Earth Science Online


Earth Science GLG120YO is a four credit lab science course -- the first at Montco and one of the few in the region, to be offered online. As the catalog's course description states, we'll by studying topics of Astronomy, Meteorology, Oceanography, and Geology; but as an online course, we'll be doing this work largely together, collaboratively.

My office in the Science Center is 321; office hours will be 7:30-8:00AM MTWF, 12:15-2:15 M&W, and 7:30-1:00 T. My office phone is 215-641-6456, and, of course, email is always welcome.

Textbook. Our text is a standard, used pretty universally -- Tarbuck & Lutgens, Earth Science, 10th edition. This text came out in its new 10th edition during the summer, so you may be able to locate a 'used' copy.

Each week reading assignments, study questions from the text, and supplementary questions that I've created will be posted on our Course Documents web page.

Other Resources. Our textbook will provide the foundation and framework of our studies this semester. I expect and anticipate each of you will utilize outside resources -- internet and more traditional -- to begin to "flesh out" this framework. I'll provide some URL's; you provide the rest.

In addition, I have prepared a number of Authorware instructional programs on a CD which I will be loaning to you for the duration of the semester. To run these Authorware programs from the CD you must first download and install a free plug-in program, called Authorware Web Player. Sit tight on this for the time being. I'm revising these Authorware programs at the moment (1/10), and I'll be back in touch about this download when the CDs are ready for distribution. You won't be needing them for Unit I of our course. These Authorware programs will have many slides, text narrative, quizzes, and videos built in. They should form an integral portion of the instruction. I'll distribute the Authorware CD to you at the time of our first exam and I'll be collecting this CD from you at the end of the semester.

Discussion. I expect each of you to contribute mightly to the Discussion component of this course. Collaborative learning is a valuable instructional tool and a particular asset of the online course experience. If you have questions regarding the content, just ask via the Discussion. If you have an insight regarding someone else's question, by all means contribute. One of the real benefits of the online experience, vs. the traditional in-class course experience, is that you students can set the ceiling of how much you can learn in this course. I've found that in online courses in which students take advantage of the potential of the Discussion component, a tremendous amount of learning has taken place -- much more so than in my traditional classes. By the way, I'll be "eavesdropping" several times every day just to make sure things don't go astray via incorrect interpretations.

I expect each of you to make a substantive contribution (not just 'chat') to the Discussion at least once per week. I'll be grading your Discussion contributions for each of our four content units on a 10-8-6-3-0 basis. (This 'once-a-week' criterion doesn't earn you a 10, it prevents you from getting a 0.) I'll be evaluating the quality of your contributions; I'm particularly looking for contributions which assist others or which offer new insights or interpretations that enhance our course content. If for any reason your computer is giving you difficulty in accessing or contributing to Discussion, contact the "Technical Help" for our course right away and get this problem resolved. Refer to the letter which you received in the mail at the beginning of the semester for the phone number and/or the online help option.

Please do not get chatty with personal stuff on Discussion. If you're working with a modem, our Discussion folders can take a while to download when they start to get full of contributions, so I'd like to keep contributions which aren't content-related to an absolute minimum. I encourage you to exchange emails and then share interpersonal communications 'offline'. Finally, please be careful with sarcasm and subtle humor -- it doesn't work well in electronic communication. I'll tolerate no flaming in the Discussion.

Lab Activity. As a four credit science class we are expected to participate in lab procedures. I've devised several Authorware labs which mimic regular in-class lab activites, and several labs have been created which are centered on internet data acquisition and interpretation. There will also be several "paper labs" of a more traditional nature. Much of the supplies which you will be utilizing -- map, rock and mineral specimens, etc. -- will be loaned to you for the duration of the semester. These also will be distributed to you at the time of our first and second exams and will be collected from you at the end of the semester.

You should plan to spend an average of three hours (the standard amount for traditional in-class courses) each week doing lab work; for some weeks there will be more, for others there will be less. Most of your lab work will be submitted to me for evaluation, some will be self- and peer-evaluated via Discussion. We should anticipate that all concepts addressed in lab activity will be accessed and utilized in our exams. Each lab which is to be submitted to me for evaluation will be graded on a 10-8-6-3-0 basis. Labs which are submitted late (beyond the end of that unit's exam interval -- see Calendar) will have a 4 point deduction subtracted from the above values.

Exams. There will be four unit exams this semester. These will be open book written exams (essay questions). The first two (the Astronomy exam and the Meteorology exam) will be proctored open book exams; the second two will be true take-home exams. Each of our four exams will be worth 100 points.

Most of you live close by, so your proctored exams will be taken at either the Learning Lab here at the Blue Bell campus or the Library at the Pottstown campus -- your choice. Some of you may live at a great distance. In this situation, you must arrange for the proctoring of your two exams. Students have ordinarily found a testing lab at a nearby college which would be willing to serve as the proctor. Please contact me right away to help get this proctoring arrangement established if you live outside our region.

Grades. Your grade for the course will be based upon my assessment of your four exams, your lab work, and the quality of your contibutions to the Discussion. I'll use the following formula: 17.5% for each of your four exams (total 70%), 15% for Discussion, 15% for required lab work.

You may feel that the time invested in Discussion or Lab is undervalued in this grading format. However, you will find that your understanding of concepts learned via lab work and/or the collaborative Discussion will be utilized on the exams. Also, I intend to use the traditional decadal grading format (90-100=A, 80-89=B, etc.) for determining grades at the end of the semester. Notice that there's only a 10% difference between an A and a B, etc. The upshot is that doing "A" work on exams needs to be accompanied by comparable achievement on labs and Discussion to earn an A in the course.

My personal policy regarding the "W" grade (withdrawal) is that you can withdraw at any time from the course, right up to the very end. But please, if you find that you need to withdraw, make certain that you follow the withdrawal procedure -- just don't disappear from the course. After the eighth week of the semester I would need to sign a withdrawal form; prior to then, you don't need my signature.

Final Thoughts. Our weekly progress will be structured around a calendar accessed from the Course Documents link for our course. Individual chapter or topical 'lectures', reading assignments in the text, study questions, lab activity, etc., will be accessed from Unit Folders in Course Documents. In addition, I'll use the Discussion to make announcements from time to time; major announcements (deadlines, upcoming exams, etc.) will appear on the Announcements page.

As mentioned earlier, Earth Science Online is one of the few online lab science courses; therefore, I suspect that this is could be your first online lab science course. The fundamental advantage of an online class is, by and large, you can do the work at your own pace to suit your schedule and other commitments. The disadvantage is that you don't have the self-imposed sense of guilt or an instructor glaring at you the next time you show up for class after you've cut one! In other words, you must take responsibility for doing the work in a timely fashion; I will expect that the work is getting done.

Having taught this online course for seven successive semesters, I've seen a pattern in the former students' success: There are students who access Discussion at least once per day, who read assignments on time and who contribute their thoughts to Discussion on a frequent basis and respond regularly to other students' contributions, who submit their labwork every week while the topic is current -- these are the students who have done well. On the other hand, there are students who devote perhaps one day per week to this course, who rarely if ever contribute to Discussion, whose labs come in late or sometimes not at all -- these students have trouble passing the course. This isn't intended to be a threat as much as it's intended to be a guide based upon the performances of those who have preceeded you in this course.

Another concern is that a traditional in-class 4 credit lab science meets for 6 contact hours per week; this is twice as much contact time as for regular 3 credit humanities and other courses. The amount of homework associated with a 4 credit lab course is commensurately larger as well. Think about this as you consider taking this course -- in your routine, would you have enough time and energy to devote to a traditional in-class lab science? If you answer yes, but the classtime schedule doesn't suit your needs, then the online course might just be the answer.

If you have any further questions or concerns, feel free to contact me via email at