Food and the Future Environment

Penn State Syllabus (Online Class)

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GEOG 3N Syllabus: The Future of Food

Fall 2019

This syllabus is divided into several sections, as listed below.

  • Course Overview
  • Instructor
  • Required Course Materials
  • Assignments and Grading
  • Course Schedule
  • Course Policies

Course Overview

The Food and the Future Environment is an introductory-level science course that emphasizes the challenges facing food systems in the 21st century, and issues of sustainability for agriculture and other food production activities, as well as the challenges posed by food insecurity and modern diets to human health and well-being. Topics covered include introduction to the coupled-system perspective, historical development of food systems, socioeconomic aspects of the food system, interaction of the food system with the Earth's environment including soil, water, biota and climate, and the future of the food system considering potential changes such as in climate, urbanization, and demography.

Course Objectives

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

  • Analyze the land, biological, energy and water resources and climatic conditions in relation to food production systems.
  • Analyze how human food systems significantly alter Earth's ecosystems, landscapes, surface processes, atmosphere, and waterways.
  • Evaluate scenarios for the future of food, considering resilience in the context of climate change, human population growth, and socioeconomic, cultural and policy factors.

Expectations

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 us as well as with your fellow students.

Specific learning objectives for each lesson and project are detailed in each lesson.


Instructor

Zach Goldberg
Department of Geography
Email: zag5022@psu.edu
Office Hours: By appointment, please email to arrange a date and time


Required Course Materials

The course relies heavily on readings. The reading assignments for each module are listed in the course schedule below. Additional citations for further reading are also provided in each module.


Assignments and Grading

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

  • Formative Assessments will be completed as you read the materials.
  • Summative Assessments will be completed as you read the materials.
  • Capstone Activity will be introduced in the Orientation and at the end of the first module.
  • Weekly Quizzes will cover course material for the week's module.
  • Discussions will enable you to think about what you have learned.

It is important that your work is submitted in the proper format to the appropriate Canvas Assignment or Discussion and 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!

Please make sure you are aware of the weekly deadlines. Please see below for late submission policy.

Grading

Breakdown of each assignment's value as a percentage of the total course grade.
Assignment Percent of Grade
Formative Assessments 20%
Summative Assessments 30%
Weekly Quizzes 10%
Capstone Project 30%
Discussion (Class participation) 10%

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

Discussions

Once you have read and engaged with the course content, read or viewed the weekly readings or videos, and completed the other weekly assessments, you are ready to contribute to the Module Discussion.

The reaction portion is generally 200-300 words, but please follow each week's prompt for length guidelines specific to each week. You will submit your work to the Module Discussions for the respective week by Friday night at 11:59 p.m Eastern Time. You must then respond to at least 2 of your classmates' reactions by Sunday night at 11:59 pm Eastern Time while keeping in mind the rules of netiquette. No weekly discussions will be due on weeks when capstone stage projects are also due. Discussions will not be graded if submitted more than 3 days late without prior permission of the instructor (i.e. if submitted after 11:59 pm Eastern on Tuesday you will receive a zero).

The post should include three sections.

  • Your reaction:
    In 200-300 words, your reaction is expected to address at least two, and preferably all of the assigned materials. In your reaction, you should first consider the assigned material(s) and assessments on their own terms. Ask yourself: What have I learned about in this module? What does the material assume about coupled human-natural systems? How can I challenge or expand on what I have learned? Then, provide your own brief reaction. Submissions that do not meaningfully engage with the course material(s) will receive a zero. You must read/watch the material(s) and complete the weekly assessments before completing this assignment. When responding to your classmates, you may comment on something they said that you found interesting, answer one of the questions they posed, or pose another question. The instructor will be monitoring the board to make sure that discussions stay on topic, and that comments are respectful.
  • Questions:
    Submit 2 questions following your reaction. Your questions should relate the readings/film/assessments to the key terms covered in that week or in previous weeks. This requirement is graded as all or nothing; so, if you do not submit two questions, you will receive no points for this portion of the assignment.
  • Citations:
    You must also include full references for the assigned material. You can copy the references from the course syllabus. You must use APA style. For information on how to do this, visit this online Handbook. This requirement is graded as all or nothing; so, if you do not submit references for materials cited, you will receive no points for this portion of the assignment.
  • Respond to 2 Classmates:
    Once everyone has written their Q&R, you will then be required to go back into the discussion and converse with at least two of your classmates. Make your posts meaningful. They will be graded.
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 %
X

Unsatisfactory (student did not participate)


GEOG 3N Course Schedule

imagePrintable Schedule

Below you will find a summary of the primary learning activities for this course and the associated time frames. Modules are one week long.

Weekly schedule: Modules open on Friday, close on Friday right after the PSU class, assignments are due as in the table below:

Weekly Schedule
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Formative Assessments Due Summative Assessments Due Discussion Post Due Quiz and Discussion Comments
Week 1: Course Orientation and Introduction: Food, Environment, and Society (Module 1)
Dates

Due dates are in Canvas.

Topics

Orientation

  • Course Authors
  • About Canvas
  • Topics of Study
  • Assignments
  • Technical Requirements
  • Google Earth Tutorial
  • Using the Library
  • How to Succeed in an Online Course
  • Course Communication
  • Course Introduction
  • Modern Earth Science Principles
  • Capstone Project

Module 1.1: The Future of Food

  • Food, Society, and the Environment: Coupled Human-Natural Systems
  • Guided Introductory Reading: Why Environment and Food?
  • Drastic Impacts of Food Production on Planet Earth: The Anthropocene
  • Sustainability: Environments, communities, and economics
  • Increasing Interest in Food Systems and Sustainability

Module 1.2: Food Systems combine Natural and Human Systems

  • The Systems Concept
  • Complex Systems Behavior: An Example from India
  • Food Systems as Human-Natural Systems
Readings Course content in Canvas and the following:
Assignments

Orientation:

  • Perform tasks outlined in course orientation to become familiar with the course and the course environment.
  • Post a self-introduction in the Discussion in Canvas.

Module 1:

  • Formative Assessment: Environment and Food Issues
  • Summative Assessment: Concept Mapping and Assesment of Food Systems
  • Participate in Module 1 Discussion
  • Take the Module 1 Quiz
Week 2: Geographic and Historical Context (Module 2)
Dates

Due dates are in Canvas.

Topics

Module 2.1: Origin of farming as co-evolution and coupled human-nature interactions

  • Early Hunter-Gatherer Modifications of Environment for Food
  • The Nature and Timing of Agricultural Domestication: Global Patterns
  • Geographical Sites and Ecological Components of Agricultural Domestication
  • Explanations of Domestication: Coupled Human-Natural Systems (CNHS)

Module 2.2: Development and spread of agriculture

  • From the Origins of Agriculture to an Overview of the Challenges and Opportunities of the Present and the Future of Food
  • Period 1: Domestication, Early Farming, and Widespread Impacts (10,000 BP - 4,000 BP)
  • Period 2: Independent States, World Trade, and Global Colonial Empires (3,000 BP – 1800/1900 CE)
  • Period 3: Modern Industrial Agriculture (1800/1900 CE – Present)
  • Period 4: Sustainability Movements Towards the Future of Food: Quasi-Parallel Ecological Modernization and Alternative Food Networks (2000 – Present)
Readings

Course content in Canvas and the following:

Assignments
  • Summative Assessment: Drivers and Feedbacks in the Development of Food Systems
  • Participate in Module 2 Discussion
  • Take the Module 2 Quiz
Week 3: Diet and Nutrition (Module 3)
Dates

Due dates are in Canvas.

Topics

Module 3.1: Diet and Nutrition Basics for Global Food Systems

  • Energy Sources in Foods: Carbohydrates, Fat, and Protein
  • Protein and Amino Acids: Building Blocks
  • Vitamins and Minerals: Growth, Illness Prevention, and Proper Function
  • High-Quality Fats and Shifting Paradigms Around Fat in Diets
  • Dietary Fiber and Microbes in the Human Gut

Module 3.2: Food System Issues for Nutrition

  • Malnutrition (Undernutrition) Among Poor and Vulnerable Populations
  • "Diseases of Affluence": Not Just for the Affluent
  • Human System Factors in nutrition: Challenges in the Globalized Food System
  • Local and Alternative/ Organic Foods and Food System Challenges
  • The "Happy Medium" in Nutrition and Diets
Readings Course content in Canvas.
Assignments
  • Formative Assessment: Using A Diet Assessment Tool
  • Summative Assessment: Food Access and Food Deserts
  • Take the Module 3 Quiz
  • Turn in Capstone Stage 1 Assignment
Week 4: Food and Water (Module 4)
Dates

Due dates are in Canvas.

Topics

Module 4.1: Water Resources and Food Production

  • Evaporation and climate
  • Water is Essential for Food Production
  • Evapotranspiration and Crop Water Use
  • Water Sources for Crops
  • Irrigation Efficiency
  • Virtual Water

Module 4.2: Impacts of Food Production on Water Resources

  • Impacts of Surface Water Withdrawals for Irrigation
  • Impacts of Groundwater Withdrawals for Irrigation
  • Water Quality Impacts
  • Colorado River Case Study
  • Mississippi River Case Study
  • Managing Runoff to Reduce the Dead Zone
Readings

Course content in Canvas and the following:

Assignments
  • Formative Assessment: Turning Water into Food
  • Summative Assessment: Kansas Farm Case Study
  • Participate in Module 4 Discussion
  • Take the Module 4 Quiz
Week 5: Soils as a Key Resource for Food Systems (Module 5)
Dates

Due dates are in Canvas.

Topics Module 5.1: Soil Basics
  • What is soil?
  • Soils Support Plant Growth and Food Production
  • Soil Formation and Geography:
  • Soil Properties and Human Responses to Boost Food Production
  • Understanding Soil Maps at a Broad Global Level

Module 5.2: Soil Nitrogen and Phosphorus: Human Management of Key Nutrients

  • What is Nutrient Cycling?
  • Soil Depletion and Regeneration: Human Management of Nutrients in Soils
  • Depletion and regeneration of soil organic matter
  • The Nitrogen Cycle and Human Management of Soils
  • The Phosphorus Cycle and Human Management of Soils
  • Soil nutrients: Human Systems Aspects
Readings

Course content in Canvas and the following:

  • Chapter 2, pp. 9-17 in Building Soils for Better Crops (USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education), available as a free e-book. You can download the entire book since future modules will also use this source.
Assignments
  • Formative Assessment: Mapping Trends in Soil Properties
  • Summative Assessment: N and P Balances
  • Participate in Module 5 Discussion
  • Take the Module 5 Quiz
Week 6: Crops (Module 6)
Dates

Due dates are in Canvas.

Topics Module 6.1: Crop Life Cycles and Environments
  • Plant Life Histories
  • Annuals
  • Perennials
  • Crop Life Cycles and Environments
  • Perennials and Soil Conservation

Module 6.2: Crop Plant Characteristics and Climatic Adaptations

  • Plant Families
  • Plant Classification Systems and Physiological processes
  • C3 and C4 photosynthesis
  • Corn (Maize) Case Study
  • Sugarcane Case Study
Readings

Course content in Canvas and the following:

Assignments
  • Summative Assessment: Top 15 World Food Commodities
  • Take Module 6 Quiz
  • Capstone Project Stage 2 Assignment: Water Soil and Crops
Week 7: Soils and a Systems Approach to Soil Quality (Module 7)
Dates Due dates are in Canvas.
Topics Module 7.1: Cropping Systems and Soil Quality
  • Cropping Systems
  • Intercrops and cover crops
  • Soil Quality, Soil Health

Module 7.2: Conservation Agriculture: A Systems Approach

  • Tillage impacts on Soil Health
  • Tillage Systems
  • Continuous Cover through Crop Management
  • Conservation Agriculture in Brazil Case Study
Readings

Course content in Canvas and the following:

  • Module 7.1: Read Chapters 10 (Cover Crops), Chapter 11 (Crop Rotation); Chapter1 (Healthy Soil) and Chapter 2 (Organic Matter: What it is and Why it's so important?) from the book that you can download for free "Building Soils for Better Crops. Edition 3." Sustainable Agriculture Network, USDA. Beltsville, MD.
  • Module 7.2: Chapter 16 (Reducing Tillage) from the book "Building Soils for Better Crops. Edition 3." Sustainable Agriculture Network, USDA. Beltsville, MD.
Assignments
  • Summative Assessment: Interpreting a 12-year Summary of Crop and Soil Management from New York (Discussion)
  • Take Module 7 Quiz
Week 8: Pests and Integrated Pest Management (Module 8)
Dates

Due dates are in Canvas.

Topics

Module 8.1

  • Natural Ecosystem and Agroecosystem Comparison
  • Insects
  • Pest Management
  • Understanding Economic Thresholds

Module 8.2

  • Weeds
  • Weed Survival Characteristics
  • Herbicide Resistance
  • Transgenic Crop Pest Control
  • Insect resistant Bt crops
  • Herbicide Resistant Crops
Readings

Course content in Canvas and the following:

Assignments
  • Formative Assessment: Australian Grain Crop IPM and Determining the Economic Threshold of Potato Leafhoppers in Alfalfa
  • Summative Assessment: Herbicide Resistant Weed Interpretation and Management of Multiple Pest Types (Discussion)
  • Take Module 8 Quiz
Week 9: Food and Climate Change (Module 9)
Dates

Due dates are in Canvas.

Topics

Module 9.1: Understanding Global Climate Change and Food Systems

  • Understanding the science of climate change
  • Climate is Already Changing
  • Projected Climate Change
  • The Role of Our Food Systems in Climate Change

Module 9.2: Food production in a changing climate

  • Climate variables that affect agriculture
  • Direct effects of climate change on crops
  • Indirect effects of climate change on plants
  • How farmers adapt to climate change
  • Climate change in the coupled human-natural system
Readings

Course content in Canvas and the following:

Assignments
  • OPTIONAL: Global Climate Change Video Assignment (9.1)
  • Summative Assessment: Climate Change Predictions in your Capstone Region
  • Take Module 9 Quiz
  • Capstone Stage 3 Assignment: Soil/crop management, pests, and climate change
Week 10: Human-Environment Interactions (Module 10)
Dates

Due dates are in Canvas.

Topics

Module 10.1: Food Systems

  • Food Systems: Environments, Production, Distribution, and Household Utilization of Food
  • Spatial Scale and Typologies of Food Systems
  • The Globalized Corporate Food System
  • Smallholder Farmer Food Systems
  • Alternative Food Systems: global and local variants
  • Challenges to Producers: sustainability and "poverty traps"
  • Challenges to Producers: sustainability and "agriculture of the middle" in globalized food systems
  • Food systems as coupled natural-human systems
  • Divergence and Transition of Food Systems: human-natural interactions

Module 10.2: Food System Impacts on Earth System Processes and Sustainability

  • Earth system impacts and energy use by the food system
  • Life Cycle Assessment (LCA): Measuring the impacts of systems in multi-part processes
  • Using LCAs, Part One: Comparing Costs and Impacts
  • Using LCAs, Part Two: Assessing Hot Spots
Readings

Course content in Canvas and the following:

Assignments
  • Summative Assessment: Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of Potato in Smallholder Andean and North American Systems
  • Participate in Module 10 Discussion
  • Take Module 10 Quiz
Week 11: Human-Environment Interactions (Module 11)
Dates

Due dates are in Canvas.

Topics

Module 11.1: Resilience, Adaptive Capacity, and Vulnerability (RACV): Agrobiodiversity and Seed Systems

  • Perturbations and Shocks in Agri-Food Systems
  • Defining Resilience, Adaptive Capacity, and Vulnerability
  • Agrobiodiversity: Biological Diversity and Associated Human Capacity in Agri-Food Systems

Module 11.2

  • Introduction to Food Access, Food Security, and Food-Insecure Conditions
  • Global Overview of Food Insecurity: Food Deficit Map and Required Readings
  • Food Shortages, Chronic Malnutrition, and Famine: Coupled Human-Natural Systems Aspects
Readings

Course content in Canvas and the following:

Assignments
  • Summative Assessment: The Anatomy of the Somali Famine (2010 - 2012)
  • Take Module 11 Quiz
  • Capstone Stage 4 Assignment
Week 12: Future Food Scenarios - Capstone Stage 5
Dates

Due dates are in Canvas.

Topics

Capstone Stage 5

Readings

None

Assignments
  • Capstone Stage 5 Rough Draft
  • Capstone Stage 5 Peer Review
  • Capstone Stage 5 Final Paper
  • Capstone Stage 5 Reflection

Course Policies

Late Submission Policy

This course has many different components and has been designed to be followed in order. Each week students have a number of assignments to complete. To help facilitate time management all assignments must be turned in by 11:59 pm Eastern time on the date due unless otherwise indicated. There will be a 10% grade deduction for each 24 hour period that assignments are late. Discussions will not be graded if submitted more than 3 days late without prior permission (if submitted after 11:59 pm Eastern on Tuesday you will receive a zero). If this schedule does not work for you for personal and/or professional reasons please reach out to the instructor privately and let them know so other arrangements can be made. If you know you will be late turning in a specific assignment let me know 48 hours ahead of time so that it can be accommodated. All unapproved late submissions will receive grade deductions if not approved beforehand (except of course in the case of an emergency).

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 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.

Equations

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. 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.

Attendance

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.


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. All changes will be communicated with you via e-mail, course announcement and/or course discussion forum.