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Sample Syllabus: GEOL124

Course Information

Course Title: Once and Future Planet

Evolution of Life and Environment on Planet Earth
Course Number: GEOL 124
Term: Fall 2021
Credits: 3
Course Dates: From Aug 31, 2020 – Dec 20, 2020
Course Times: T/Th 12:30- 1:45
Discussions Weds 3:00-3:50, 4:00-4:50, 5:00-5:50
Professor: James Farquhar
Pronouns: he/him
Office Phone: 301 405-5043 Email: Office Hours: Wed 3:00-5:00 Classroom: ESJ 2212/PLS1117

Recorded Zoom: if needed:

Course Description

We will explore ways in which the emergence and diversification of life has shaped our Earth and vice versa. We will examine the past - the geologic history leading to today - and the present as a way to understand how life and environment have and continue to be connected. We will frame and explore information about our world and other worlds, and how humans might affect the future of this planet. As a part of this community you will engage in primary research – field work, laboratory analyses, writing – to learn about the natural world and scientific method.

NOTE ON MASKING: President Pines provided clear expectations (Links to an external site.) to the University about the wearing of masks for students, faculty, and staff. Face coverings over the nose and mouth are required while you are indoors at all times. There are no exceptions when it comes to classrooms, laboratories, and campus offices. Students not wearing a mask will be given a warning and asked to wear one, or will be asked to leave the room immediately. Students who have additional issues with the mask expectation after a first warning will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct for failure to comply with a directive of University officials.

Note on COVID and missed classes: You will be responsible for obtaining notes and learning the content of classes you miss. If you miss an assignment that is critical (such as a mid term) we may opt to calculate your grade on a reweighted scale based on the assignments you have completed. This will be decided by the instructors.

PACE: We have a pace for the course that includes assignments due on Sunday at 11:59 pm, and T/W/Th at the start of class. These assignments are short and spread out the work between asynchronous and synchronous content that builds. The goal is to provide the content and skills in a way that optimized learning and reduces exhaustion of a 1:45 minute synchronous session.

Tips for Success in an Online Course

  1. Participate. Discussions and group work are a critical part of the course. You can learn a great deal from discussing ideas and perspectives with your peers and professor. Participation can also help you articulate your thoughts and develop critical thinking skills.

  2. Manage your time. Make time for your online learning and participation in discussions each week. Give yourself plenty of time to complete assignments including extra time to handle any technology related problems.

  3. Login regularly. Log in to ELMS-Canvas several times a week to view announcements, discussion posts and replies to your posts. You may need to log in multiple times a day when group submissions are due.

  4. Do not fall behind. This class moves at a quick pace and each week builds on the previous. It will be hard to keep up with the course content if you fall behind in the pre-work or post-work.

  5. Use ELMS-Canvas notification settings. Canvas ELMS-Canvas can ensure you receive timely notifications in your email or via text. Be sure to enable announcements to be sent instantly or daily.

  6. Ask for help if needed. If you need help with ELMS-Canvas or other technology, IT Support. If you are struggling with a course concept, reach out to me, and your classmates, for support.

Campus Policies

It is our shared responsibility to know and abide by the University of Maryland’s policies that relate to all courses, which include topics like:

  • Academic integrity
  • Student and instructor conduct
  • Accessibility and accommodation
  • Attendance and excused absences

Grades and appeals

Copyright and intellectual property

Please visit for the Office of Undergraduate Studies’ full list of campus-wide policies and follow up with me if you have questions.

Course-Specific Policies

Academic Integrity

Note to you the instructor: In this course, we will collect written assignments using Turnitin's "Originality Checker." This tool scans student submission against online content and previously-submitted papers, alerts students to some writing errors (e.g., incorrect or insufficient citations) so that they can improve their writing, and alerts faculty to submissions that may contain text matching another source. For guidance on academic integrity and how to use Turnitin in your course, visit the TLTC’s page on Academic Integrity & Technology. If you decide to use Turnitin, below is some sample syllabus language you can include:

For this course, some of your assignments will be collected via Turnitin on our course ELMS page. I have chosen to use this tool because it can help you improve your scholarly writing and help me verify the integrity of student work. For information about Turnitin, how it works, and the feedback reports you may have access to, visit Turnitin Originality Checker for Students

Names/Pronouns and Self-Identifications

The University of Maryland recognizes the importance of a diverse student body, and we are committed to fostering inclusive and equitable classroom environments. I invite you, if you wish, to tell us how you want to be referred to both in terms of your name and your pronouns (he/him, she/her, they/them, etc.). The pronouns someone indicates are not necessarily indicative of their gender identity. Visit to learn more.

Additionally, how you identify in terms of your gender, race, class, sexuality, religion, and dis/ability, among all aspects of your identity, is your choice whether to disclose (e.g., should it come up in classroom conversation about our experiences and perspectives) and should be self-identified, not presumed or imposed. I will do my best to address and refer to all students accordingly, and I ask you to do the same for all of your fellow Terps.

Communication with Instructor:

Email: If you need to reach out and communicate with me, please email me at Please DO NOT email me with questions that are easily found in the syllabus or on ELMS (i.e. When is this assignment due? How much is it worth? etc.) but please DO reach out about personal, academic, and intellectual concerns/questions.

While I will do my best to respond to emails within 24 hours, you will more likely receive email responses from me on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 8:00am-10:00am EST

ELMS: I will send IMPORTANT announcements via ELMS messaging. You must make sure that your email & announcement notifications (including changes in assignments and/or due dates) are enabled in ELMS so you do not miss any messages. You are responsible for checking your email and Canvas/ELMS inbox with regular frequency.

Communication with Peers:

With a diversity of perspectives and experience, we may find ourselves in disagreement and/or debate with one another. As such, it is important that we agree to conduct ourselves in a professional manner and that we work together to foster and preserve a virtual classroom environment in which we can respectfully discuss and deliberate controversial questions.

I encourage you to confidently exercise your right to free speech—bearing in mind, of course, that you will be expected to craft and defend arguments that support your position. Keep in mind, that free speech has its limit and this course is NOT the space for hate speech, harassment, and derogatory language. I will make every reasonable attempt to create an atmosphere in which each student feels comfortable voicing their argument without fear of being personally attacked, mocked, demeaned, or devalued.

Any behavior (including harassment, sexual harassment, and racially and/or culturally derogatory language) that threatens this atmosphere will not be tolerated. Please alert me immediately if you feel threatened, dismissed, or silenced at any point during our semester together and/or if your engagement in discussion has been in some way hindered by the learning environment.

Major Assignments

Homework Assignments

● Reading reflections, video questions and other assignments

Quizzes & Weekly Summaries

● How many of these will there be

Participation & Engagement

  • During live sessions
  • During group discussion boards, contributions to discussions through chat or other means.

Team Project

The team project will focus on a series of short presentations and a longer study to learn the process of developing a primary research project. We will set aside time in class and discussion for each of these.

Final Exam

● None – two mid term assessments will be administered and are primarily intended to cement and assess knowledge of course content.

Grading Structure

Assignment Percentage %
Homework, quizzes, weekly work 40%
Participation/Engagement 10%
Team Project/Paper/Presentation 30%
Mid terms 20%
Total 100%

Academic Integrity

The University's Code of Academic Integrity is designed to ensure that the principles of academic honesty and integrity are upheld. In accordance with this code, the Smith School does not tolerate academic dishonesty. Please ensure that you fully understand this code and its implications because all acts of academic dishonesty will be dealt with in accordance with the provisions of this code. All students are expected to adhere to this Code. It is your responsibility to read it and know what it says, so you can start your professional life on the right path. As future professionals, your commitment to high ethical standards and honesty begins with your time at the Smith School.

It is important to note that course assistance websites, such as CourseHero, are not permitted sources, unless the instructor explicitly gives permission for you to use one of these sites. Material taken or copied from these sites can be deemed unauthorized material and a violation of academic integrity.

These sites offer information that might not be accurate and that shortcut the learning process, particularly the critical thinking steps necessary for college-level assignments.

Additionally, it is understandable that students may use a variety of online or virtual forums for course- wide discussion (e.g., GroupME or WeChat). Collaboration in this way regarding concepts discussed in this course is permissible. However, collaboration on graded assignments is strictly prohibited unless otherwise stated. Examples of prohibited collaboration include: asking classmates for answers on quizzes or exams, asking for access codes to clicker polls, etc.

Finally, on each exam or assignment you must write out and sign the following pledge:

"I pledge on my honor that I have not given or received any unauthorized assistance on this exam/assignment."

Please visit the Office of Undergraduate Studies’ full list of campus-wide policies and follow up with me if you have questions.

To help you avoid unintentional violations, the following table lists levels of collaboration that are acceptable for each type of assignment. If you ever feel pressured to comply with someone else’s academic integrity violation, please reach out to me straight away. Also, if you are ever unclear about acceptable levels of collaboration, please ask!

The following table lists levels of collaboration that are acceptable for each type of graded exercise. See each CANVAS-ELMS page for academic integrity expectations for each individual assignment. If you are ever unsure about acceptable levels of collaboration, please ask!


Campus Policy dictates that you must specify:

● How final letter grades will be determined. This should include a breakdown of all graded assessments, their weight in the course, and whether final grades will include +/- descriptors.

● How students will have access to their grades throughout the semester, and how they can review their work (including the final exam).

All assessment scores will be posted on the course ELMS page. If you would like to review any of your grades (including the exams), or have questions about how something was scored, please email me to schedule a time for us to meet and discuss.

Late work will not be accepted for course credit so please plan to have it submitted well before the scheduled deadline. I am happy to discuss any of your grades with you, and if I have made a mistake I will immediately correct it. Any formal grade disputes must be submitted in writing and within one week of receiving the grade.

Final letter grades are assigned based on the percentage of total assessment points earned. To be fair to everyone I have to establish clear standards and apply them consistently, so please understand that being close to a cutoff is not the same as making the cut (89.99 ≠ 90.00). It would be unethical to make exceptions for some and not others.

A table of the assessments and point values can be a concise way to convey all of the graded elements and their relative weight in the course. If you are using weighted percentages (e.g., exams = 30%, paper = 20%) be sure to clarify the number of assessments within each category… is there one exam worth

30% or are there three exams that are each worth 10.

It is essential that you articulate in your syllabus how final letter grades will be assigned.

Course Outline

The format of this section will vary based on the design of your course and the semester. 

Resources & Accommodations

Accessibility and Disability Services

The University of Maryland is committed to creating and maintaining a welcoming and inclusive educational, working, and living environment for people of all abilities. The University of Maryland is also committed to the principle that no qualified individual with a disability shall, on the basis of

disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of the University, or be subjected to discrimination. The Accessibility & Disability Service (ADS) provides reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals to provide equal access to services, programs and activities. ADS cannot assist retroactively, so it is generally best to request accommodations several weeks before the semester begins or as soon as a disability becomes known.

Any student who needs accommodations should contact me as soon as possible so that I have sufficient time to make arrangements.

For assistance in obtaining an accommodation, contact Accessibility and Disability Service at 301-314- 7682, or email them at Information about sharing your accommodations with instructors, note taking assistance and more is available from the Counseling Center.

Student Resources and Services

Taking personal responsibility for you own learning means acknowledging when your performance does not match your goals and doing something about it. I hope you will come talk to me so that I can help you find the right approach to success in this course, and I encourage you to visit UMD’s Student Academic Support Services website to learn more about the wide range of campus resources available to you.

In particular, everyone can use some help sharpen their communication skills (and improving their grade) by visiting UMD’s Writing Center and schedule an appointment with the campus Writing Center.

You should also know there are a wide range of resources to support you with whatever you might need ( UMD’s Student Resources and Services website may help). If you feel it would be helpful to have someone to talk to, visit UMD’s Counseling Center or one of the many other mental health resources on campus.

Basic Needs Security

If you have difficulty affording groceries or accessing sufficient food to eat every day, or lack a safe and stable place to live, please visit UMD’s Division of Student Affairs website for information about resources the campus offers you and let me know if I can help in any way.

Technology Policy

Please refrain from using cellphones, laptops, and other electronic devices during class sessions unless we have designated such use as part of a class exercise.

IF we move to online: Netiquette Policy [Optional]

Netiquette is the social code of online classes. Students share a responsibility for the course’s learning environment. Creating a cohesive online learning community requires learners to support and assist each other. To craft an open and interactive online learning environment, communication has to be conducted in a professional and courteous manner at all times, guided by common sense, collegiality and basic rules of etiquette.


● Given the interactive style of this class, attendance will be crucial to note-taking and thus your performance in this class. Attendance is particularly important also because class discussion will be a critical component for your learning.

● Each student is expected to make substantive contributions to the learning experience, and attendance is expected for every session.

● Students with a legitimate reason to miss a live session should communicate in advance with the instructor, except in the case of an emergency.

● Students who miss a live session are responsible for learning what they miss from that session.

● Additionally, students must complete all readings and assignments in a timely manner in order to fully participate in class.

Course Evaluation

Please submit a course evaluation through CourseEvalUM in order to help faculty and administrators improve teaching and learning at Maryland. All information submitted to CourseEvalUM is confidential. Campus will notify you when CourseEvalUM is open for you to complete your evaluations for fall semester courses. Please go directly to the Course Eval UM website to complete your evaluations. By completing all of your evaluations each semester, you will have the privilege of accessing through Testudo, the evaluation reports for the thousands of courses for which 70% or more students submitted their evaluations.

Copyright Notice

Course materials are copyrighted and may not be reproduced for anything other than personal use without written permission.

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