Greetings to everyone, and welcome to the Summer 2012 online version of World Regional Geography (Geog 101) at the University of Mary Washington.
Those of you who registered for the course a while ago will have received several e-mails from me; in them I told you a little about the course and how it will work. This page includes some of the information you may already have received, but there is also a lot of other important stuff here, so please make sure that you read it carefully. Please check the pages on this site regularly for updated information about the course syllabus, assignments, grades, and more.
Geog 101 during the Summer Session 2012 is a fully online hybrid course. This means that everything we do will be online, but the course will combine synchronous (live) online class meetings and discussion sessions (using a web-conferencing application) as well as work that you will do outside of class time, individually and in online groups.
Navigating online course materials
We will rely on several sources of communication and information in this course, and I will assume that you are checking all of them regularly. They are:
a) The UMW Canvas site. This is the place where I will post announcements, assignments, and grades, and where we will conduct our asynchronous discussions on logistical issues (there is more information on this below.) I will assume that you have read anything here with 24 hours of its posting, so please be sure to set up your Canvas notifications so that you are informed when announcements or assignments are posted. If you have any technical problems with Canvas, please contact the UMW Help Desk online or call them at (540) 654-2255.
b) This Geog 101 website. We will use this as one our blog sites (see below,) and it also contains a lot of information about the course as a whole. Most important of all, it contains the Course Calendar where you will find the required and recommended readings for each class period (click on the entry for each class period, and you will see a pop-up box listing the readings, videos and other materials you need to read to be familiar with and ready to talk about for during day’s class.
Please note that Canvas automatically generates a course calendar listing the due dates for online assignments. This means that you will find the readings only on the website calendar, and assignments only on Canvas. This is confusing and unfortunate, but we have to live with it.
At the moment, some parts of this website may be confusing because I have in the past used it for regular semester courses only, and not to summer versions of Geog 101. I am working to update the site, but if you find yourself confused, please post a question in the Canvas discussion forum or, if you would prefer to ask me privately, send me an e-mail.
c) E-mail. Please use my UMW email address only to contact me personally with your questions and concerns. Please do NOT use Canvas to send messages to me (more on this below.) Wherever possible, please post questions in the relevant Canvas Discussion forum so that others can benefit from and perhaps even answer it.
1. Class meeting times.
Students who signed up for the course indicated their preferences in an online poll for the following class meeting times:
Monday 7.30 – 9.30 pm
Wednesday 7.30 – 9.30 pm
Our first class meets Monday May 21, and the last meeting will take place on Monday July 23. We will make use of most but not all of these meeting times; in some cases you will be working on individual and online group assignments instead.
2. How we will meet, and what you need to participate
Our synchronous online classes will meet using a web conferencing application called Adobe Connect. It is powerful and very easy to use, and should meet all of our needs without any problem.
2.1 What equipment you will need
You will need computer that can run recent versions of a major browser application (e.g. Firefox) and that is connected to a broadband internet connection. You may also from time to time need to use a microphone (most newer computers have these built in.) I also strongly recommend that you use headphones rather than your computer speakers to listen in to class discussion. If you have a camera in or connected to your computer, it will be possible for others to see you when you speak in class if you wish (a camera is not essential however, and I won’t ask you to show yourself if you don’t want to.)
2.1 What software you will need
Connect runs in a web browser, so that is the only piece of software you need to have installed on your computer. This means that you do not have to download (or pay for) any special software.
I have found that Connect seems to work best on Firefox, but it may work in other browsers as well (although I have had some problems using Connect in Chrome). You may prompt you to download updates for your browser before Connect can run; if you get this request, follow the instructions and install the updates.
2.3 Getting help with Adobe Connect
You will also need to use Google Earth quite often, and so you will need to download and install it before the course begins. The application is free, and you can download it here.
3. Essential Readings
This is not a lecture course; our live class meetings will consist mainly of discussion, a lot of which will focus on textbook and online readings (as well as videos and other online sources) you have familiarized yourself with prior to class. I will ask each of your from time to time to talk about the readings, and I will not waste valuable class time repeating material you should already be familiar with.
All required and recommended readings will be listed on the Course Calendar, so please be sure to read them beforeclass on the day for which the readings are listed. There are no exams in this course and all of the assignments are open-book, so there is no need to memorize anything you read. Rather, make sure that you understand the main points being made, think about them, and prepare yourself to ask questions, discuss, and give your opinions on what you have read.
Important! I will add new readings to the Course Calendar throughout the semester, so please check back a day or two before each class to make sure that you are familiar with any recently added materials (the main reason for this is that we will talk quite a lot about current events, and I will add links to appropriate news stories as I come across them.)
Some specific sources we will use for readings include
a) The textbook, which is the latest edition of
Harm J. de Blij, Muller, P., Nijman, J. and WinklerPrins A. 2011. Regions. John Wiley and Sons.
(You may either purchase the standard 15th edition of the text, or you could save money by buying the cheaper special edition for sale in the bookstore and from students who bought it in the Spring semester. The special edition omits a chapter we don’t cover in the course, and comes with a free copy of the National Geographic atlas we will use. )
b) An up-to-date and reliable atlas. I recommend either Goode’s World Atlas (published by Rand McNally) or the National Geographic College Atlas of the World, edited by Harm J. de Blij and Roger Downs, and published in 2010 by Wiley/National Geographic.
(Note: As will all sources of information you find on your own and use in this course, you are responsible for the accuracy of the information you choose to use. So when you use a website, book, article, or atlas, ask yourself whether you are confident enough to stake your credibility on it. Figuring out what sources are credible is one of the most important skills you need in the digital age.
c) Regional GeogBlog. This is a site I have compiled over the past few years, and consists of a large number of posts I have written as I have traveled to various parts of the world (from time to time guest contributors also write for the site.) I have written the blog with students in Geog 101 specifically in mind, and in most of my posts I highlight issues of interest and relevance to world regional geography. I will list the posts that I expect you to read on the Course Calendar, but please feel free to wander around the site and read anything that interests you.
d) Online videos. I have recently begun posting my own videos, designed for this class, on my YouTube channel. We will use some of these, as well as many other online videos, as the basis for some of our discussions.
4. Asynchronous discussions, and keeping in touch
Because we will not all meet in person during this course, it is very important that we make sure that we stay in touch on a very regular basis. We will use several methods of doing this.
4.1 Class blogs. I will expect you to follow and contribute to discussions on our two main class blogs.
On our publicly accessible blog site we will talk about current events and topics related to the subject matter of the course. I will usually post topics or links here for discussion, and I expect you all to participate in the discussion. You may post on this site using your full name if you wish; if you would prefer not to you may use a pseudonym provided that you tell me what it is (or I won’t be able to assess your participation for grading and other purposes.)
On this Canvas site, we will use the Discussions forum for matters related to class logistics and other issues which belong somewhere where only we can access.
I will tweet regularly on current events and other issues of relevance to this course; I recommend that, if you haven’t already done so, you set up an account at twitter.com, and follow my Geog 101 posts at @UMWGeog101. I will not use tweets as a means of communicating critical or logistical information about the course.
This will be an important means of communication between each of you and me, and also I hope amongst yourselves. Please feel free to e-mail me with any questions or concerns you might have related to the course.
VERY IMPORTANT: If you want to contact me personally, please use only my UMW e-mail address, email@example.com. Please do not use Canvas for this purpose (Reason: E-mail is searchable, and Canvas messages aren’t, so if I am trying to track down any of our communications, Canvas isn’t much help)
Also important: Please see the guidelines for e-mail communications on the Contact page of the course website; if you follow the guidelines you will ensure that I respond to your e-mails more quickly and reliably, and you will also save me a great deal of trouble.
This should all be enough information to keep you going for a while! If you have any questions about anything here (or not here) please let me know.