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Introduction to Oceanography

Eleanour Snow
University of South Florida
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This is an online, introductory course in Oceanography, introducing physical, geological, chemical, and biological Oceanography to general education students. Students read the text book and take quizzes. Each week they also engage in lesson that involves critical thinking or research or more in-depth study on the topic. They submit essays in response to these assignments.

Institution Type
Public four-year institution, primarily undergraduate

Course Size
greater than 150


Grade Level
College Lower (13-14):Introductory Level

Course Context

This course fulfills the general education requirement for science at USF. It has no prerequisites and is not required for any other course. It can serve as an entry into the Geology major. Most of the students who take it are not science majors. USF requires all general education classes to have elements of inquiry, critical thinking, and creative thinking, so the assignments reflect that.

Course Content

This is a class in basic oceanography. Oceanography is interesting because it involves so many of the sciences. We look at Chemical Oceanography (what is the sea made of), Physical Oceanography (tides, currents, waves), Geological Oceanography (the ocean floor, shore-line processes), and Biological Oceanography (what lives there). Students learn about interrelationships between these aspects of the ocean, and how these interrelationships govern earth processes. The course emphasizes critical thinking, scientific processes, environmental issues, and interrelationships among disciplines. Students learn about the scientific process. We discuss how science advises policy, as it relates to the ocean.

Course Goals

Students will be able to explain ocean processes within the physical (e.g. ocean currents) geological (e.g. tectonic of the ocean floor) chemical (e.g. the water molecule) and biological (e.g. productivity and energy transfer) realms.


No. I used to use the threaded discussion in Blackboard for a weekly discussion question. I have also used the blog tool for a similar purpose. I found that the answers were not sufficiently thoughtful, perhaps due to the number of students in each class (generally about 300).


For simplicity, there are 1000 possible points in the class. These come from quizzes (150) and writing assignments (850). The class is strongly weighted to the writing assignments because students can so easily cheat or use their book for the quizzes. Still, they take the quizzes quite seriously.

Teaching Notes

Adaptations have been made that allow this course to be successful in an online environment

There are no lectures, and the book serves mostly as background to the writing assignments. I hold office hours on-line in the chat room, which is mildly more successful than having office hours in the office.

The most successful elements of this course are:

The assignments that require independent thinking are most effective–they allow me to see how individual learners are processing information. Open-ended questions that ask students to defend a position are useful in determining their understanding of an issue.

Recommendations for faculty who teach a course like this:

Prepare to answer a lot of e-mails. Be organized about what you want them to do when. If you have a lot of assignments, be rigid about deadlines, for your own sanity. Extra credit is a very useful tool for deflecting all kinds of excuses and pleadings for more time.


Syllabus, Oceanography (Acrobat (PDF) 134kB Jun17 10)



Essentials of Oceanography, Thurman and Trujillo
(although switching to Garrison's book Fall 2010)

Introduction to Oceanography --Discussion  

What is the procedure for registration ?


Share edittextuser=9329 post_id=21747 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=3566

any certification available?


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Please post information on how to register for this class.


Share edittextuser=9898 post_id=21761 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=3566

How do i register??


Share edittextuser=11255 post_id=22117 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=3566

I want to apply
.please help me


Share edittextuser=27944 post_id=23915 initial_post_id=0 thread_id=3566

how do you register? please help


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