Scottish boy, 12, finishes UAlberta dinosaur MOOC

Finn McKellar completes university-level Dino 101 course online, dreams of becoming a paleontologist.


It might be too soon to tell whether Finn McKellar will grow up to be the next Indiana Jones or Alan Grant from Jurassic Park, but if history repeats itself, he just might be the next Philip Currie.

McKellar, 12, recently completed Dino 101, the University of Alberta’s popular massive open online course (MOOC). The boy enrolled in the dinosaur paleobiology course when he was still in primary school and is working on his next university-level module, reports Scotland’s Cumbernauld News.

“Finn really wants to go to university and become a paleontologist,” McKellar’s dad, Matthew, told the Scottish newspaper. “As well as his online work he has built up a nice collection of fossils. He also attends the Kelvingrove young archeologists’ club; we’re not sure if he’ll be Indiana Jones or Dr. Grant from Jurassic Park!”

Dino 101 facts

Almost 75,000 people worldwide have enrolled in Dino 101 since its inception in 2014.

U of A students can take the 12-lesson course for credit as PALEO 200/201.

The U of A offers three other paleontology MOOCs:

When told of the achievement, Currie said it wouldn’t surprise him to one day see young McKellar on a fossil dig unearthing rare new specimens of dinosaurs. If anything, he can relate.

“I was one of those kids who at the age of 11 had decided already that I was going to be a dinosaur paleontologist working in Alberta,” said Currie, professor and lead instructor of Dino 101 at the U of A.

Though McKellar isn’t the youngest child to complete Dino 101—the youngest was just six years old—Currie says it’s “pretty rare overall” for a preteen child to complete it.

“Most just get intimidated by the fact that it's aimed at university students,” he said.

McKellar’s achievement just proves “anybody can learn” if they have a strong enough interest, he added.

“There are certainly not just budding paleontologists who can take this course, but there are budding mathematicians out there who could take other university courses as well. It’s a very good indication of what's possible should someone be interested enough in any subject,” said Currie.