Earth 107 Syllabus


Coastal Processes, Hazards, and Society – Fall 2017

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

Course Overview


This course will provide students with a global perspective of coastal landscapes, the processes responsible for their formation, diversity, and change over time, as well as societal responses to current changes in the coastal zones around the world. Active learning elements include analyzing real data sets and applying critical thinking and problem-solving skills to real-world coastal issues that affect human populations. Students will complete a capstone project in which they consider a real-world coastal issue. (Note: Capstone Project instructions for the Fall 2017 PSU section will be located in Canvas - not on the course web site.)

Course Objectives

When you successfully complete this course, you will be prepared to:

  • develop the fundamental geospatial skills and concepts needed to assess the coastal processes and hazards discussed in this course;
  • link geologic time and current shoreline processes in order to explain the past and present evolution of coastline morphology;
  • assess the economic and social impacts of coastal hazards;
  • select optimal engineering options to mitigate specific risks;
  • assess how government and stakeholders can plan for and respond to coastal hazards.


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 study habits.

We have worked hard to make this the most effective and convenient educational experience possible. The Internet may still be a novel learning environment for you, but in one sense it is no different from 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 me as well as with your fellow students.

Specific learning objectives for each module and project are detailed within each module.

Course Materials

Online Content

All materials needed for this course are presented online through our course website. In each module, we provide citations for additional reading.


This course will rely on a variety of methods to assess and evaluate student learning, including:

  • weekly quizzes multiple choice, administered through your course management system;
  • labs: there are one or more lab activities each week. You will do them on worksheets and submit your answers via the CMS;
  • capstone activity: will be introduced at the end of Module 3. You will submit parts of the capstone throughout the course via the CMS.

It is important that your work be submitted in the proper format by the designated due date. We strongly advise that you not wait until the last minute to complete these assignments—give yourself time to ask questions, think things over, and chat with others. You'll learn more, do better...and be happier!

Due dates for all assignments are posted in your CMS. Please make sure you are aware of the weekly deadlines.


Percentages and Letter Grades

Breakdown of each assignment's value as a percentage of the total course grade.
Assignment Percent of Grade
Quizzes (12) 25%
Labs (12) 50%
Capstone Project (1) 25%

Your scores for all assignments will be kept current in the Course Management System.

Bonus Credit

There will be bonus credit of 2 points 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 post-course 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.

Letter Grade and Corresponding Percentages
Letter Grade Percentages
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)

Late Policy

We accept late work only in exceptional circumstances, but you must contact us immediately if you need an exception. The earlier you contact us to request a late submission, the better. Requests will be considered on a case by case basis. If you miss a quiz, that will count as your dropped score. Late labs will be assessed a penalty of 10% per day.

Earth 107 Course Schedule

imagePrintable Schedule
Weekly Schedule
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Quizzes are due by Midnight. Lab Assignments are due Tuesday midnight after the module closes.

Note: Labs are due in the following week lab period (i.e., Lab 1 is due in Lab 2 lab period).

Module Schedule

Do not use this list for Readings or Assignments, use the Module Road Maps at the beginning of each module for these.

Course Orientation
  • Meet the Instructors
  • The Learning Environment
  • Assignments
  • Technical Requirements
  • Refreshers and Tutorials
  • How to Succeed in this Course
  • Course Communication
  • Getting to Know You
  • Course Introduction
  • Modern Earth Science Principle
Readings None
  • Perform tasks outlined in course orientation to become familiar with the course and the course environment.
  • Post a self-introduction to the "Orientation - Personal Introduction" discussion forum.
  • Complete the Pre Course Surveys and submit the Consent Form in your CMS.
Module 1: The Societies and Economics of Coastal Regions
  • Our Increasingly urbanized coasts and sea level
  • Introductory Activities
  • Case Studies
  • See Module Road Map.
  • Complete Module 1 labs.
  • Take the Module 1 quiz.
Module 2: A Global Glance of the Geology of Coastal Landscapes
  • Classification of Coastal Zones
  • Second Order Influences on Coastal Zones
  • See Module Road Map.
  • Complete Module 2 labs.
  • Take the Module 2 quiz.
Module 3: Coastal Systems, Landscapes, and Processes
  • Rocky Coasts
  • Reef Coasts
  • Nearshore, Beaches, and Dunes
  • Barrier Islands
  • Deltaic Coasts
  • Estuaries
  • Coastal Wetlands and Maritime Forests
  • See Module Road Map.
  • Complete Module 3 labs.
  • Take the Module 3 quiz.
  • Begin working on the Capstone Activity. Submit Stage 1. (Note: Capstone Project instructions for the Fall 2017 PSU section will be located in Canvas - not on the course web site.)
Module 4: Understanding Sea Level Change
  • Measuring Sea Level
  • Sea Level Definitions
  • Sea Level Changes: On a Daily to Centuries Long Time Scale
  • Sea Level Changes: New section title to come
  • Sea Level Fluctuations
  • Anthropogenic Factors and Sea Level Change
  • See Module Road Map.
  • Complete Module 4 labs.
  • Take the Module 4 quiz.
Module 5: Coastal Catastrophes: Storms and Tsunamis
  • Tropical and Extratropical Storms
  • Tsunamis
  • See Module Road Map.
  • Complete Module 5 labs.
  • Take the Module 5 quiz.
Module 6: Impacts on the Societies and Economics of Coastal Regions
  • Case Studies
  • Paying for Flood Damage
  • See Module Road Map.
  • Complete Module 6 labs.
  • Take the Module 6 quiz.
  • Continue working on the Capstone Activity. Submit Stage 2. (Note: Capstone Project instructions for the Fall 2017 PSU section will be located in Canvas - not on the course web site.)
Module 7: Hard Structures and Coastal Modifications through Mimicking Natural Processes
  • Overview of Coastal Erosion
  • The Dynamic Coastline
  • Coastal Protection and Mitigation
  • See Module Road Map.
  • Complete Module 7 labs.
  • Take the Module 7 quiz.
Module 8: Managed Retreat/Multi-Layered Protection
  • Alternate Approaches
  • Managed Retreat: Introduction
  • Managed Retreat as a Response to Disaster
  • Multi-Layered Defenses
  • See Module Road Map.
  • Complete Module 8 labs.
  • Take the Module 8 quiz.
Module 9: Smart Building
  • Early Smart Building
  • The Need for Growth
  • See Module Road Map.
  • Complete Module 9 labs.
  • Take the Module 9 quiz.
  • Continue working on the Capstone Activity. Submit Stage 3. (Note: Capstone Project instructions for the Fall 2017 PSU section will be located in Canvas - not on the course web site.)
Module 10: Understanding and Assessing Coastal Vulnerability
  • Assessing Vulnerability: The Vulnerability Scoping Diagram
  • Dimension 1: Exposure
  • Dimension 2: Sensitivity
  • Dimension 3: Adaptive capacity
  • See Module Road Map.
  • Complete Module 10 labs.
  • Take the Module 10 quiz.
Module 11: Tsunami and Storm Surge Policy
  • Policy, natural hazards, disasters, and the emergency management cycle
  • See Module Road Map.
  • Complete Module 11 labs.
  • Take the Module 11 quiz.

Module 12: Sea Level Rise Policy
  • Identifying Stakeholders
  • Selecting Strategies
  • Assessing Costs and Benefits
  • Considering Views of Vulnerable Stakeholders
  • Setting Timeframes for Implementation
  • See Module Road Map.
  • Complete Module 12 labs.
  • Take the Module 12 quiz.
  • Continue working on the Capstone Activity. Stages 4 and 5 will be due after Module 12. (Note: Capstone Project instructions for the Fall 2017 PSU section will be located in Canvas - not on the course web site.)
  • After Module 12 you will be instructed to complete the Post Course Surveys in your CMS and SRTE where instructed.

Course Policies

Technical Requirements

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. If you need technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the Outreach Helpdesk (for World Campus students) or the ITS Help Desk (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 one of the following browsers: Firefox (any version), Safari (versions 5.1 or 6.0), Chrome (0.3 or later), or Internet Explorer with the MathPlayer PlugIn. If you use any other browser, there will be pages containing equations that do not render properly. If you need technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the Outreach Helpdesk (for World Campus students) or the IT Service Desk (for students at all other campus locations).

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.

Academic Integrity

This course follows the guidelines 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 "Plagiarism Tutorial 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 Student Disability Resources (SDR) website provides contact information for every Penn State campus: Contacts for Disability Resources at all Penn State Campuses. For further information, please visit the Student Disability Resources (SDR) 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 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.

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 wellbeing.  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 and Psychological 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

Reporting Bias-Motivated Incidents

Penn State takes great pride to foster 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.

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.

Inclement Weather

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.

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.

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 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.


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.

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:

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 and 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 with you via e-mail, course announcement and/or course discussion forum.