Essentials of Oceanography

Course Structure


The learning environment

EARTH 540 will be conducted entirely on the World Wide Web. There are no set class meeting times, but you will be required to complete weekly assignments. Registered students in this course will need to navigate between several environments in the World Wide Web. These include:

  • This site - The instructional materials in this site consist of topical lessons of study, consisting of interactive exercises, links, animations, movies, and novel explanations of basic scientific principles of how the oceans work.
  • Canvas (, Penn State's course management system. In Canvas, registered students communicate with instructors and fellow students, submit assignments, receive feedback from the instructor, take online quizzes and surveys, check assignments scores and course grades. Note that a link to Canvas appears in the above menu.

New to EARTH 540?

Registered students should begin with the Course Orientation, located in the "Orientation" menu.

Penn State logo

Not registered? Students who register for this Penn State course gain access to assignments and instructor feedback, and earn academic credit. Information about registering for this course and about the online Master of Education in Earth Sciences is available at

Topics of study

EARTH 540 introduces knowledge and broadens understanding of the oceans and their role in climate, coastal processes, and life within the fluid Earth. You will gain insight into the physical and chemical processes that determine properties of the ocean and govern interactions between the ocean, atmosphere, groundwater, and the fluid/solid Earth. Topics will reinforce fundamental scientific principles such as heat transfer, chemical equilibrium, and conservation of energy.

The course will consist of topical lessons within three broadly defined units, plus a course orientation week at the beginning of the semester.

Course assignments

EARTH 540 will rely upon a variety of methods to assess and evaluate student learning. You will be required to:

  1. Participate in weekly discussion forums that will serve to highlight common questions and connections between key topics and principles, as well as to help students to relate course topics to their own work as secondary science educators
  2. Complete weekly Lessons and Advancement Assessments
  3. Complete 3 end-of-unit Quizzes
  4. Turn in a Capstone project that will require you to use the skills and knowledge you develop in the course to produce a learning module that you, in turn, will be able to use to teach course concepts in you own classroom. Project exercises will be evaluated, communally, by all course participants and will become available to all students in the class.