Ethical Dimensions of Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems

BIOET 533 Syllabus - Summer 2024


BIOET 533 Syllabus - Summer 2024

BIOET 533: Ethical Dimensions of Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems

This syllabus is divided into several sections. You can read it sequentially by scrolling down the length of the document or by clicking on any of the links below to “jump” to a specific section.


Dr. Erich W. Schienke: Lecturer, John and Willie Leone Family Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering, and Sustainability Management and Policy Option Leader in the Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems (Online Masters and Graduate Certificates Program); and Ethics Co-Leader for the Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, The Pennsylvania State University. He is the author and instructor of BIOET 533.

  • Course email: Please use the course email system (see the Inbox in Canvas).
  • Personal email:
  • Availability: I check email daily and am available for a live chat on an appointment basis.
Email: Please contact your instructors through the course email system in Canvas (see the Canvas Inbox). Always send correspondence to All Course Faculty to ensure that any course assistants also receive the note.

Class Support Services

Penn State Online offers online tutoring to World Campus students in math, writing, and some business classes. Tutoring and guided study groups for residential students are available through Penn State Learning.

Course Overview

Description: Ethical Dimensions of Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems
Prerequisites: None.

What is BIOET 533?

This course presents an examination of ethical issues relevant to systems-based research procedures, professional conduct, social and environmental impacts, and embedded ethics in research and professional practice in RESS based jobs. The course is comprised of 8 lessons divided into 7 modules and a final project. Lessons 1 and 2 provide a conceptual basis for engaging systems and professional ethics. Lessons 3 through 7 are case studies of ethical issues that can arise when engaging renewable energy and sustainability systems. Your final project will be to develop an ethics case study based on your area of RESS interests. The goals of the course are to provide you with tools for analyzing the ethical issues, both in the line of professional duties as well as in consideration of the various ethical issues that face an entire sector of renewable energy and that underpin the very reasons for taking a sustainable and renewable approach.

Like other courses in our online programs, BIOET 533 is a "paced" course. "Paced" means that the course has a start date, an end date, and a weekly schedule of activities and assignments. However, students are free to study at times most convenient to them; you never have to log in at a particular time or place. The course lasts fourteen weeks, plus an additional week for orientation prior to the official start date of the course. Assignment due dates are posted in a course calendar which students access in the University's online course management system, Canvas. See the "Assignments" section of this syllabus for more information.

Along with the course calendar, registered students will find online assignments, a gradebook, communications tools, and other useful features in Canvas. For more information about the course environment, see the "Course Management System" section of the course Orientation.

Although the class never meets face to face, you will find that there are plenty of opportunities to interact with instructors and fellow students in Canvas and even in the course text. One of the most interesting aspects of the class is that students tend to have a lot of professional experience to share. See the "Communication" section of the course Orientation to review all the ways in which you can get, and stay, in touch. Whether you have a question or a comment, you can expect to receive a reply from instructors or fellow students within 24 hours – often sooner.

What will be expected of you?

Most students report that they devote eight to twelve hours per week working on course activities and assignments. Your workload may be more or less depending on your prior experience with computing and the Web in general, with nonmarket analysis, and with reading pace.

My colleagues and I have worked hard to make this the most effective and convenient educational experience possible. The World Campus is a novel learning environment, but in one sense it is no different than a traditional college class: how much and how well you learn is ultimately up to you. You will succeed if you are diligent about keeping up with the class schedule and if you take advantage of opportunities to communicate with instructors and fellow students.

Course Objectives:

The overall goals of BIOET 533 are to enable students to:

  • demonstrate comprehension of concepts and apply methods for revealing ethical issues to relevant stakeholders;
  • locate and interpret scholarly and professional ethical responsibilities; and
  • give reasons for various ethical standpoints in a renewable energy and/or sustainability project.

The particular objectives of each lesson and project assignment are outlined below.

Lesson 1: The Ethical Dimensions of Systems

  1. Distinguish between three main (meta) categories of ethical issues applied in this course, i.e., Research Integrity; Broader Impacts; and Embedded Ethics.
  2. Define and apply the concepts of each of the three main ethical areas.
  3. Locate resources for learning more about possible ethical issues.

Lesson 2: Responsible Conduct of Research and Professional Practices

  1. Build knowledge and comprehension of research integrity principles.
  2. Define and give examples of professional responsibilities.
  3. Make and defend claims about the treatment of stakeholders.
  4. Give reasons for why credit (mainly as authorship) should or should not be shared, and if so, how it should be shared.

Lesson 3: Renewable Energy and Climate Change

  1. Articulate the relationship between climate change and the drive for renewable energy.
  2. Explain environmental arguments for the move to renewable energy.
  3. Identify ethical reasons for considering renewables.
  4. Identify ethical challenges to adopting renewables in a given situation.

Lesson 4: Biofuels

  1. Recognize why biofuels are of interest.
  2. Categorize types of plants used for biofuels.
  3. Be informed about the basic science behind biofuel production.
  4. Identify and describe various parts of life-cycle assessments (LCA) and identify biofuels-specific pieces of LCA.
  5. Identify and reason through ethical issues in the production of bioethanol.

Lesson 5: Solar Energy from Photovoltaics

  1. Comprehend the scope of the science behind PV systems.
  2. Describe and classify various parts of life-cycle assessments.
  3. Differentiation of and ethical reasons for Life-Cycle Analysis (LCA) and Life-Cycle Cost Assessments (LCCA).
  4. Recognize where, in the LCA process, ethical considerations can be included, such as in choosing goals and scope.
  5. Identify and categorize key ethical issues in the analysis of material flows for PV.

Lesson 6: Drilling Impacts of Shale Gas

  1. Identify the stakeholders in hydraulic fracturing.
  2. Describe and categorize the possible ethical issues that emerge in the use of scientific and engineering research on hydraulic fracturing.
  3. Analyze the potential ethical issues around transparency of reporting, hydraulic fluid contents, and the projected certainty around well leakages.
  4. Categorize and justify the potential ethical issues as Research Integrity, Broader Impacts, or Embedded Ethics.
  5. Advanced Option - Level 1: Describe how groundwater is sampled and how, depending on which of the sampling methods is applied, the understanding of the risks associated with methane leakages can possibly change.
  6. Advanced Option - Level 2: Define what the term "appropriate" means in the discussion of Appropriate Wastewater Management Options.

Lesson 7: Sustainability Systems Indicators

  1. Provide the main ethical principles underpinning sustainability.
  2. Define what a sustainability indicator is.
  3. Identify the ethical issues for various stakeholders in arriving at sustainability indicators.
  4. Analyze for the ethical dimensions of sustainability indicators.

Final Case: Ethical Analysis of a RESS Project/Topic of Your Choice

  1. Identify an ethical issue of significant/useful importance towards your goals in the RESS program. (This means, pick a topic in the area that can help to inform your work – the topic choice ought to benefit you.)
  2. Implement your own ethical analysis of your chosen topic or specific issue using the analytical methods developed through the course.
  3. Analyze for possible outcomes, and prescribe possible ways to develop resolutions to some of the issues you identify.

Required Course Materials

To participate in BIOET 533, you need access to the Internet, the course texts, and access to Penn State's course management system, Canvas. There are no required texts you will need to purchase for this course. Access to Canvas (and to course instructors) requires a Penn State computing account, which registered students acquire by paying an annual technology fee. No additional materials or proprietary software or data are required for BIOET 533.

For more information about how to register for BIOET 533, contact the World Campus' Adult Learner Enrollment Services at, or by telephone at 1-800-252-3592 in the US (or internationally at 814-865-5403, country code 1).

All other materials needed for this course are presented online through our course website and in Canvas. In order to access all materials, you need to have an active Penn State Access Account user ID and password (used to access the online course resources). If you have any questions about obtaining or activating your Penn State Access Account, please contact the IT Service Desk.

Using the Library

Just like on-campus students, as a Penn State student, you have a wealth of library resources available to you!

As a user of Penn State Libraries, you can...

  • search for journal articles (many are even immediately available in full-text)
  • request articles that aren't available in full-text and have them delivered electronically
  • borrow books and other materials and have them delivered to your doorstep
  • access materials that your instructor has put on Electronic Reserve
  • talk to reference librarians in real time using chat, phone, and email
  • ...and much more!

To learn more about their services, see the Online Students Use of the Library.

Weekly Assignments and Grading

6 Lesson Assignments 

Accounting for 55% of your grade (600 pts @ 100 pts each assignment)

You will have assignments based on the principles being covered in the readings for that lesson. For these lessons, and in general, questions and discussions about that lesson's reading ought to be completed before you begin the assignment. (Though it is good to look through the assignment before engaging the reading) The assignments are intended to introduce you to both conceptual and methodological materials, and each week you will have a unique template to complete and upload to the relevant Assignments folder on Canvas.

You will be graded on how robustly you engage with each assignment. Each assignment is worth up to 100 points. An “anemic” assignment in which little work or reflection is being done will receive 10-60 points. An “acceptable” assignment is one that meets the minimum requirements of the tasks will receive 70-80 points. A “robust” assignment is one that goes beyond the minimum requirements of the assignment and demonstrates a deeper engagement with the materials; it will receive 90-100 points. I will give 10 points extra credit for assignments that communicate something exceptional. You can get up to 30 extra credit points, for a total of 730 pts, during the term for this collection of assignments.

Students who are diligent about reading the website and texts are likely to perform well on the assignments. Your performance on these assignments will account for thirty percent of your final course grade. Due dates for graded quizzes appear under the Calendar tab in Canvas.

7 Discussion Forums

Accounting for 6% of your grade, (70 points @ 10 points each discussion forum)

1 SARI (Scholarship and Research Integrity) CITI Based RCR Training Module Completion

Accounting for 9% of your grade, but completion is mandatory for course completion (@ 100 pts)

The completion of this assignment during Lesson 2 is mandatory for achieving course completion, even though it is only 10% of the overall grade. Instructions for completing a single, online training session will appear in Canvas during the second week of class. The training session requires passing one of the following three Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) courses: Physical Science RCR Course, Social and Behavioral RCR Course, or an RCR for Engineers. At the end of the module, you will receive a certificate of successful completion. You will forward notice of completion to the instructor for credit. (Note, this is a training requirement for ALL GRADUATE STUDENTS at Penn State. This course has given you the space to complete this training within the timeframe of the course.) SARI= Scholarship and Research Integrity, CITI= Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative, and RCR= Responsible Conduct of Research. Completion of assignment = 10pts, regardless of the passing score on the CITI module.

1 Final Project Case Study and Critical Feedback to another student

Accounting for 30% of your grade (300 pts + 30 pts @ 330 pts)

Based on the various cases covered and methods learned, you will choose an ethics case study topic of your own interests, somewhere within the scope of RESS interests. Research materials from primary and secondary sources will be used to develop a range of issues to analyze. You will then use ethical concepts and methods, learned in the various lessons, and apply them to the range of materials collected.

Depending on your previous experience and comfort level with a systems mode of analysis, often requiring thinking across multiple disciplinary spaces, ethics, and “lateral thinking,” you will find projects to be moderately to highly challenging. The key to success is to pace yourself, paying close attention to the assignments throughout the course, as they will be your key to applying methods in your case study. And, please take the necessary time to write at a professional level. Two to three weeks are provided to complete your final project case study. Due dates appear under the Calendar tab in Canvas.

We expect your project reports to be original. You may build upon ideas, words, and illustrations produced by others, but you must paraphrase, cite, and reference such sources. Reports that contain unacknowledged contributions by others are considered to be plagiarized. We use the plagiarism detection service to evaluate the originality of students' work. Detailed guidelines about how to prepare an original report are included in the "Academic Integrity Guide" that appears in the Resources section of the course text.


There will be assignments to complete in each lesson. The assignments will be "turned in" via Assignments in Canvas.

It is recommended that the first thing a student does before beginning lesson readings is to review the week's materials and assignments.

Lesson Assignment Number Description Points
Course Assignments
1 1 Ethics Matrix 1 + Discussion 100 + 10
2 2

SARI / CITI module (Successful completion a course requirement.) + Discussion

100 + 10
3 3 Ethics Matrix 2 and Stakeholder Analysis + Discussion 100 + 10
4 4 Ethics Matrix 1 and Stakeholder Analysis + Discussion 100 + 10
5 5 Ethics Matrix 3 and Lifecycle Analysis + Discussion 100 + 10
6 6 Ethics Matrix 1, 2, and 3 + Discussion 100 + 10
7 7 Sustainability Indicators for Final Project + Discussion 100 + 10


Final Project

Ethics Matrices 1-3, Stakeholder Analysis, Lifecycle Analysis, and Sustainability Indicators + Feedback to two other students 300 + 30
Total Points 1100


Course grades are awarded based on the cumulative scoring in each of the set of assignments above. There are a total of 100 points available in the assignments, with a half point being the smallest increment. There will be up to five extra credit points available, but the cumulative score will still top out at 100. Finally, letter grades are awarded on the following basis:

Letter Grades and Points
Grade Points
A 93 – 100
A- 90 – 92.5
B+ 87 – 89.5
B 83 – 86.5
B- 80 – 82.5
C+ 77 – 79.5
C 70 – 76.5
D 60.0 – 69.5
F < 60

Assignment Due Dates

The Certificate Program in RESS and the iMPS RESS degree program were designed specifically for adult professionals who need to study part-time while they work full-time. We expect that students will occasionally encounter scheduling conflicts (Instructors do too!). When conflicts arise, students should notify instructors and request deadline extensions. Reasonable requests are granted without penalty.

Typical Weekly Schedule:
New Lesson begins Assignment due from previous Lesson Discussion due from previous Lesson

Each lesson will begin on Monday, and unless otherwise stated, all written assignments will be due in a week, at 11:59 pm (EST) the following Tuesday. A list of topics and activities included in the course is presented below. Refer to the course website for specific reading materials recommended for each lesson.

Office Hours

The instructor holds weekly drop-in office hours for this course on Mondays from 3pm-5pm. Appointments outside of regularly scheduled office hours are readily available upon request and availability. Contact your instructor.

BIOET 533 Course Schedule

PSU Academic Schedule 2022-2023

imagePrintable Schedule

As the schedule may change, please be sure to check it often! If you have a question about when something is due, ask your instructors! NOTE: If at any time you cannot get a reading, email an instructor immediately, and we can send a pdf. We prefer to link to the readings, but links change all the time!

Lesson 1
Topics: The Ethical Dimensions of Systems
  • Course website Lesson 1 materials.
  • Embedded Ethics (see draft pdf in Canvas folder.)
Assignments: Complete ethics matrix 1 and post comments.
Lesson 2
Topics: Responsible Conduct of Research and Professional Practices
  • Course website Lesson 2 materials.
  • Becker, Christian U. 2012. Sustainability ethics and sustainability research. Dordrecht: Springer. Chapters 1-5 (pdf in Canvas folder.)
Assignments: Complete CITI Basic Responsible Conduct Ethics Course.
Lesson 3
Topics: Renewable Energy and Climate Change
Assignments: Post questions and comments in the discussion forum. Complete ethics matrix 2 and stakeholder analysis worksheet.
Lesson 4 - Part 1
Topics: Biofuels Part 1
Assignments: Post questions and comments in the discussion forum.
Lesson 4 - Part 2
Topics: Biofuels Part 2
Assignments: Apply ethics matrix1 and stakeholder matrix in analysis of biofuels. Write up analysis.
Lesson 5 - Part 1
Topics: Solar Energy from Photovoltaics Part 1
  • Jeroen B. Guinée, Reinout Heijungs, Gjalt Huppes, Alessandra Zamagni, Paolo Masoni, Roberto Buonamici, Tomas Ekvall, and Tomas Rydberg. "Life Cycle Assessment: Past, Present, and Future" Environmental Science & Technology 2011 45 (1), 90-96
  • Watch videos (in order) on the course website for Lesson 5 Parts 1 and 2.
Assignments: Draft of an LCA. Post comments on LCA in the discussion forum.
Lesson 5 - Part 2
Topics: Solar Energy from Photovoltaics Part 2
Assignments: Complete and apply ethics matrix 3 in analysis of goals and scope of LCA.
Lesson 6 - Part 1
Topics: Drilling Impacts of Shale Gas Part 1

Read the following articles, in order:

  1. R. Vidic et al., "Impact of Shale Gas Development on Regional Water Quality", Science 340, 1235009 (2013). DOI: 10.1126/science.1235009
  2. Daniel J. Rozell and Sheldon J. Reaven, S. "Water Pollution Risk Associated with Natural Gas Extraction from the Marcellus Shale" Risk Analysis, Vol. 32, No. 8, 2012
  3. Lara O. Haluszczak, Arthur W. Rose, Lee R. Kump, "Geochemical evaluation of flowback brine from Marcellus gas wells in Pennsylvania, USA", Applied Geochemistry, Volume 28, January 2013, Pages 55-61
  4. "Chemicals Used in Hydraulic Fracturing" United States House of Representatives, Committee on Energy and Commerce, Minority Staff, April 2011
Assignments: Complete drafts of ethics matrix 1, 2, and 3. Post questions and comments.
Lesson 6 - Part 2
Topics: Drilling Impacts of Shale Gas Part 2

Read the following articles in order:

(Note: Yes, you are supposed to reread the Science article "Impact of Shale Gas Development on Regional Water Quality" at the end.)

  1. Kinga M. Révész, Kevin J. Breen, Alfred J. Baldassare, Robert C. Burruss, "Carbon and hydrogen isotopic evidence for the origin of combustible gases in water-supply wells in north-central Pennsylvania", Applied Geochemistry, Volume 27, Issue 1, January 2012, Pages 361-375.
  2. Stephen G. Osborn, Avner Vengosh, Nathaniel R. Warner, and Robert B. Jackson. "Methane contamination of drinking water accompanying gas-well drilling and hydraulic fracturing" PNAS 2011 108 (20) 8172-8176; published ahead of print May 9, 2011.
  3. Lisa J. Molofsky, John A. Connor, Shahla K. Farhat, Albert S. Wylie Jr., Tom Wagner. "Methane in Pennsylvania water wells unrelated to Marcellus shale fracturing" Oil & Gas Journal, Dec. 5, 2011.
  4. Samuel C. Schon. "Hydraulic fracturing not responsible for methane migration" PNAS 2011 108 (37) E664; published ahead of print August 30, 2011, doi:10.1073/pnas.1107960108
  5. R. Vidic et al., "Impact of Shale Gas Development on Regional Water Quality", Science 340, 1235009 (2013). DOI: 10.1126/science.1235009
Assignments: Apply ethics matrix 1, 2, and 3 and write up analysis.
Lesson 7
Topics: Sustainability Systems Indicators
  • Read Chapters 1-3 of Bell, Simon Morse, Stephen (2008). "Sustainability Indicators - Measuring the Immeasurable?" (2nd Edition). Earthscan. (Note: You will need to go through to either read the book online or download the chapters. Email me if you are having trouble.)
Assignments: Propose a set of sustainability indicators based on ethics tools (ethics matrices 1, 2, and 3) and broader methods for analyzing systems (stakeholder analysis, LCA, and sustainability indicators) for a topic of your choice. Ideally, this topic would be the same as your final case topic.
Final Project
Topics: Final Project
  • For your final case study, you will choose a cluster of articles to represent your topic. You will then apply the various tools you have learned to conduct your own ethical analysis of the topic or issue you have chosen to investigate. (Note: It is best to commit to a topic that can inform your work beyond the scope of this course.)
Assignments: Conduct research on the topic of your choice. Generate a cluster of articles about your topic. Conduct ethical analysis (written out and explained). Draw conclusions.

Please Note:

Final course grades will be available in Canvas.


If you have a question regarding an assignment due at 11:55 one evening, I must receive your question via Canvas email no later than noon, Eastern Time, on that day. Queries sent after 12:00 noon, Eastern Time, on the day an assignment is due may not be responded to, so please don't procrastinate!

Course Policies

Deferred Grades

If you are prevented from completing this course within the prescribed amount of time, it is possible to have the grade deferred with the concurrence of the instructor. To seek a deferred grade, you must submit a written request (by email or U.S. post) to your instructor describing the reason(s) for the request. It is up to your instructor to determine whether or not you will be permitted to receive a deferred grade. If for any reason, the coursework for the deferred grade is not complete by the assigned time, a grade of "F" will be automatically entered on your transcript.

Late Policy

Late homework accepted under the following circumstances: (1) if prearranged with the instructor; (2) if the result of a documented emergency; or (3) if documented illness (see ATTENDANCE SECTION below). The exam will be a zero unless these conditions are met. Other excuses are not valid.

Citation and Reference Style

The Chicago Manual of Style Online

I prefer Chicago 15 or 16 ed. because many citation styles tend to drop some information that can be useful, such as the first name (often replaced with just an initial.)

If you have time to learn this easy step, it's quick to auto-generate a Chicago style formation for your document by following these steps. Go to, and find your book or article via a search. For example, Sustainable energy: choosing among options. Find the link in the upper right corner that says "Cite/Export". Clicking on this link gives you an in-window pop-up with a variety of citation options. Click on the Chicago (15th ed). You can copy and paste into a document or export for download and import into your citation management software if you use it.

Tester, Jefferson W. 2012. Sustainable Energy: Choosing Among Options. MIT Press.

With all of the various free citation and bibliography software tools out there, there is no reason one would need to manually type in a citation anymore. Further, it is very good to get into the habit of collecting your citations so you can go back to them later.

DO NOT copy and paste from unreferenced sources - without exception. If you use a direct quote from any source, as part of any submitted assignment, the quote must be clearly noted and properly referenced. (In-line references are fine.)


The term "Netiquette" refers to the etiquette guidelines for electronic communications, such as email and bulletin board postings. Netiquette covers not only rules to maintain civility in discussions, but also special guidelines unique to the electronic nature of forum messages. Please review Virginia Shea's "The Core Rules of Netiquette" for general guidelines that should be followed when communicating in this course.

Use of Trade Names

Where trade names are used, no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the World Campus, Outreach and Cooperative Extension, the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, or The Pennsylvania State University is implied.

World Campus Policies

For information about additional policies regarding items such as Penn State Access Accounts, course tuition, fees, and refund schedules, and drops and withdrawals, please see the World Campus Student Policies website.

Please Note:

Links to any website outside of your course do not display if you are using the latest version of Firefox - version 23.

Much like a pop-up blocker, because our courses use a secure URL and display the link inside of the content (e.g., when you are viewing TED or YouTube videos within a course page), Mozilla calls this mixed content and it will NOT display. The new browser's default is to block outside content. To unblock, users must click on the small shield displayed to the left of the URL and select the option, "Disable Protection on this page."

The webpage Mixed Content Blocking Appears in Firefox 23 shows the shield and explains this in more detail. If you have questions, please contact the World Campus HelpDesk for World Campus students) or the IT Service Desk (for students at University Park and all other campus locations).

Penn State E-mail Accounts

All official communications from Penn State are sent to students' Penn State e-mail accounts. Be sure to check your Penn State account regularly, or forward your Penn State e-mail to your preferred e-mail account, so you don't miss any important information.

Academic Integrity

This course follows the procedures for academic integrity of Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. Penn State defines academic integrity as "the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner." Academic integrity includes "a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception." In particular, the University defines plagiarism as "the fabrication of information and citations; submitting others' work from professional journals, books, articles, and papers; submission of other students' papers, lab results or project reports and representing the work as one's own." Penalties for violations of academic integrity may include course failure. To learn more, see Penn State's Academic Integrity Training for Students

Course Copyright

All course materials students receive or to which students have online access are protected by copyright laws. Students may use course materials and make copies for their own use as needed, but unauthorized distribution and/or uploading of materials without the instructor’s express permission is strictly prohibited. University Policy AD 40, the University Policy Recording of Classroom Activities and Note Taking Services addresses this issue. Students who engage in the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials may be held in violation of the University’s Code of Conduct, and/or liable under Federal and State laws.

For example, uploading completed labs, homework, or other assignments to any study site constitutes a violation of this policy.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. Every Penn State campus has an office for students with disabilities. The Office for Student Disability Resources website provides contact information for Campus Disability Coordinators at every Penn State campus. For further information, please visit the Office for Student Disability Resources website.

In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled. You will participate in an intake interview and provide documentation. See documentation guidelines at Applying for Services from Student Disability Resources. If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus’s disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter. Please share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. You must follow this process for every semester that you request accommodations.

Change in Normal Campus Operations

In case of weather-related delays or other emergency campus disruptions or closures at the University, this online course will proceed as planned. Your instructor will inform you if there are any extenuating circumstances regarding content or activity due dates in the course due to these delays or closures. If you are affected by a weather-related emergency, please contact your instructor at the earliest possible time to make special arrangements.

Reporting Educational Equity Concerns

Penn State takes great pride in fostering a diverse and inclusive environment for students, faculty, and staff. Acts of intolerance, discrimination, or harassment due to age, ancestry, color, disability, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religious belief, sexual orientation, or veteran status are not tolerated (Policy AD29 Statement on Intolerance) and can be reported through Educational Equity via Report Bias.

Counseling and Psychological Services

Many students at Penn State face personal challenges or have psychological needs that may interfere with their academic progress, social development, or emotional well-being.  The university offers a variety of confidential services to help you through difficult times, including individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, consultations, online chats, and mental health screenings.  These services are provided by staff who welcome all students and embrace a philosophy respectful of clients’ cultural and religious backgrounds, and sensitive to differences in race, ability, gender identity, and sexual orientation.  Services include the following:

Counseling and Psychological Services at University Park  (CAPS): 814-863-0395
Counseling Services at Commonwealth Campuses
Penn State Crisis Line (24 hours/7 days/week): 877-229-6400
Crisis Text Line (24 hours/7 days/week): Text LIONS to 741741

Military Personnel

Veterans and currently serving military personnel and/or spouses with unique circumstances (e.g., upcoming deployments, drill/duty requirements, disabilities, VA appointments, etc.) are welcome and encouraged to communicate these, in advance if possible, to the instructor in the case that special arrangements need to be made.

Connect Online with Caution

Penn State is committed to educational access for all. Our students come from all walks of life and have diverse life experiences. As with any other online community, the lack of physical interaction in an online classroom can create a false sense of anonymity and security. While one can make new friends online, digital relationships can also be misleading. Good judgment and decision-making are critical when choosing to disclose personal information to others whom you do not know.

Technical Requirements

For this course, we recommend the minimum technical requirements outlined on the World Campus Technical Requirements page, including the requirements listed for same-time, synchronous communications. If you need technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the IT Service Desk (for World Campus students) or Penn State's IT Help Portal (for students at all other campus locations).

Internet Connection

Access to a reliable Internet connection is required for this course. A problem with your Internet access may not be used as an excuse for late, missing, or incomplete coursework. If you experience problems with your Internet connection while working on this course, it is your responsibility to find an alternative Internet access point, such as a public library or Wi-Fi ® hotspot.

Mixed Content

This site is considered a secure web site, which means that your connection is encrypted. We do, however, link to content that isn't necessarily encrypted. This is called mixed content. By default, mixed content is blocked in Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome. This may result in a blank page or a message saying that only secure content is displayed. Follow the directions on our Technical Requirements page to view the mixed content.


This course must be viewed using the latest version of Firefox, Safari, Chrome, or Edge. Internet Explorer is not supported. If you use any other browser, or if you are not using the latest version of your browser, some pages containing equations may not render properly. In addition, javascript must be enabled for equations to render properly. If you have any issues with equations not rendering properly, please update your browser to the latest version or try using a different browser. If you need additional technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the HelpDesk (for World Campus students) or the IT Service Desk (for students at all other campus locations).

Deferred Grades

If you are prevented from completing this course within the prescribed amount of time for reasons that are beyond your control, it is possible to have the grade deferred with the concurrence of the instructor, following Penn State Deferred Grade Policy 48-40. To seek a deferred grade, you must submit a written request (by e-mail or U.S. post) to the instructor describing the reason(s) for the request. Non-emergency permission for filing a deferred grade must be requested before the beginning of the final examination period.  It is up to the instructor to determine whether or not you will be permitted to receive a deferred grade. If permission is granted, you will work with the instructor to establish a communication plan and a clear schedule for completion within policy.  If, for any reason, the coursework for the deferred grade is not complete by the assigned time, a grade of "F" will be automatically entered on your transcript.

Diversity, Inclusion, and Respect

Penn State is “committed to creating an educational environment which is free from intolerance directed toward individuals or groups and strives to create and maintain an environment that fosters respect for others” as stated in Policy AD29 Statement on Intolerance. All members of this class are expected to contribute to a respectful, welcoming, and inclusive environment and to interact with civility.

For additional information, see:


This course will be conducted entirely online. There will be no set class meeting times, but you will be required to complete weekly assignments with specific due dates. Many of the assignments are open for multiple days, so it is your responsibility to complete the work early if you plan to travel or participate in national holidays, religious observances or University approved activities.

If you need to request an exception due to a personal or medical emergency, contact the instructor directly as soon as you are able. Such requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Mandated Reporting Statement

Penn State’s policies require me, as a faculty member, to share information about incidents of sex-based discrimination and harassment (discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, and retaliation) with Penn State’s Title IX coordinator or deputy coordinators, regardless of whether the incidents are stated to me in person or shared by students as part of their coursework. For more information regarding the University's policies and procedures for responding to reports of sexual or gender-based harassment or misconduct, please visit Penn State's Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention & Response website.

Additionally, I am required to make a report on any reasonable suspicion of child abuse in accordance with the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law.


Please note that the specifics of this Course Syllabus can be changed at any time, and you will be responsible for abiding by any such changes. All changes will be communicated to you via e-mail, course announcement and/or course discussion forum.