Earth 107 Syllabus


Coastal Processes, Hazards, and Society – Summer 2020

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.

Course Overview


Earth 107 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.

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. We advise you to obtain a complimentary subscription to the New York Times as many of the required and recommended readings are from 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 Academic Pass and receive access.


Students should plan to use Google Earth and Microsoft PowerPoint extensively during the course. You will also use Microsoft Excel. Many of the Labs will prompt you to download a Microsoft Word worksheet, but you may also use other note-taking software or applications such as Evernote or Microsoft OneNote to record notes and develop questions and ideas as you work through the course materials.


Coastal Processes, Hazards, and Society is an active course. We will have you look at real data so you can put the concepts we teach you into action. Here we explain the various types of assignments.


There are mandatory and recommended readings in this course. Mandatory readings will be linked from the Module Goals/Objectives pages. You will be required to understand the mandatory readings and material for assignments. Recommended readings will be linked throughout a module and indicated as such. Most of the material for the course is provided on the module pages.

For Credit Activities

As you work through each module, we have assignments that are for credit and those that are not but are there to advance your understanding of the material.

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

  • Participation: There will be a few (for credit) online discussions in Canvas to cover recent coverage of course topics;
  • Quizzes: Quizzes will be offered most weeks, multiple choice, and administered for credit through Canvas;
  • Capstone Project: The course Capstone Activity takes place throughout the semester; it is for credit. More information is provided at the end of Module 3;
  • Labs: Labs are given at the end of many modules for credit. In these activities, you will be required to integrate multiple concepts, record your data on worksheets and submit your answers via a Canvas quiz.

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!

Not for Credit (but essential) Activities

Learning Check Points

Sometimes these activities will extend the core module content through external readings and data sets and will help you engage with the material. Sometimes these activities are just simple questions that will help you retain information and think about what you have just read. They are utilized to evaluate your understanding of the key concepts for each part of a section’s modules. They are not for credit, but we strongly encourage you to take the time to do them as they will help you prepare for quizzes.


Percentages and Letter Grades

Breakdown of each assignment's value as a percentage of the total course grade.
Assignment Percent of Grade
Participation 10%
Quizzes 20%
Capstone Project 25%
Labs 45%

Your scores for all assignments will be kept current in Canvas.

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

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
  • Review Syllabus
  • Course Introduction and Goals
  • How to Succeed in this Course
  • Meet the Instructor
  • Download Google Earth
  • Read about the Capstone Project
  • Getting Help
  • Course Communications and Notifications
  • Modern Earth Science Principles
Readings None
  • Perform tasks outlined in course orientation to become familiar with the course and the course environment.
  • Take the Orientation Quiz.
Module 1: The Societies and Economics of Coastal Regions
  • Our Increasingly urbanized coasts and sea level
  • Introductory Activities
  • See Module Road Map.
  • Complete Module 1 Graded Discussion (includes personal introductions)
  • Complete Module 1 Lab.
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 Lab.
  • 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 Lab
  • Take the Module 3 Quiz.
  • Begin working on the Capstone Activity. Submit Stage 1.
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 Lab.
  • Take the Module 4 Quiz.
  • Download Capstone Project Stage 2 Worksheet.
Module 5: Coastal Catastrophes: Storms and Tsunamis
  • Tropical and Extratropical Storms
  • Tsunamis
  • See Module Road Map.
  • Complete Module 5 Lab.
  • 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 Graded Discussion.
  • Take the Module 6 Quiz.
  • Continue working on the Capstone Activity. Submit Stage 2.
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 Lab.
  • Take the Module 7 Quiz.
  • Download Capstone Project Stage 3 Worksheet.
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 Lab.
  • Take the Module 8 Quiz.
Module 9: Smart Building
  • Early Smart Building
  • The Need for Growth
  • See Module Road Map.
  • Complete Module 9 Lab.
  • Take the Module 9 Quiz.
  • Continue working on the Capstone Activity. Submit Stage 3.
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 Graded Discussion.
  • Take the Module 10 Quiz.
  • Download Capstone Project Stage 4 Worksheet.
Module 11: Tsunami and Storm Surge Policy
  • Policy, natural hazards, disasters, and the emergency management cycle
  • See Module Road Map.
  • Complete Module 11 Lab.
  • 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 Lab.
  • Take the Module 12 Quiz.
  • Continue working on the Capstone Activity. Stages 4 and 5 will be due at the completion of and/or after Module 12.

Course Policies

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 HelpDesk (for World Campus students) or the IT Service 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 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 Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences Academic Integrity Guidelines for undergraduate students and Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences Academic Integrity Guidelines for graduate students. 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

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.


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 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.