explore just a few of the real-world applications of microbiology.

Microbes need to be managed in a variety of situations including:

  • In the human and animal body - deterring or killing pathogenic microbes (diseases), encouraging/maintaining beneficial organisms (probiotics).
  • In soil – soil health in agriculture and horticulture is dependent upon balance/presence of certain microbes - e.g. mycorrhizae and rhizobia. In plant tissue to prevent or deter disease.
  • In scientific research/laboratory and pathology testing.
  • In commerce - e.g. brewing, wine making, mushroom production; production of medicines/health products, bread etc.
  • In bio remediation e.g. microbes used to manage oil spills, pollution, degrading of organic compounds etc.