Nanyang Technological University and Coursera are proud to offer Beauty, Form & Function: An Exploration of Symmetry as the first dual-track MOOC that caters to both specialists and non-specialists, and can lead to full academic credits.  Below can be found the:

Syllabus • Grading Scheme • Recommended Readings •

Required Background • Essential Resources • Student Responsibility • FAQs

Symmetry is everywhere. In the grand scheme of things it is the blueprint by which the universe operates. We see symmetry in nature, art, architecture, science and engineering. This course explores the Beauty, Form and Function of Symmetry in common objects, then progresses to investigate tiling and tessellation, gems and crystals, and finally its indispensable role in technology.  Symmetry and asymmetry are also key factors that ensure the successful reproduction of plants and animals. For example, the bilateral symmetry of orchids is widely admired and this geometry is essential for insects to pollinate these flowers.

Track 1: Overview (PARTS I and II)

Duration: 5 weeks

Time Commitment: 4-6 hours per week

Target Group: Teachers, artists, architects and anyone with a passion for symmetry

Recognition: Statement of Accomplishment

This Track gives you the means to address several fundamental questions.

  • What tags do we recognize in decorative arrangements?
  • What guidelines shape the patterns in the world around us?
  • What functions do these symmetrical patterns serve?

Track 2: Overview (PARTS I, II, III and IV)

Duration: 8 weeks

Time Commitment: 7-10 hours per week

Target Group: Scientists and Engineers (current and prospective NTU students)

Recognition: Statement of Accomplishment with Distinction

NTU Academic Units: Verified Certificate with Distinction Students earn 3 Academic Units

NTU Course Type:  Unrestricted Elective or General Elective

This Track explores the impact of symmetry in technology through:

  • Describing crystals at the atomic scale to understand drug and materials design
  • Understanding how the internal arrangement of atoms is reflected by crystal faceting
  • Appreciating symmetry modification through polytypism, polymorphism and polysomatism.

To amplify these ideas, you will undertake field-exercises and be introduced to specialists - botanists, artists, geomancers, historians, scientists and engineers - that work with symmetry, and who will provide their personal insights into its ‘magic’ and impact on their disciplines.

Successful completion as a Verified Certificate with Distinction student earns 3 academic units (AUs) for an Unrestricted Elective or General Elective subject at NTU.

The option of earning AUs is open to all students. It is not necessary to be already enrolled at NTU.  Once earned, the AUs remain valid for 3 years.

Course Difficulty

This is a challenging course with 65% of students rating the material as Difficult to Very Difficult, but many find the subject matter stimulating.


Level: Beginner · Schedule: Fixed




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