Introduction to Environmental Science

Jennifer Latimer
Indiana State University
Author Profile


This is our departmental service/intro general education course. The course introduces students to concepts and ideas related to environmental science, focusing on concepts such as biodiversity, carrying capacity, sustainability, as well as details of different types of pollution and natural resources. The course is taught face to face and online.

Institution Type
Public four-year institution, primarily undergraduate

Course Size


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

Course Context

This is an introductory online course with no pre-requisites. It is not a pre-requisite for any other courses, but it is required for environmental science/studies students, and it is part of several minors. The course is taught online and face to face. The online students tend to be non-traditional and so far have been from all over the world.

Course Content

The theme for this course is global climate change and how each of the concepts/ideas ties in with global change. We spend quite a bit of time discussing biodiversity issues, then focus on more geologic topics, including soils, water resources, air quality, energy resources. I use the exactly the same assignments and discussion questions for both my face to face and online course. The content is really similar, except that online students really do have to read their textbooks, while face to face students do get some lecture.

Course Goals

For this course, my goals are for students to better understand their impacts on the environment and to evaluate how much they value the natural environment. Also, I hope they become better informed about current issues and are better prepared to make decisions, including products they may wish to purchase, who they may vote for, and/or how they feel about current issues and legislation.


Discussions are integrated into the course. Students are broken up into groups and they discuss provided issues on the discussion board in BlackBoard. All discussion is asynchronous.


Students are assessed using quizzes, exams, writing assignments, and discussions. All are pretty self-explanatory, except the short writing assignments. For these, students must identify current news items related to course content and write short papers.

Teaching Notes

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

I actually developed the online course first, and had to adapt it to be a face to face course.

The most successful elements of this course are:

For those students who actively participate in the discussions, I think this is most effective. They talk about the topics I provide, but also discuss their own perceptions and ideas. The writing assignments are also effective because they see how course material directly relates to current events.

Recommendations for faculty who teach a course like this:


GEOL110 summer syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 90kB Jun15 10)



Environment: The Science Behind the Stories, by J. Withgott and S. Brennan

Other References

Introduction to Environmental Science --Discussion  

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