Syllabus for GEO-151



Physical Geology acquaints you with how earthquakes, active volcanoes, and other geologic formations and processes relate to the theory of plate tectonics. The history of the theory of plate tectonics also illustrates how the scientific process works and how scientists propose hypotheses, gather evidence, discard ideas, and modify them to support existing knowledge. The course stresses that Earth continues to evolve and that its future depends on our actions of today.


Through studying the text Physical Geology: Earth Revealed, viewing the twenty-six half-hour video programs, and working through the telecourse guide, you should be able to:

  1. Explain why the resources of Earth are essential for life.
  2. State various theories for the origin of the solar system.
  3. Explain what geophysicists have learned about the inside of Earth using indirect tools of study.
  4. Describe major sea-floor features such as the mid-oceanic ridge, oceanic trenches, and fracture zones.
  5. Relate the origins of the ideas of continental drift as well as the underlying theory and concepts in the movements of Earth’s plates.
  6. Indicate how major mountain belts and continents have evolved.
  7. Discuss tectonic forces and the nature and consequences of earthquakes.
  8. Discuss evidence that is used to identify the age of Earth and Earth materials, including the fossil record.
  9. Explain the origin and composition of common Earth materials.
  10. Explain how volcanoes are formed and the importance of igneous activity.
  11. Discuss key processes that shape the surface of Earth.
  12. Recognize the critical role of running water, how ground water is distributed, and its importance to life.
  13. Discuss the motivations of geologists and their methods, both old and new, and how scientists think and work.
  14. Describe the relationship and interaction of humans with the changing physical environment.


You will need the following materials to do the work of the course. All of these materials are available from the textbook supplier, MBS Direct.


  1. Physical Geology: Earth Revealed, 9th ed., by Diane H. Carlson and Charles C. Plummer (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011).  

ISBN-13: 978-0-07-336940-2

Telecourse Study Guide

  1. Telecourse Guide for "Earth Revealed: Introductory Geology," 7th ed., by Ruth Y. Lebow (Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt, 2009).

Video Programs

  1. The Earth Revealed, INTELECOM Intelligent Telecommunications and The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (26 half-hour video programs).

Note: The video programs are being offered via streaming video technology through this course site. Each video assignment will include the necessary links for accessing the video stream


Physical Geology is a three-credit, online course, consisting of nine (9) assignment modules. Modules include study materials and activities.

As the course is centered around the telecourse guide lessons, we suggest you read "Before You Begin Lesson 1" on page 3 of the telecourse guide to get a sense of how each lesson is presented. You will note the following sequence of learning steps and activities:

  1. Goal
  2. Learning Objectives
  3. Introducing the Lesson
  4. Lesson Assignment (lists the steps to follow)
  5. Key Terms and Concepts
  6. Viewing Guide (gives questions to answer before and after viewing videos)
  7. Putting It All Together
  1. Activities
  2. Think About: essay questions that will assist you in understanding the material in the textbook, video program, and telecourse guide
  3. Self-Test: multiple-choice items (with answers provided at the back of the telecourse guide)

Consult the course Calendar for assignment due dates.


For your formal work in the course, you are required to participate in online discussion forums, complete written assignments, and take two proctored online examinations—a midterm and a final. See below for more details.

Consult the course Calendar for assignment due dates.

Discussion Forums

In addition to posting an introduction to the class, you are required to participate in four graded online discussions, each focusing on an issue related to physical geology.

Communication with the mentor and among fellow students is a critical component of online learning. Participation in online discussions involves two distinct activities: an initial response to a discussion question and at least two subsequent comments on classmates' responses. Meaningful participation is relevant to the content, adds value, and advances the discussion. Comments such as "I agree" and "ditto" are not considered value-adding participation. Therefore, when you agree or disagree with a classmate, the reading, or your mentor, state and support your agreement or disagreement. You will be evaluated on the quality and quantity of your participation. Responses and comments should be properly proofread and edited, professional, and respectful.

For additional information on online discussions, see Online Discussions in the Online Student Handbook.

Written Assignments

Physical Geology requires that you complete and submit six (6) written assignments. Each written assignment consists of questions that are built around the relevant reading and viewing assignments. The question may deal with text material, video material, or tele­course guide material. Your answer to each question should be at least one typed page (avoid one-sentence definitions).

Answer each of the assignment questions as completely as possible. When you use material from your reading or viewing, be sure to cite it properly. Do not merely copy answers from your reading and viewing materials. Formulate answers in your own words, citing source materials where you feel it is appropriate (i.e., strengthens your answer).

Take the time to familiarize yourself with the Assignment Modules area of the course Web site, which is where the written assignments can be found. Read through the written assignment questions before you begin each lesson.

Prepare your written assignments using whatever word processing program you have on your computer. Include your name at the top of the paper, as well as the course name and code and the semester and year in which you are enrolled.

Before submitting your first assignment, check with your mentor to determine whether your word processing software is compatible with your mentor's software. If so, you can submit your work as you prepared it. If not, save your assignment as a rich-text (.rtf) file, using the Save As command of your software program. Rich text retains basic formatting and can be read by any other word processing program.

For additional information on preparing and submitting written assignments, see Preparing and Submitting Assignments section in the online Student Handbook.


You are required to take two (2) proctored online examinations: a midterm exam and a final exam. Both exams require that you use the College's Online Proctor Service (OPS). Please refer to the "Examinations and Proctors" section of the Online Student Handbook (see General Information area of the course Web site) for further information about scheduling and taking online exams and for all exam policies and procedures. You are strongly advised to schedule your exam within the first week of the semester.

Midterm Exam

The midterm exam covers all the material assigned in Modules 1–3. The midterm examination contains multiple-choice items and short-answer essay items. It is closed-book and is two hours long.

Final Exam

The final exam covers all the material assigned in Modules 4–6. The final examination contains multiple-choice items and short-answer essay items. It is closed-book and is two hours long.

Online exams are administered through the course Web site. Consult the course Calendar for the official dates of exam weeks.

Statement about Cheating

You are on your honor not to cheat during an exam. Cheating means:

  1. Looking up any answer or part of an answer in an unauthorized textbook or on the Internet, or using any other source to find an answer.
  2. Copying and pasting or, in any way copying responses or parts of responses from any other source into your exams. This includes but is not limited to copying and pasting from other documents or spreadsheets, whether written by yourself or anyone else.
  3. Plagiarizing answers.
  4. Asking anyone else to assist you by whatever means available while you take an exam.
  5. Copying any part of an exam to share with other students.
  6. Telling your mentor that you need another attempt at an exam because your connection to the Internet was interrupted when that is not true.

If there is evidence that you have cheated or plagiarized in an exam, the exam will be declared invalid, and you will fail the course.


Your grade in the course will be determined as follows:

  1. Online discussions (4)10 percent
  1. Written assignments (6)40 percent
  2. Midterm exam (proctored online, modules 1-3)—25 percent
  3. Final exam (proctored online, modules 4-6)25 percent

All activities will receive a numerical grade of 0–100. You will receive a score of 0 for any work not submitted. Your final grade in the course will be a letter grade. Letter grade equivalents for numerical grades are as follows:






























Below 60

To receive credit for the course, you must earn a letter grade of C or better (for an area of study course) or D or better (for a nonarea of study course), based on the weighted average of all assigned course work (e.g., exams, assignments, discussion postings, etc.).


First Steps to Success

To succeed in this course, take the following first steps:

  1. Read carefully the entire Syllabus, making sure that all aspects of the course are clear to you and that you have all the materials required for the course.
  2. Take the time to read the entire Online Student Handbook. The Handbook answers many questions about how to proceed through the course, how to schedule exams, and how to get the most from your educational experience at Thomas Edison State College.
  3. Arrange to take your examination(s) by following the instructions in this Syllabus and the Online Student Handbook.
  4. Familiarize yourself with the learning management systems environment—how to navigate it and what the various course areas contain. If you know what to expect as you navigate the course, you can better pace yourself and complete the work on time.
  5. If you are not familiar with Web-based learning be sure to review the processes for posting responses online and submitting assignments before class begins.

Study Tips

Consider the following study tips for success:

  1. To stay on track throughout the course, begin each week by consulting the course Calendar. The Calendar provides an overview of the course and indicates due dates for submitting assignments, posting discussions, and scheduling and taking examinations.
  2. Check Announcements regularly for new course information.


Students at Thomas Edison State College are expected to exhibit the highest level of academic citizenship. In particular, students are expected to read and follow all policies, procedures, and program information guidelines contained in publications; pursue their learning goals with honesty and integrity; demonstrate that they are progressing satisfactorily and in a timely fashion by meeting course deadlines and following outlined procedures; observe a code of mutual respect in dealing with mentors, staff, and other students; behave in a manner consistent with the standards and codes of the profession in which they are practicing; keep official records updated regarding changes in name, address, telephone number, or e-mail address; and meet financial obligations in a timely manner. Students not practicing good academic citizenship may be subject to disciplinary action including suspension, dismissal, or financial holds on records.

Academic Dishonesty

Thomas Edison State College expects all of its students to approach their education with academic integrity—the pursuit of scholarly activity free from fraud and deception. All mentors and administrative staff members at the College insist on strict standards of academic honesty in all courses. Academic dishonesty undermines this objective. Academic dishonesty takes the following forms:

  1. Cheating
  2. Plagiarizing (including copying and pasting from the Internet without using quotation marks and without acknowledging sources)
  3. Fabricating information or citations
  4. Facilitating acts of dishonesty by others
  5. Unauthorized access to examinations or the use of unauthorized materials during exam administration
  6. Submitting the work of another person or work previously used without informing the mentor
  7. Tampering with the academic work of other students

Academic dishonesty will result in disciplinary action and possible dismissal from the College. Students who submit papers that are found to be plagiarized will receive an F on the plagiarized assignment, may receive a grade of F for the course, and may face dismissal from the College.

A student who is charged with academic dishonesty will be given oral or written notice of the charge. If a mentor or College official believes the infraction is serious enough to warrant referral of the case to the academic dean, or if the mentor awards a final grade of F in the course because of the infraction, the student and the mentor will be afforded formal due process.

If a student is found cheating or using unauthorized materials on an examination, he or she will automatically receive a grade of F on that examination. Students who believe they have been falsely accused of academic dishonesty should seek redress through informal discussions with the mentor, through the office of the dean, or through an executive officer of Thomas Edison State College.


Using someone else's work as your own is plagiarism. Although it may seem like simple dishonesty, plagiarism is against the law. Thomas Edison State College takes a strong stance against plagiarism, and students found to be plagiarizing will be severely penalized. If you copy phrases, sentences, paragraphs, or whole documents word-for-word—or if you paraphrase by changing a word here and there—without identifying the author, then you are plagiarizing. Please keep in mind that this type of identification applies to Internet sources as well as to print-based sources. Copying and pasting from the Internet, without using quotation marks and without acknowledging sources, constitutes plagiarism. (For information about how to cite Internet sources, see Online Student Handbook > Academic Standards > "Citing Sources.")

Accidentally copying the words and ideas of another writer does not excuse the charge of plagiarism. It is easy to jot down notes and ideas from many sources and then write your own paper without knowing which words are your own and which are someone else's. It is more difficult to keep track of each and every source. However, the conscientious writer who wishes to avoid plagiarizing never fails to keep careful track of sources.

Always be aware that if you write without acknowledging the sources of your ideas, you run the risk of being charged with plagiarism.

Clearly, plagiarism, no matter the degree of intent to deceive, defeats the purpose of education. If you plagiarize deliberately, you are not educating yourself, and you are wasting your time on courses meant to improve your skills. If you plagiarize through carelessness, you are deceiving yourself.

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