Physical Geology Across the American Landscape is an introductory geology course for liberal arts students. Designed to work in concert with the textbook of the same name, the online course takes students on a journey to reveal the story of the North American continent as revealed through the landscape.
The online course journey:
- begins with a unit on plate tectonics and the impact of its forces, as students are introduced to plate tectonics, mountain building, and earthquakes.
- moves through a second unit on the formation and identification of minerals, rocks and soils.
- ends with a unit exploring how water, earth movement, climate, and human activity contribute to the ever-changing shape of the landscape.
Each lesson is divided into three topics that work together to achieve the lesson’s overall learning objectives. Every lesson includes a number of interactive games and practice activities that engage students and reinforce learning and each lesson ends with a quiz. The centerpiece for each topic is a video that introduces the main concepts with vibrant graphics and images of pertinent locations in and around North America, particularly the National Parks. Students virtually visit:
- The ocean floor of the Pacific Basin where geophysicist and marine geologist, Tanya Atwater, reveals some of the mechanisms of plate tectonics.
- The Appalachian mountains to investigate mountain building, metamorphic rocks, and mass wasting.
- The Grand Canyon to learn how its layers have revealed the history of a small portion of geologic time.
- Southern California where seismologist Kate Hutton explains how to determine focus, epicenter, magnitude and intensity of an earthquake.
- The Pacific Northwest to distinguish different types of volcanoes, their causes, and their effects.
- Yosemite National Park to discover the impact of glacial advance and retreat.
- Florida to discover how sinkholes form.
Note: This course is also well-suited for a Flipped Classroom or hybrid class.
The textbook to accompany this course is Physical Geology Across the American Landscape, written by John J. Renton and edited by Curtis J. Williams and Susan Wilcox. Additional information is provided under the “How to Adopt Course & Print Materials” tab below. To request access to an electronic review copy of the textbook, please contact Kendall-Hunt Publishing Company.
For access to Coast Learning Systems’ online course preview site, please complete a Preview Request Form.
Lesson Titles and Descriptions
This lesson introduces you to geology by presenting an overview of the planet Earth, its main features, its formation, and its place in the solar system.
Topic 1: Earth’s Composition & Structure – In this topic, you’ll take a closer look at the five interconnected “Earth systems” that compose the totality of planet Earth.
Topic 2: The Formation of Our Solar System – In this topic, you’ll learn what steps had to occur for a glowing cloud of gas and dust to evolve into a planet.
Topic 3: Comparative Planetology – In this topic, you’ll discover some of what they’ve told us so far, and prepare you to understand new revelations as they occur in the future.
1. Interior of the Earth
Topic 1: Seismic Waves – In this topic, you’ll learn how the seismic waves generated by earthquakes behave, and how we can use them to determine the distance to the source of the seismic waves, generating data that has allowed us to take a peek inside of our planet.
Topic 2: Earthquakes Reveal Earth’s Interior – In this topic, you’ll find out how seismologists use data about seismic waves to understand the composition of the earth’s interior.
Topic 3: Isostasy & How Continents Float on the Mantle – In this topic, you’ll learn more about the properties of the earth’s upper layers, and how one of them floats on the other.
2. Plate Tectonics
Topic 1: Historical Development of Plate Tectonics Theory – In this topic, you’ll get a closer look at how the idea of continental movement was developed, based on observations and data, and how that idea was then tested by making predictions, gathering data, and analyzing the results.
Topic 2: Evidence That Earth’s Continents Move – In this topic, you’ll see how technology gave new life to Suess’ and Wegener’s proposals that the earth’s continents were once joined together.
Topic 3: Types of Plate Motion – In this topic, you’ll learn more about tectonic plates and their movements, which are constantly adjusting the position of one continent relative to another.
3. Rock Deformation and Mountain Building
Topic 1: Rock Deformation Processes – In this topic, you will take a closer look at the types of forces that act upon the rock composing Earth and ways in which rock responds to those forces.
Topic 2: Geologic Structures Resulting from Deformation – In this topic, you’ll discover some of the structures rocks form when subjected to stress.
Topic 3: Mountain Building on Earth – The forces that created Mount Everest are quite different from those that created Denali (Mount McKinley), but both are a result of plate tectonics. In topic 3, you will learn how these and other mountains have been built.
4. Earthquakes and Seismology
Topic 1: Where Earthquakes Occur – In this topic, you will take a look at how scientists use seismographic data to determine earthquake location, and what that information has revealed about the way the earth works.
Topic 2: Measuring Earthquake Intensity and Magnitude – In this topic, you will learn what magnitude is and how it is calculated. You will also learn how seismologists measure the intensity of an earthquake as well as the energy released during a quake.
Topic 3: Earthquake Damage – In this topic, you will consider the factors that contribute to the property damage and human injuries inflicted by earthquakes and will explore the ways in which seismologists make long-term predictions regarding future earthquakes.
Topic 1: The Chemical Composition of Minerals – In this topic, you will take a closer look at the atom and the bonds it enters into to form the substances composing Earth.
Topic 2: Mineral Classification – In this topic, you will learn more about the structures atoms form when they bond, and some of the ways in which those structures break.
Topic 3: Mineral Identification – In this topic, you will learn how geologists identify minerals by observing and/or testing their luster, streak, hardness, crystal form, cleavage and specific gravity, comparing the results to a mineral identification chart.
6. Igneous Rocks and Volcanism
Topic 1: The Melting and Crystallization of Rock – In this topic, you will learn that rocks melt to become magma when confining pressure drops and do in a specific order based on temperature, that the minerals in magma crystallize in a specific order, also based on temperature, and that Bowen’s reaction series is a visual description of this order.
Topic 2: How Magma Forms Plutonic Rock Bodies – In this topic, you will examine how magma makes its way from the depths at which it melted toward the earth’s surface and explore how plutonic bodies form when igneous rock crystallizes below ground.
Topic 3: Volcano Features and Their Eruptive Processes – In this topic, you will learn what features determine the different types of eruptive behavior volcanoes display, explore the likely behavior of volcanoes containing extremes in viscosity, and identify some common volcanic features.
7. Weathering, Soils, and Sedimentary Rocks
Topic 1: What Is Weathering? – In this topic, you will learn more about the weathering processes that are constantly at work wherever rock is exposed.
Topic 2: Soil Formations – As you will learn in this topic, soil is more than an accumulation of rock fragments because soil is the link between inanimate rock and life itself.
Topic 3: The Historical Significance of Sedimentary Rocks – In this topic, you’ll learn how sedimentary rocks preserves information about the earth’s past, yielding information about animals and plants that existed long before humans and then presenting that evidence in touchable, viewable form.
8. Metamorphism and Metamorphic Rocks
Topic 1: Metamorphic Environments – In this topic, you will take a look at some of the conditions that cause a rock to be transformed.
Topic 2: Types of Metamorphism – In this topic, you will learn more about metamorphic processes, where they occur, and how temperature and pressure turn graphite into diamonds.
Topic 3: Classifying Metamorphic Rocks – In this topic, you’ll learn how to identify the most common metamorphic rocks, all of which remained solid as they underwent their transformations.
9. The Age of Earth and Geologic Time
Topic 1: How Geologists Date Rock Beds – In this topic, we’ll take a look at how geologists deduce the history of an area from the relationships between rocks, including gaps.
Topic 2: Absolute Dating Methods – In this topic, you’ll learn more about radiometric dating and the results it has produced in calculating the absolute date of fossils, rocks, and artifacts, as well as estimating the age of Earth.
Topic 3: The Geologic Time Scale – In this topic, you’ll learn more about geologic time and the events that have been used to divide it up into workable time intervals: eons, eras, periods, and epochs.
10. Mass Wasting
Topic 1: Factors That Trigger Mass Wasting Events – In this topic, you will examine the factors involved in mass wasting, which typically occurs when the force of gravity exceeds resisting factors.
Topic 2: Classifying Mass Wasting Movements – As you will learn in this topic, mass wasting can be almost imperceptibly slow, noticed only as trees bend and fences tilt, and can also be very fast, as seen in the example of rocky avalanches and volcanic lahars.
Topic 3: Environmental Complications & Prevention – In this topic, you will learn how geologists attempt to predict mass wasting events by identifying the signs that indicate mass wasting might be imminent.
11. Streams and Groundwater
Topic 1: Water Is the Most Active Force Shaping Our Landscapes – In this topic, you will look at the hydrologic cycle, the never-ending movement of water in its three states of liquid, solid, and ice.
Topic 2: Water That Lies Beneath Our Feet – In this topic, you will learn about the journey of rainwater that infiltrates into the ground, traveling through various zones to join the groundwater system.
Topic 3: How Caves and Caverns Form – In this topic, you will explore the fascinating world of karst topography, regions where groundwater moves through soluble aquifers, such as limestone, to form such features as caves and sinkholes.
12. Oceans and Coastlines
Topic 1: Ocean Basin Formation & Landforms – In this topic, you will learn more about the critical role that the ocean plays in climate, weather, and the maintenance of life on Earth. You will also identify the topographic features found under the ocean’s surface and the tectonic forces that are at work in our ocean basins.
Topic 2: Ocean Water Movement – In this topic, you will learn more about effects of ocean waves, tides, and currents that affect global weather patterns and shape local coastal features and conditions.
Topic 3: Natural Shoreline Processes & Environmental Concerns – In this topic, you will explore the features that form along coastlines, including the erosional and depositional forces that shape our coastlines, reefs, and estuaries.
13. Glaciers and Deserts: Climatic Features
Topic 1: Glacier Formation & Movement – In this topic, you will learn about the two types of glaciers and the regions in which they form, as well as the conditions leading to glacier formation and movement, including their advance and retreat.
Topic 2: Features Glaciers Form As They Advance & Retreat – In this topic, you will explore why glaciers form and learn more about the features created by glaciers as they advance and retreat.
Topic 3: The Origin & Evolution of Earth’s Deserts – In this topic, you will learn about the processes that form desert climates, the features associated with desert environments, and the forces responsible for the expansion of the earth’s deserts.
14. Economic Geology
Topic 1: Geologic Resources & Their Current Use – In this topic, you will explore the historical significance of geological resources, identify the difference between renewable and nonrenewable resources, and learn the distinction between resources and reserves.
Topic 2: How Geologic Resources Form & Under What Conditions – In this topic, you will learn how geologists help identify areas in which various mineral and energy resources might be found and explore some concerns associated with the earth’s water resources.
Topic 3: Environmental Challenges with Mineral & Energy Resources – In this topic, you will discuss the impact of extracting fossil fuels and minerals from Earth’s crust, and embark on a brief exploration of some of the alternative energy sources that show promise in helping to offset our need for fossil fuels.
National Academic Advisory Team
Edward (Erik) Bender, M.S., Orange Coast College
Theodore Erski, M.A., McHenry County College
Roberto Falero, M.S., DPRA, Inc.
Gail Gibson, Ph.D., Florida Community College at Jacksonville—Kent Campus
Jonathan Kuespert, M.S., M.B.A., BreitBurn Energy Management Company
Michael Leach, M.S., M.A., New Mexico State University
James McClinton, M.S., Eastern New Mexico University—Roswell
Joseph Mraz, M.S., Santa Fe Community College
Jay P. Muza, Ph.D., Broward College
Douglas Neves, Ph.D., Cypress College
Kathy Ann Randall, M.S., Lincoln County Campus of the Flathead Valley Community College
Kelly Ruppert, M.S., California State University, Fullerton, and Coastline Community College
Richard Schultz, Ph.D., C.P.G., Elmhurst College
Debbie Secord, M.S., Coastline Community College
William H. Walker, Ph.D., Thomas Edison State College
Curtis Williams, M.S., California State University, Fullerton
Jan (Jay) Yett, M.S., Orange Coast College
Tanya Atwater, Ph.D., Tectonics Geologist, University of California, Santa Barbara
Gibor Basri, Ph.D., Astrophysicist, University of California, Berkeley
Edward (Erik) Bender, Orange Coast College
Kurt Berchtold, Assistant Executive Officer, California Regional Water Quality Control Board, Santa Ana Region
Kelly Bovard, California State University, Fullerton
Robert H. Brown, Ph.D., Astrophysicist, Lunar & Planetary Lab, University of Arizona
Patricia Butcher, California State University, Fullerton
Nathalie A. Cabrol, Ph.D., Astrobiologist, NASA Ames Research Center (ARC)/SETI Institute
Michael Drake, Ph.D., Director, Lunar & Planetary Lab, University of Arizona
Denton Ebel, Ph.D., Planetary Geologist, American Museum of Natural History
Theodore Erski, McHenry County College
Roberto Falero, DPRA, Inc.
Gail Gibson, Florida Community College at Jacksonville
Kate Hutton, Ph.D., Seismologist, California Institute of Technology
Jonathan Kuespert, BreitBurn Energy Management Company
Michael Leach, New Mexico State University
David Levy, Ph.D., Astronomer, Jarnac Observatory
Jonathan I. Lunine, Ph.D., Astrophysicist, University of Arizona
James McClinton, Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell
Karen Meech, Ph.D., Astronomer, Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii
Joseph Mraz, Santa Fe Community College
Jay P. Muza, Broward College
Douglas Neves, Cypress College
Bruce Perry, M.S., Geologist & Oceanographer, California State University, Long Beach
Kenneth Ostrowski, M.S.Ed., Astronomer, Coastline Community College
Kathy Ann (“Katie”) Randall, Lincoln County Campus of the Flathead Valley Community College
Kelly Ruppert, M.S., Geologist, California State University, Fullerton
Richard Schultz, Elmhurst College
Debra Secord, Ph.D., Geologist, Coastline Community College
William H. Walker, Thomas Edison State College
Curtis J. Williams, M.Sc., M.A., California State University, Fullerton, and Geologist, Gibraltar Associates, Inc.
Jay R. Yett, M.S., Geologist, Orange Coast College
Chemeketa Community College has been working with Coast Learning Systems for many years. We have experienced timely responses, exemplary customer service, and professionalism from our partners at Coast."
—Debra Hogle, Distance Education & Academic Technology, Chemeketa Community College
How to Adopt Course & Print Materials
This online course is hosted and provided in a Moodle® (LMS) shell, and instructors can link from their institution’s LMS or send their students directly to the class URL. Coast Learning Systems provides instructor and student technical support via an electronic help desk, which is monitored 7 days a week. Our goal is to make sure you enjoy teaching with our content and that your students have an engaging and positive learning experience.
The Online Course Request Form should be submitted at least two weeks prior to the start of your class.
Physical Geology Across the American Landscape
Kendall Hunt publishing Company
Textbook (Printed) with Online Course Access Code: ISBN 978-0-7575-9930-9
Online Access Code: ISBN 978-0-7575-9931-6
eBook: ISBN 978-1-4652-1188-0
Textbook (Printed): ISBN 978-0-7575-5598-5
One-Time Use Online Course Access Code
Coast Learning Systems, (800) 547-4748
Access Codes are sold through bookstores only; we do not sell directly to students.
If you are interested in licensing just the videos as a resource for your own online, hybrid, video-based, or traditional course, please contact our office. In areas where connectivity is a challenge, DVDs are a perfect solution. All of the video lessons are available in a professionally produced set of DVDs and are available directly from Coast Learning Systems. Please contact our office for DVD options and pricing, (800) 547-4748.