Landslides and the Colorado Front Range Debris Flows of 2013

Mark Bowen
University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
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This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

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This page first made public: Nov 24, 2014


Students complete two background readings to answer a variety of questions about landslides

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The activity is used in an online undergraduate introductory physical geography course. The focus of the course is landforms and soils. The course is predominantly composed of non-majors.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered


How the activity is situated in the course

This is a stand-alone exercise that reinforces concepts introduced in lecture.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

  • Become familiar with the different types of landslides and their properties, and how landscape-scale factors such as slope aspect, vegetation, and geology can impact landslides.
  • Identify the different types of landslides
  • Recognize the different causes of landslides
  • Convert between standard and metric units of measurement
  • Interpret graphs and maps

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Other skills goals for this activity

Description of the activity/assignment

This is a basic introductory online exercises that introduces students to landslides. Students complete a background reading about landslides in general and answer a series of questions. Students then complete a background reading about the numerous debris flows that occurred near Boulder, Colorado in 2013. Students determine answers to questions from the text as well as interpreting graphs and maps.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students complete the exercise during the week it is assigned. Upon completion of the laboratory exercise, students must complete an online quiz that consists of the same questions in the exercise. The online quiz is within the Desire 2 Learn (D2L) online learning platform, so answers are automatically graded and imported into the student's grade book.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

U.S. Geological Survey, 2004, Landslide Types and Processes, Fact-sheet 2004-3072. Available at:

Coe, Jeffrey A., Jason W. Kean, Jonathan W. Godt, Rex L. Baum,
Eric S. Jones, David J. Gochis, and Gregory S. Anderson, 2014, New insights into debris-flow hazards from an extraordinary event in the Colorado Front Range, GSA Today, Vol. 24, No. 10. Available at: