This beginner online course will introduce you to the complex world of ferns.

Ferns are a common sight on a woodland walk, but have you wondered what species you are seeing? Ferns are vibrant non-flowering plants and reproduce via spores. With a diverse variety of species in the UK, there is much to explore!

This course is an introduction to the fern species found in the UK. The course covers their biology, ecology and where you can find them. Focusing on their key features such as fronds, spores and structure. There are plenty of opportunities for you to get outside and put your newfound knowledge into practice, alongside guidance from an expert tutor. The course is at a beginner level and is a great place to start for those with a botanical interest who are thinking about taking their first steps into fern identification.

This is a 3-week online course covering 3 topics, for which you will complete a variety of self-led online resources and activities. Each topic is then concluded with either an interactive Zoom workshop or a marked assignment to complement the online content. Time commitment is approximately 2-3 hours a week and an E-certificate is provided upon completion. Understand how our online courses are delivered.

Who Should Attend? – Nature enthusiasts, Students, Rangers, Early career ecologists.

Knowledge Level – Beginner. Level descriptors can be found on the following webpage: Framework and Course Level Descriptors

Prior Knowledge – Existing knowledge and understanding of basic plant terminology would be beneficial for this course.

Recommended Devices

It is recommended that you access your course through a PC or laptop. Please be aware that there will be reduced functionality if you decide to access the course through a tablet or smartphone. The Field Studies Council is unable to email content directly to you.

What is covered in this course?

    • What is a Fern?
    • Fern Biology
    • Fern Ecology
    • Introduction to Identification

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

    • Explain how ferns and their allies are different from other plants
    • Understand the structure/biology of ferns and their life cycle
    • Understand fern ecology and where to find ferns and their allies in their natural habitats
    • Distinguish key features needed for identification and become familiar with 10 common species
    • Share this knowledge with friends, family and fellow volunteers.

This is a training course from the Field Studies Council, including online course materials, expert tuition and a flexible learning style. After attending this course, you may like to progress your learning about ferns or non-flowering plants with further relevant courses or branch out into other areas of natural history. The Field Studies Council offers both online and in person courses, so you can choose the learning style that suits you best.

Please note that bookings will close at 9 am on Thursday 3rd November to allow for all participants to be enrolled to the online platform – booking will not be taken after this time.*

* Bookings will close sooner if course capacity is reached

The course gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in a new subject and acquire novel skills. Our online portal gives you time to study at your own pace and fit the lessons around your own schedule.

    • See the ‘Example Timetable’ and ‘What’s Included’ sections below for more information about this course.
    • Each individual needs to place their own order to ensure we can sign you up to the learning platform and give you access to resources.
    • If you have any questions about our online courses please check our Frequently Asked Questions first
    • If your question is still not answered, email [email protected]

Group Bookings Made Easy

If you have a group of 10 or more individuals wanting to complete one of our courses, our team are available to discuss your options – from discounts to private team courses.

    • Discounted rates
    • Privately run courses for your group
    • Bespoke courses developed specifically for your needs

Click here to find out more!

Tutor: Derek Green

Although Derek’s principal area of interest is botany, he has a keen interest in all aspects of wildlife and ecology. A former college lecturer, teaching ecology and conservation, he now works as a founding Director of Budding Nature CIC, a Cornwall-based Community Interest Company that aims to increase public awareness and understanding of the natural world and to equip people with the knowledge and skills to participate in its protection. He is a highly experienced designer and deliverer of natural history workshops, creating and hosting events for a broad range of conservation and educational organisations, including Cornwall Wildlife Trust, Penwith Landscape Partnership, Dynamic Dunescapes Cornwall, Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust, Plantlife, the National Trust, the University of Exeter and Newquay Community Orchard.

Live Webinar Information

The webinars will take place on the following dates at 2:00 pm (GMT):

    • Tuesday 15th November 2022 at 2:00 - 2:45 pm
    • Tuesday 22nd November 2022 at 2:00 - 2:45 pm
    • Tuesday 29th November 2022 at 2:00 - 2:45 pm

Please note - webinars will be recorded and uploaded to the virtual learning platform for learners unable to attend.

Example Timetable


Week 1: What is a Fern? 
Self-study material available: 08/11/2022
Week 1 live webinar: 15/11/2022 at 2:00 pm

Week 2: Fern Biology and Ecology
Self-study material available: 15/11/2022
Week 2 live webinar: 22/11/2022 at 2:00 pm
Week 3: Introduction to Fern Identification
Self-study material available: 22/11/2022
Week 3 live webinar: 29/11/2022 at 2:00 pm

The final deadline to complete any outstanding activities and self-study components is 13/12/2022

Time commitment: This course will require approximately 2-3 hours of your time each week. This includes covering course materials on our Moodle learning platform and the Zoom session.

What's Included

The course has been carefully created to help you continue to build and develop your knowledge as the course progresses. With content crafted to the online Moodle Platform and bespoke to the Field Studies Council.

The course includes:

    • 45-minute interactive weekly Zoom workshops to connect with the tutor and other participants
    • Expert tuition for which the Field Studies Council is renowned
    • Activities to work on independently in advance of each Zoom workshop
    • Tailored course completion certificate

Once registered, you will follow well-illustrated, user-friendly ’books’ to pick up knowledge. Quizzes and skill checks will give you instant feedback on your learning. Forums give students the chance to interact with each other as well as a place to share work.

You can rest assured that the absolute best content from an expert in environmental education will be at your fingertips. In choosing a Field Studies Council course, you will be joining thousands of people who learn with us each year.

Before You Attend

Accessing Your Course

  • Once you sign up you’ll receive an email at least 24 hours in advance of the course opening with details of how to access our easy-to-use platform, Moodle.
  • Moodle can be accessed through a browser or an app.
  • Webinars are via Zoom so you won’t need any new software to attend

Recommended Devices

It is recommended that you access your course through a PC or laptop. Please be aware that there will be reduced functionality if you decide to access the course through a tablet or smartphone. The Field Studies Council is unable to email content directly to you.

Recommended Equipment

The following is not mandatory but will help you within this course:

    • Hand lens

Sorry this course booking is closed