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
- Course Objectives
- Required Course Materials
- Course Schedule
- Course Policies
Jonathan Nelson serves as lead instructor of GEOG 160 during the Spring 2018 term, which begins in January and concludes in May.
(BA) This course meets the Bachelor or Arts degree requirements
Mapping involves producing and using geographic data. Geographic data specify the locations and characteristics of people and objects both natural and anthropogenic in nature. Geographic data are produced by several methods, including land surveying, aerial photography and photogrammetry, satellite remote sensing and positioning systems, social surveys such as those conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, and by an increasing array of personalized sources (e.g., cell phone GPS). Geographic information systems (GIS) and related technologies are used to turn data into maps, tables, and other kinds of information people need to make informed decisions. In a rapidly changing world, detailed, up-to-date geographic data are indispensable for governance, for commerce, and for research intended to improve our understanding of social and environmental systems.
Geographic information science (GIScience) is a research enterprise concerned with the design, development, and use of geographic information technologies (sometimes also called geospatial technologies) to help institutions and individuals not only respond to, but ideally to predict, environmental and social change. The course is intended to be of value not only to future specialists in the geographic information enterprise but also to every student who is concerned with social and environmental research and policy-making.
- gain a broad perspective on geographic information science and related technologies;
- be able to identify the kind(s) of geographic information needed for a particular task, to determine whether needed data are available, to use relevant technologies to acquire, process, and assess the quality of the data if available, and to interpret and appraise maps of the data critically;
- be prepared for more advanced study of GIS, remote sensing, and cartography;
- gain experience with asynchronous online learning.
Fulfilling these objectives should result in students becoming knowledgeable and critical consumers of geographic data and information produced by government agencies, industry, and popular media.
Course Expectations (your responsibilities)
The Department of Geography offers two versions of GEOG 160: one in the classroom, the other on the Web. The Web version consists of a required orientation; a free, online course text that consists of nine lessons; eight graded quizzes; two graded projects and 3 graded mini-projects; and participation in discussion. Everything takes place online. Most material you will need is either within the University’s online course management system, Canvas. You will be guided to any additional online material.
Students never have to log into the class at any particular time or place. Students are expected to keep pace with the assignment calendar posted in CANVAS. Students communicate with instructors and with fellow students within CANVAS using forums/discussions and Email from within Canvas using the Conversations tool. They upload project reports by submitting an assignment in Canvas. Depending on their prior experience and comfort level with desktop computing and Web publishing, students need to devote about 6 or 7 hours of effort per week over the 15-week course. Working on course assignments sporadically, or not at all, will earn poor or failing grades. As is often the case in e-learning, the Web version is more demanding than the classroom version of the course.
To participate in GEOG 160 as a registered student you need high-speed access to the Internet, and access to Penn State's course management system, CANVAS. The course text is open to anyone with Internet access. Access to Canvas requires a Penn State computing account, which registered students acquire by paying an annual technology fee. Students may be asked to download and install free software applications for mapping. No additional materials or proprietary software or data are required for GEOG160.
Using the Library
Many of Penn State's library resources can be utilized from a distance. Registered students can...
- access electronic databases, and even full text articles, from the University Libraries website,
- borrow materials and have them delivered to your doorstep...or even your desktop,
- access materials that your instructor has put on Electronic Reserve,
- talk to reference librarians in real time using the "Virtual Reference Service"
Access to these services is available to registered students under the Resources tab in CANVAS.
Technical Requirements and Help
Minimum technical requirements for this course are as follows (Required for your own computer):
- Internet Connection: Broadband (DSL, cable modem, or satellite) required
- Internet Browser: Mozilla Firefox 46 or Internet Explorer 11 or higher recommended
- Browser Plug-ins: Adobe Reader and Quicktime
- Monitor/Video Card: 15” monitor or higher; SVGA or better (1024 X 768, 24-bit graphics)
Detailed descriptions for each of these requirements are given on the CANVAS site. Please see those descriptions or the course calendar for the appropriate deadlines, and guidelines for submissions!
8 Chapter Quizzes (85 pts)
Quizzes are open-book, multiple-choice format, and provide feedback immediately after submission. The purpose of these quizzes is to help you self-assess your understanding of the course text. Many quiz questions also challenge students' ability to think beyond what they've read.
Starting with Chapter 2, each chapter includes one cumulative graded quiz, worth 10 to 16 points each, depending on the chapter. The graded quizzes are open-book format and can only be submitted once. Once you submit the graded quiz, the grade you receive on it is final. You are welcome to open, view, and even print quizzes, and to consult them while reading the text. While throughout the course you are free to collaborate with classmates, but remember: if you are not able to score well on the graded quizzes on your own, you will probably earn a poor score on the projects and a disappointing grade for the course.
3 Mini-Projects (150 pts)
In conjunction with weekly chapters, registered students are assigned three graded mini-projects (10%, or 50 points each). Projects require you to conduct research (primarily via the Web), make maps, perform tasks, and demonstrate your ability to apply concepts discussed in the course text. Details on required forms of submission for each mini-project will be contained in the project instructions. In all cases, some components of the project will require an assignment submission in CANVAS; whether you have met the project deadline will be determined by submitting the assignment on time and (in some cases) the time of posts to a discussion forum. Teaching assistants provide detailed individual critiques and itemized scores in response to every student report.
Depending on your previous experience and comfort level with computing, you'll find projects to be moderately to highly challenging. The key to success is to pace yourself, pay close attention to the grading criteria / rubric, and take time to write at a professional level. Due dates appear in the course Assignments list in CANVAS as well as in the calendar.
2 Projects (200 pts)
Two larger projects will be assigned that count for 40% of your final grade (worth 100 points each). These projects also require you to conduct research (primarily via the Web), and prepare a report to demonstrate your ability to apply concepts discussed in the course text. Details on required forms of submission for projects will be contained in the project instructions. In all cases, some components of the project will require a submission to CANVAS; whether you have met the project deadline will be determined by submitting your project as an assignment within CANVAS on time and (in some cases) the time of posts to a discussion forum.
We expect submissions for all projects to be original. You may build upon ideas, words and illustrations produced by others, but you must generate original results and put ideas into your own words (or quote directly, when necessary). It is essential to cite and provide references for your sources (not only for quotes, but for sources of ideas that you put into your own words). Reports that contain unacknowledged contributions by others are considered to be plagiarized. We use the plagiarism detection service Turnitin.com to evaluate the originality of students' work. Detailed guidelines about how to prepare an original report are included in the Academic Integrity Guide.
Participation in focused discussions (25 pts)
The final component of your grade will be based upon your participation in structured online discussions. There is a general discussion forum available throughout the course, and we encourage you to use those to ask questions, provide answers to other students, and make relevant observations (e.g., about interesting maps you see online that fit with what you have read about). In addition to this ungraded forum, there will be 5 discussion forums set up during the semester that provide a focused discussion topic that you are expected to address. At a minimum, for each, you are required to make at least one relevant post about the topic or a relevant follow up on someone else’s post. You can earn up to 5 points per discussion assignment.
Assignment Due Dates
Project due dates are announced at the beginning of the course and are enforced. "Timeliness" points are awarded as a substantial part of each project score. Mini-projects submitted after the published due dates will forfeit all timeliness points. Mini Projects and Project 1 will be accepted for credit (minus timeliness points) until two weeks after the due date. Beyond that time, a project will receive zero points. There will be no timeliness points given for Project 2, the final project; any late submissions for Project 2 will be given zero points – resulting in a failing grade!
Course grades are awarded on the basis of weighted percentages of assignment points earned within each category (chapter assignments, quizzes, projects, and participation). There is no final exam for this course. At the conclusion of the course your instructor calculates the percentages of possible points you earned in each component of the course. Finally, letter grades are awarded based on the breakdown in the table below. Note: Geography majors need to earn at least a ‘C’ grade in Geog 160.
Geog 160 Course Schedule
Check out the schedule via the Calendar in Canvas. The Calendar in Canvas will have specific lesson time frames and assignment due dates. Here are the topics and objectives for each of the nine chapters of the online textbook and the course orientation.
Attendance/Online Participation Policy
Due to the online and flexible nature of the course, generally, no excuses will be accepted for late work. There is plenty of time to plan ahead to finish projects on time. You are responsible for managing your coursework and your class/extracurricular schedule to allow yourself time to complete your assignments before they are due. We encourage you not to wait until the last minute to start working on projects.
The course abides by the Penn State Class Attendance Policy 42-27 and Attendance Policy E-11. Please also see the Illness Verification Policy and the Religious Observance Policy. Students who miss project turn-ins for legitimate reasons will be given a reasonable opportunity to make up missed work. Students are not required to secure the signature of medical personnel in the case of illness or injury; the University Health Center will not provide medical verification for minor illnesses or injuries. Other legitimate reasons for missing project deadlines include religious observance, family emergencies, and regularly scheduled university-approved curricular or extracurricular activities. Students participating in University-approved activities should submit to the instructor a Class Absence Form available from the Registrar’s Office, at least one week prior to the activity. (Note: This form is currently only available online as a PDF).
Use of Trade Names
When trade names are used, no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, of The Pennsylvania State University is implied.
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).
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Penn State Affirmative Action non-discrimination statement
- Policy AD 85 Sexual and gender-based harassment and misconduct, Title IX
- Policy AD91 Discrimination and Harassment, and Related inappropriate Conduct
- Penn State Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence
- Penn State Values
- Penn State Principles
- All In at Penn State: A Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion
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.