Online Minerals and Rocks - A Practical Study Guide

Scott Brande, University of Alabama at Birmingham
Author Profile
Initial Publication Date: May 22, 2020


New websites with all media online needed to learn and practice identification of minerals, igneous rock, sedimentary rock, metamorphic rock. Not designed as a self-contained laboratory activity, but as a resource to be re-purposed for specific assignments. Internet accessible, free, responsive for diversity of browsers and hardware. No technical skills needed, other than for web browsing.

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Developed for undergraduate introductory physical geology laboratory course (non-majors). No prerequisites.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Web browsing, introductions to minerals and rocks.

How the activity is situated in the course

Use of websites integrated into traditional sequence of introductory physical geology laboratory course, by subject - minerals, igneous rock, sedimentary rock, metamorphic rock.

Activity Length

Each website assigned during each 1 period (3 hour) lab. But websites accessible at all times, allowing students who miss lab to mostly complete the laboratory identification activity without access to physical samples, as a bank of unknown and reference minerals are included on the websites.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Lower order thinking skills: observe demonstrations of testing minerals, or observations of rocks, for physical properties observable via web media; observe and record results of tests on unknown mineral and rock samples

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Evaluate results of tests of properties and/or observations on unknown minerals and rocks with reference charts of known minerals and rocks, especially in light of incomplete data.

Other skills goals for this activity

Because of the self-contained websites with online media, when students work in groups, students can simultaneously access the same unknown sample at the same time, or any other web page of information. This is a distinct advantage compared to a small group of students observing single samples of minerals or from a rock-in-the-box.

Description and Teaching Materials

Four websites designed for practical guide to identification of minerals, igneous rock, sedimentary rock, metamorphic rock, with explanatory text, images, and short videos demonstrating tests, instructions for observing samples, a simplified classification chart, a bank of unknown samples, a bank of reference (identified) samples.
Instructor Quick Start for Online Mineral and Rock Identification (Acrobat (PDF) 94kB May16 20)
Answer Keys to Mineral and Rock Identification Unknown Samples (Acrobat (PDF) PRIVATE FILE 112kB May16 20)

Technology Needs

Website real-time access required. Web-accessible devices include cellphones, chromebooks, tablets, laptops, desktop computers with web browsers. Most problems avoided if Chrome and Firefox are used without pop-up blockers. Other browsers mostly work. iPads cannot display two views at the same time.

Teaching Notes and Tips

Websites are designed as toolboxes with resources to be used by instructors who wish to incorporate web-accessible resources into their own introductory physical geology laboratory activities for the identification of minerals, igneous rock, sedimentary rock, and metamorphic rock.


Websites are designed with unknown sample banks that could be used for an online quiz, because these samples are not identified on the website. Answer keys to the unknown samples are available to instructors, if needed.

References and Resources

Portal to four websites:
Mineral identification website:
Igneous rock identification website:
Sedimentary rock identification website:
Metamorphic rock identification website:

Online Minerals and Rocks - A Practical Study Guide -- Discussion  

I'm an NAGT member and I'm logged in. I'm getting an error message saying "You have no access to this file." when I click on the answer key. Can this be fixed?


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