Earthquakes & Volcanoes

Ignacio Pujana
University of Texas at Dallas
Author Profile


This is an interdisciplinary science course offered in an online format. A flexible approach based on programmed self-instruction, with frequent tests to monitor progress, substitutes for the usual lecture with infrequent testing mode used in most courses. The course is divided into 10 sections (called Units), each of which corresponds to one or two chapters in the textbook. A Syllabus Quiz should be passed (can be repeated all times needed) in order to go on to test one, but those points do not count towards your grade. There is one test per Unit; therefore, the course consists of 10 tests.

Institution Type
University with graduate programs, including doctoral programs

Course Size


Grade Level
College Upper (15-16)

Course Context

This is an introductory online course with no pre-requisites and does not serve as a prerequisite for other courses. Typically, 50% of the students take the course as pre-service elementary teachers, and 50% of the students take the course to satisfy a general education requirement. This course is taught in both an online format and a face-to-face format

Course Content

  • Explain the basic divisions of the earth, their compositions, and their role in plate tectonics. Recognize the types of plate boundaries and explain their relationship to crustal movement and mountain building.
  • Know the basics of crustal deformation and recognize geologic faults and structures.
  • Develop an understanding of the geology of earthquakes and volcanoes, with an emphasis on plate tectonic theory.
  • Discuss earthquake generation, measurement and prediction. Describe types of volcanoes, lava viscosity, composition and their relation to plate tectonics and volcano explosivity.
  • Become familiar with the terminology used to describe earthquakes and volcanoes
  • Identify and understand the following classes of volcanoes: hot spot volcanoes, subduction zone volcanoes, island arc volcanoes, and mid-ocean ridge volcanoes.
  • Differentiate between the two different types of magmas - basaltic and granitic - and the relationship between each of them and their associated types of volcanoes.
  • Appreciate the relationship between human activity and geologic natural disasters with an historic perspective.
  • Understand the constructive and beneficial results of volcanoes.
  • Explore the subject of extra-terrestrial volcanism and impacts

Course Goals

This course provides a broad overview of the science behind earthquakes and volcanoes, new insights they provide about the architecture, processes, and evolution of the earth, and their impact on humankind and other organisms. The plate tectonics model provides the central framework in which the many aspects of earthquakes and volcanoes are described.


The discussion tool is enabled but not used as an assessment tool.


Ten tests and a final report about a current event related to Earthquake or volcanic activity

Teaching Notes

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

The most successful elements of this course are:

The final report, Final Report (Acrobat (PDF) 429kB Jun21 10)

Recommendations for faculty who teach a course like this:

It's in full development right this semester


Syllabus U2010 (Acrobat (PDF) 523kB Jun21 10)



"Natural disasters" by Patrick Abbot, seventh edition

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