Earth 103 at Penn State: Earth in the Future
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. It is essential that you read the entire document as well as material covered in the Course Orientation. Together these serve as our course "contract."
- Course Overview
- Required Course Materials
- Assignments and Grading
- Course Schedule
- Technical Requirements
- Course Policies
Timothy Bralower, Professor of Geosciences, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, Penn State University
Office: 535 Deike Building, University Park, PA 16802
Phone: Office 814-863-1240
Office Hours:Skype by appointment
NOTE: I will read and respond to e-mail and discussion forums at least once per day during the work week (Monday through Friday). You may see me online occasionally on the weekends, but please don't count on it unless we've specifically scheduled it!
Description:Introduction to the science of Earth's climate system, the consequences of future climate on Earth, strategies for how to minimize the effects of and adapt to a changing climate.
Earth has a complex, fascinating, interconnected system of processes that control the state of the climate. If we can understand how this system works, then we can make intelligent predictions about the climate in the future. The future of climate is of great importance to the quality of life in the future. In this class, we will explore the workings of the climate system — at the present, and in the past — through a series of modules with hands-on learning activities. We will learn how simple and sophisticated computer models can provide useful tools for making predictions about what our climate will be like in the next few hundred years, which will be a critical time for our species as we endeavor to find a more sustainable way of living. A changing climate means changes in, among other things, temperature and precipitation, which will affect our water supplies, our energy consumption, and our ability to grow enough food to feed the people of Earth. A changing climate also means a range of stresses on the global economy. We will examine these climate impacts, but we will not stop there — we will also focus our attention on what can be done to help us successfully meet these challenges.
Students who successfully complete EARTH 103 should be able to:
- Explain how the climate system works, including something about its natural variability and the factors that drive climate change on a range of different time scales.
- Understand how scientists approach the question of climate change through a combination of data, models, and hypotheses.
- Explain the basic principles of climate models including their limitations and their uses, and what they predict about our future climate.
- Explain the primary consequences of climate change for water and food supplies, coastal damages, relocation costs, energy consumption, and economic growth
- Explain the options for minimizing the effects of climate change and for adapting to a changing climate.
What We Expect of You
On average, most students spend eight to ten hours per week working on course assignments. Your workload may be more or less depending on your prior experience with the energy topics we're covering and your familiarity with Web-based classes.
We have worked hard to make this an effective and engaging educational experience. You will succeed if you are diligent about keeping up with the class schedule, and if you take advantage of opportunities to engage both your classmates and your instructors throughout the course.
The key to success in this course is keeping up with the assignments. Students who complete the labs, quizzes and blogs on time have a good change of success. If you fall behind it is usually very difficult to catch up.
Specific learning objectives for each module and lab exercise are detailed within modules.
What You Can Expect of Us
We are excited about the topic of the class, and we love it when others get excited about this material too, so we will always be happy to answer your questions. We are using an online learning environment for this course, and as such, office hours are also online. Please feel free to contact us with questions and we will respond to you within 24 hours in most cases (weekend and holidays being exceptions). If one of us is going to be out of touch for a while, we will let you know ahead of time.
There is no textbook for you to buy for this course. All materials are on this course website. We require you to obtain a complimentary subscription to the New York Times. You can use the online version. To do this, go directly to The New York Times: Academic Pass.
Simply register with your Penn State email address and create your user password to claim a NYTimes.com Academic Pass and receive NYTimes.com access.
All remaining necessary materials 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 Penn State IT Service Desk.
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 displays 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.
Here is a web page that shows this shield and explains this in more detail. If you have questions, please contact the Penn State World Campus Helpdesk (for World Campus students) or the Penn State IT Service Desk (for students at all other campus locations).
Lab Exercises 35%
Each module includes one to two lab exercises that will engage you in studying data, maps, and models. These exercises build on the topics covered in the module and they will deepen and enhance your understanding of the material in that module.
Please read the following two paragraphs very carefully to avoid confusion!
The lab for the University Park section takes place face to face and participation is mandatory. The World Campus section is 100% online. Because I will not be in the room with you, the lab will not be as challenging as the University Park section lab. You will be submitting your answers in Canvas and they will be graded by Canvas. The advantage of this is you will get immediate feedback. All labs will be due Tuesday midnight of the week after the lab was started (ie Module 1 lab is due the Tuesday of the week you are working on Module 2). The University Park labs can be submitted at the end of class or in the lab dropbox. Please make sure you have your name on your paper.
Collectively, these lab exercises will make up 35% of your grade. The lab for each module will be weighted equally; your score for each will be converted to a percentage and then I will take the mean of those percentages (throwing out the lowest grade) to calculate your final lab score. If you miss a lab with no documented excuse, you will not get a score for that lab. in the University Park section, you will lose 25% credit for work that is submitted without attendance in the lab session.
Weekly Blog 10%
The blog is an integral part of this online course. It's a forum for you to air your ideas in an open and non-threatening environment and have an interesting and constructive discussion about aspects of the course that really interest you. Our expectation is for you to be intellectually engaged by the course blog and for you to do some independent research on the blog topics. Thus we are attributing 10% of the course grade to your activity on the blog. You may blog about any of two things: (1) articles in the New York Times, as well as any other reputable news source, or (2) the open-ended questions for discussion at the end of the Module. But you must provide a source for your blog entry. The blog is due Midnight Sunday. Your grades will appear in the gradebook shortly after so you will get a good sense of what is required to be successful.
You must submit an entry for the blog that is a coherent and thoughtful. Your entry should be a minimum of 10 or 15 lines of text. You will NOT get credit for material copied, quoted or rephrased from the course materials. The idea is for original research, reflection and thinking. Your score for each module's discussion will be based on the following rubric:
You should make sure your blog has/is:
- Correct spelling, good grammar
- Claims, assertions, answers supported by facts.
- Here are some examples:
- "Greenland is melting really fast." This is a claim with no supporting facts
- "We know that Greenland is melting really fast thanks to satellites that measure its mass every week or so." This is a claim with some support (although it does not get into specifics).
- Here are some examples:
- Well-reasoned, logical
- Professional, polite
The weekly blog entries will make up 10% of your grade. Each module's blog activity is weighted equally; your score for each will be converted to a percentage and then we will take the mean of those percentages (throwing out the lowest weekly grade) to calculate your final blog score.
Two Midterm Exams @ 20% each
These exams will cover material related to the module content, the readings, and the lab exercises. Discussion questions posted at the ends of many of the lab exercises represent possible exam questions, so you should study these carefully. The "Learning Outcomes" in the blue boxes at the beginning of each module provide a list of topics you should know about. The first exam will be multiple choice and the second will be short answer. Each exam is weighted equally; the first exam will cover Modules 1-6 and the second exam covers Modules 7-12.
Weekly Quizzes (total of 15%)
Students’ understanding of the module content and lab exercises will be assessed through electronically administered and graded quizzes (in Canvas). The quizzes will be designed to assess the extent to which students have mastered the science presented in the modules. The lowest grade will be dropped. Questions will be chosen from among the questions listed under "Learning Outcomes" in the blue boxes at the beginning of each module. The quizzes must be taken by Sunday midnight of the week in question.
Grades will be posted in Canvas with each assignment so that you can track your progress.
Final overall grades will be determined based on the sums of these elements.Your grade will be expressed as a percentage, with 100% being the unattainable perfect grade. We convert these scores to a letter grade as follows:
Course Grading Schedule
|Midterm Exam #1||20%|
|Midterm Exam #2||20%|
There will be bonus credit of 2% for taking the two surveys at the beginning of the course (the Pre GLE and SERC surveys) and the end of the course (the Post GLE and SERC surveys) (a total of four surveys). The surveys do take time and thought. To receive this credit, you must answer all questions, including providing thoughtful answers to the essay questions. There is no partial credit given, you must complete all four surveys. To receive this credit, you must also submit a signed consent letter in the course dropbox. All of this must be done by January 18th.
I will use the Canvas gradebook to keep track of your grades. You can see your grades by clicking on "Grades" in Canvas.
|A||93 - 100 %|
|A-||90 - 92.9 %|
|B+||87 - 89.9 %|
|B||83 - 86.9 %|
|B-||80 - 82.9%|
|C+||77 - 79.9 %|
|C||70 - 76.9 %|
|D||60 - 69.9 %|
|F||< 60 %|
Unsatisfactory (student did not participate)
Below you will find a schedule for this course, which consists of an orientation period, 12 modules each a week long, and two break periods in which exams will be scheduled — the total is 15 weeks. The firm due dates for assignments are provided in the Syllabus in Canvas.
|Week 1||Orientation - Welcome to EARTH 103||Complete the Course Orientation (see "Course Orientation")
Participation: Introduce yourself to the class as described in the Course Orientation, complete the optional Survey.
|Week 2||Module 1
Past Episodes of Climate Change
Work through Module 1 Quiz in Canvas.
Blog entry on topic of choice or in reaction to one of the open-ended questions at the end of Module 1 (Earth 103 Blog)
Recent Climate Change
Work through Module 2 Quiz in Canvas.
Blog entry on topic of choice or in reaction to one of the open-ended questions at the end of Module 2 (Earth 103 Blog)
Labs for Module 1 due Tuesday (Lab Submission in Canvas).
|Week 4||Module 3
Earth's Climate System
Work through Module 3 Quiz in Canvas.
Blog entry on topic of choice or in reaction to one of the open-ended questions at the end of Module 3 (Earth 103 Blog)
Labs for Module 2 due Tuesday(Lab Submission in Canvas).
|Week 5||Module 4
Introduction to General Circulation Models
Work through Module 4 Quiz in Canvas.
Blog entry on topic of choice or in reaction to one of the open-ended questions at the end of Module 4 (Earth 103 Blog)
Labs for Module 3 due Tuesday (Lab Submission in Canvas).
|Week 6||Module 5
The Global Carbon Cycle
Work through Module 5 Quiz in Canvas.
Blog entry on topic of choice or in reaction to one of the open-ended questions at the end of Module 5 (Earth 103 Blog)
Labs for Module 4 due Tuesday (Lab Submission in Canvas).
|Week 7||Module 6
Ocean Circulation and Its Impact on Climate
Work through Module 6 Quiz in Canvas.
Blog entry on topic of choice or in reaction to one of the open-ended questions at the end of Module 6 (Earth 103 Blog)
Labs for Module 5 due Tuesday (Lab Submission in Canvas).
|Week 8||EXAM 1|
|Week 9||Module 7
Ocean Acidification, Red Tides, and Monster Jellyfish
Work through Module 7 Quiz in Canvas.
Blog entry on topic of choice or in reaction to one of the open-ended questions at the end of Module 7 (Earth 103 Blog)
Labs for Module 6 due Tuesday (Lab Submission in Canvas).
Water Resources and Climate Change
Work through Module 8 Quiz in Canvas).
Blog entry on topic of choice or in reaction to one of the open-ended questions at the end of Module 8 (Earth 103 Blog)
Labs for Module 7 due Tuesday (Lab Submission in Canvas).
Climate Change and Food Supply
Work through Module 9 Quiz in Canvas.
Blog entry on topic of choice or in reaction to one of the open-ended questions at the end of Module 9 (Earth 103 Blog)
Labs for Module 8 due Tuesday (Lab Submission in Canvas).
Future Sea Level Change
Work through Module 10 Quiz in Canvas.
Blog entry on topic of choice or in reaction to one of the open-ended questions at the end of Module 10 (Earth 103 Blog)
Labs for Module 9 due Tuesday (Lab Submission in Canvas).
Terrestrial Ecosystems in Peril
Work through Module 11 Quiz in Canvas.
Blog entry on topic of choice or in reaction to one of the open-ended questions at the end of Module 11 (Earth 103 Blog)
Labs for Module 10 due Tuesday (Lab Submission in Canvas).
|Week 14||Module 12
Adaptations to and Mitigation of Climate Change
Work through Module 12 Quiz in Canvas.
Blog entry on topic of choice or in reaction to one of the open-ended questions at the end of Module 12 (Earth 103 Blog)
Labs for Module 11 due Tuesday (Lab Submission in Canvas).
|Week 15||EXAM 2||Labs for Module 12 due Tuesday (Lab Submission in Canvas).|
Tips for Success in EARTH 103
In order to make the most out of this opportunity, you will need to be actively involved in this course. We think that you will find that your discussions with us and with your classmates will be as important to your learning as your study of the material presented in the lessons and activities. Discussions offer you the opportunity to organize your thoughts about the content under discussion, present a logical argument about the topic, and to give and receive feedback from a variety of perspectives.
Do the work on time
We set deadlines to keep everyone on track to reach our ultimate goal of understanding what the future of climate means for our future. We will reach this goal in small steps, and we need to pace ourselves so that we can really learn this material. If you do your best to follow this pace and meet the deadlines, you will succeed. If an emergency arises, let us know as soon as possible and we can work something out if there is a good excuse — we are not merciless, but at the same time we have to be fair to others by not giving in to less serious requests for extensions.
We will assume that everyone in the class is an adult and will behave with integrity. We expect that you will not lie or cheat and that you will adhere to all of Penn State's policies on academic integrity. Penn State defines academic integrity as "the pursuit of scholarly projects 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. If you are unclear about these policies please review the material at the Policies and Rules for Undergraduate Students site. We also expect that you will treat your classmates and your instructor with respect. Climate change is an important topic, with wide-reaching implications, so that it has spilled out of the halls of science and into the more clamorous realm of politics, which is often ruled by opinions and beliefs rather than data. Politics is not science and it can often become personal; let us remember that this is a science class where we focus on the data rather than beliefs.
For this course we recommend the minimum technical requirements outlined on the Dutton Institute Technical Requirements page, including the requirements listed for same-time, synchronous communications. Specifically, this course must be viewed using one of the following browsers: Firefox (any version), Safari (versions 5.1 or 6.0) or Internet Explorer with the MathPlayer PlugIn. If you use any other browsers there will be pages that do not render properly.
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.
If you need technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the Penn State IT Service Desk.
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 WiFi hotspot.
Penn State E-mail Accounts
All official communications from the Penn State World Campus 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.
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 e-mail 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 course work for the deferred grade is not complete by the assigned time, a grade of "F" will be automatically entered on your transcript.
All course-related assignments must be completed and successfully submitted by the assigned date — this is your responsibility. If an emergency arises, get in touch immediately to work out a solution.
Academic Integrity (Penn State)
This course follows Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences Academic Integrity and Research Ethics guidelines. Penn State defines academic integrity as "the pursuit of scholarly project 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 other's work from professional journals, books, articles, and papers; submission of other student's 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 "Plagiarism Tutorial for Students." I cannot overemphasize the importance of academic integrity. 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.)
All course materials that students receive or to which students have online access are protected by copyright laws. Per University Policy AD40, 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. 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.
Citation and Reference Style
It is important (not only in this course, but in all courses and professional documents you produce) to employ proper citation methods for the sources you utilize. Failure to do so reduces the credibility of your work at best and can lead to suspicion of intentional plagiarism at worst. We don't want either of those things to happen! While we do not have a strong preference for which citation format you elect to use, we do require that you use one, and that you use it consistently throughout an assignment.
If you are interested, Penn State has many about citations at Citation and Writing Guides. You can also check out Style for Students Online - an excellent, in-depth tutorial of how and why we cite things. And, as always, just contact your instructor if you have any questions.
Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. Every Penn State campus has an office for students with disabilities. The Penn State Student Disability Resources site provides contact information for every Penn State campus. Please see Contacts for Disability Resources at all Penn State Campuses. For further information, please visit Penn State Educational Equity: Student Disability Resources.
In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled, participate in an intake interview, and provide documentation. Please see Penn State Educational Equity: Documentation Guidelines. 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.
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.
In case of weather-related delays 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 weather delays. If you are affected by a weather-related emergency, please contact your instructor at the earliest possible time to make special arrangements.
The term "Netiquette" refers to the etiquette guidelines for electronic communications, such as e-mail 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.
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 with others whom you do not know.
Disclaimer: 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. Changes will be posted to the course discussion forums in Canvas.