GEO 101: The Dynamic Earth

Delores M. Robinson
, The University of Alabama


This course is designed to study the Earth including materials, internal and external processes, deformational events, plate tectonics and geologic hazards. The course is lecture-based and involves the use of large group discussions and the use of hand-held participation remotes.

Course Type: Intro Level:Physical Geology Intro Level
Course Size:

Course Format:
Students enroll in one course that includes both lecture and lab. The lecture is taught by the professor and the lab is taught by TAs.

Institution Type:
University with graduate programs, including doctoral programs

Course Context:

This is an introductory course with no prerequisites and is used by students to fulfill their natural science lab requirement. 95% of the students will not be geology majors.

In your department, do majors and non-majors take separate introductory courses? no

If students take a "non-majors" course, and then decide to become a major, do they have to go back and take an additional introductory course? yes

Course Content:

This course focuses on earth processes first beginning with plate tectonics, rocks, and deformation. The second part of the class focuses on surficial processes such as running water, groundwater, energy resources and shorelines. A weekly 2 hour long laboratory focusing on the lecture content is a requirement.

Course Goals:

1. Students will define and identify the 3 major rock types and know the geologic setting where each rock types is located.
2. Students will understand and describe the 3 major types of plate tectonic boundaries and examples of each types.
3. Students will know what causes the three plate tectonics boundaries and know the layers of the earth.
4. Students will understand what causes volcanoes and the different types of volcanoes.
5. Students will understand erosion, how streams transport sediment and where sediment is deposited and definitions involved.
6. Students will understand when and how the Earth formed.
7. Students will understand seismic waves and the characteristics of earthquakes.
8. Students will learn aspects of Alabama Geology and how the Appalachian Mountains formed.

Course Features:

The lecture in this course is formulated around the course goals. Students are assessed on the final exam on how well they have learned the stated goals.

Course Philosophy:

In a large lecture setting, participation is limited because of the number of students in the class. A lecture based course supplemented with discussions and the use of a personal remote system allows the student to participate in the class.


Goals are assessed on the final exam and a quantitative number is produced showing the percentage of people who obtained each goal.


Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 43kB May7 08)

References and Notes:

Course text: Essentials of Geology, Marshak
It is the cheapest text that contains all of the essentials.
We use an internal lab manual.