The news is constantly filled with reports about disease outbreaks and newly emerging infections. This year you may have heard about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the Middle East Respiratory Virus in Saudi Arabia, or the cholera outbreak in Uganda. You may also read reports about the "human microbiome" and how microbes are important for protecting our health. Is the information you’re seeing in the news accurate or has it been sensationalized? Why do some microbes protect us while others harm us?  

Our online microbiology course is taught by leading researchers and clinicians and is designed to provide a comprehensive, accurate, and useful overview of medical microbiology. We cover current events like the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa and use these examples to highlight the most important fundamental concepts you need to know about disease transmission, prevention, and treatments. We will explore the biology HIV, Herpes, Influenza (flu), Malaria, Staphylococcus, E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria, and a variety of other important disease-causing microbes with a focus on how they cause disease and how they can be stopped with vaccines, antibiotics/antivirals, and public health measures.

In this online microbiology course, "Introduction to Medical Microbiology", our goal is not only to introduce you to the principles of infectious disease but also to provide you with the confidence and resources to dive deeper into this important subject once you have completed this course. We aim to provide a positive, supportive, and socially engaging experience. Discussions with instructors and classmates are facilitated through the use of the most modern education management tools currently available. The designers of this course have trained with the University of Toronto's Online Course Design Institute to ensure that the teaching methods are the most effective at helping students retain and use their knowledge after they finish the course. 


Detailed information about the class can be found below...

Course Topics

  • Bacterial cells
  • Viruses
  • Eukaryotic microbes
  • Human immunity and immunology
  • Microbial genomes and genome sequencing
  • Principles of disease transmission
  • Antibiotics and antibiotic resistance
  • The human microbiome
  • Laboratory cultivation of microbes
  • Microscopy
  • Methods of decontamination and sterilization
  • Diagnostic microbiology
  • Public health and infectious disease
  • Food microbiology and food safety
  • Blood infections
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Tissue infections
  • Respiratory infections
  • Current events
  • Microbes in industry and food production
  • Careers in microbiology

The course design

"Introduction to Medical Microbiology" is designed to take advantage of the best features of online education. The course designers, Dr. Navarre and Dr. Paladino, have been trained in online education by the University of Toronto Course Design Institute. The course is not simply a set of recorded 50 minute lectures - far from it. It is organized into learning modules that contain a combination of short "video vignettes", engaging articles, and assignments that reflect the the material most relevant to the skills and ideas you will need in the future. We interview experts in medical microbiology and take you on tours of diagnostic labs. We even provide perspectives on career paths that you may never have thought of. 

We use current events to teach important concepts that can be generalized. For example, we are covering the current Ebola epidemic in West Africa with discussions that range from how the virus works to whether quarantines are effective at containing disease outbreaks. 


The course is accessible to a wide variety of learners who have a basic biology background. A deep knowledge of organic chemistry, math, or physics is not required for success in this course. We do assume you have taken an introductory biology course (equivalent to a first year university course) and know what cells, genes, DNA, proteins, and enzymes are.  

Who can take this course?

An Introduction to Medical Microbiology is open to Canadian and international students, professionals, and private individuals. This online microbiology class is administered through the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies (SCS). Learn in detail about who is eligible to take this course on the SCS Admissions page. The official course number is SCS 3031.  Click here for the official SCS course information page.

The course is not available for full or part-time students already enrolled in any degree program at any of the three University of Toronto campuses. Online microbiology options for University of Toronto students can be found here.

The marking/grading scheme

Your mark for the course will be based on scores from a series of short quizzes at the end of each module, two larger assignments that require you piece together information from several modules, and a final exam that you will take, in person, at a certified examination centre.

The textbook

We are happy to be using "Microbiology: A Human Perspective" published by McGraw Hill. This book has excellent online resources and is the best introductory text relating microbes to infection. The textbook must be purchased and is not included in the tuition for the class. Other readings will be assigned and provided to you free of charge.

Course credit equivalency

An Introduction to Medical Microbiology is equivalent to a two semester university-level introductory microbiology course (2nd year or 'sophomore' level) that can be recognized by international professional programs in the health sciences. The course contains hours of illustrated video lectures, accompanying articles, and medical perspectives. The course is taught by experienced faculty members in the Department of Molecular Genetics in the Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto. There are short web - based quizzes and a final proctored exam. 

At the completion of the course, students receive an official Grade Report from the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies. 

Before registering, students planning to use this course for admission to any academic program or as a prerequisite to any other course are strongly advised to get confirmation from the institution to which they are applying that this course will meet the expected requirements. A list of programs that have already deemed this course sufficient to meet their microbiology prerequisite can been seen here.

Is your program of interest not on the list? We are happy to send information about this course to the admissions department or credit-transfer office of any school to determine if this course can be used to meet their pre-requisite requirements.