Dear Class,

Here are a few tips as you get ready for our first Discussion Question assignment, due this coming Thursday (September 18th) at 10:00 pm CDT.

1) Read the question carefully, and make sure you’re answering what is being asked of you.

For example, the intention of the first discussion question is to get you thinking about your identity. The question is not “what would you do in Europe” or “would you enjoy studying abroad in New Zealand”. You may address these things if they help you write about your personal identity, but always make sure that you are answering the question.

Clearly answer each question posed for discussion.  It is best to use sub-headings (Part A, Part B….).

2) Use course material when relevant, and cite it.

These discussion posts are the only way that you can prove to us that you are actually “attending” (viewing) the video lectures and completing the assigned readings. Because of this, referring to the readings, lectures, podcasts, etc. is a major part of getting a good grade for you answer. For discussion posts we will not be strict about citation format, as long as it’s clear what you’re referring to. If you’re directly quoting a text, you MUST indicate page number. Here are some examples for how you’d refer to the textbook:

In South Asia, tea has become “a catalyst of economic, social and political change” (textbook: 360). [Has direct quote. Need to put page.]

The textbook explains how tea has affected not only the economies of South Asia, but also the social and political landscape. [No direct quote, so no page needed. Clearly tells us that textbook is being used as evidence here.]

It is perfectly fine and welcomed to personalize discussion questions and answer the questions with personal experiences as examples, especially for Discussion Forum #1’s topic.  Keep in mind, however, you still need to show you can intertwine your personal experience with the material learned in the weekly readings, podcasts, lectures, and movies.

2b) Use a variety of course material–not just one source. When possible, put different sources in conversation with each other. Combining sources to form a single idea or argument shows a good understanding of the material and sophisticated thought. We understand that not every single source is useful for every question, and we definitely don’t expect you to use every single source for every question.

3) Be specific, and justify arguments/claims that you make.

This means answering “WHY” and “HOW” questions. If you claim studying abroad in Canada will make you feel more like a North American citizen rather than just an American, tell us WHY. If you claim that living in Europe would “change” how you relate to your country of origin, you need to explain HOW your relationship would change (and, of course, WHY it would change!).

4) You may use outside information, but this is certainly NOT required and we’re not asking you to do this. Completely cite any outside information that you do use (e.g. full name of book, article, full URL…).

Because we’re using these questions partly to gauge how much you are learning from course materials, using outside sources does NOT take the place of using course materials.

5) Keep your responses to two pages. If you make sure that every sentence is helping to answer the specific questions answered, this will be easier to do. Not a big deal if you have a few sentences on page three. If you have 2.5 pages, though, put on your editing hat and do some sentence surgery.

Grading the Discussion and Response

As the syllabus outlines, the discussion forum activities total up to 70% of your final grade (5 x 14%). To help gauge the quality of the response, we will use the following rubric (click to expand):

If you enter your dropbox submission, the rubric scoring will be found there.

Please note, to earn full credit, your response needs to be quite good. This means that it will likely be very difficult to consistently earn 100%. We will be assessing each response individually.

And finally, please remember that voluntary reactions to one or more other students’ contributions are encouraged. Activity and quality engagement in the forums help generate a sense of community and enhance learning outcomes. Your engagement with and reactions to classmates’ posts will be noted when making decisions about borderline grade decisions (e.g., AB vs B), with up to 3% bonus points possible. Allocation of these bonus points is at our discretion.

Happy writing!

Kramer & Cathy

Dear 340 students,

340BookCoverI wanted to pass on some information about the course text for Geography 340 World Regions in Global Context (Fall 2014). The course text is:

  • World Regions in Global Context: People, Places, and Environments, 5/E by Sally Marston, Paul Knox, Diana Liverman, Vincent Del Casino & Paul Robbins ©2013, ISBN-10: 032182105X | ISBN-13: 9780321821058

After a period of transition, we are shifting to the 5th edition so please locate it, and not the 4th edition.

Options include fully online:

An ‘a la Carte’ edition for a binder:

and the standalone book (without MasteringGeography):

The University Bookstore by Memorial Library typically sources copies of the paperback version and the three ring binder (a la Carte) version of the 5th edition.  You can buy or rent either of these versions from the bookstore.

As will be noted in the syllabus, there is a copy available on two-hour loan in the Geography Library.  And, finally, we’re placing the assigned chapters for the first two weeks on eReserve to give you time to get the best/most affordable version.

Best of luck getting the textbook. Let me know if you have any problems.



Hi everyone,

This is the support blog for Geography 340 (World Regions in Global Context), a 100% online course being offered in the Fall 2014 term. I will use this blog to update you, though the course content is provided via Learn@UW.

Here are several updates to get some things moving before term starts on September 2nd.

photo-1First, please note that this is a 100% asynchronous online course, so you will be able to work through the content at your own pace.  The key difference between a ‘synchronous’ vs ‘asynchronous’ course is that synchronous courses require you to be either physically or virtually present in a room or chatroom at the exact same time. Please note, however, that there are regularly scheduled rolling deadlines for assignments that you submit to us. You can do the reading, viewing, and listening at your own pace, as long as you complete them in time to finish and submit your written assignments (e.g. you must do all of the work for US/Canada, Europe, and Oceania sections in time for the first Discussion Forum, etc.). Each and every deadline is identified in the syllabus. One word of warning, though: please do not take Geog 340 if you intend on just doing enough to get a C or a Pass – the rolling deadlines are critically important to keep up with. Online courses provide enormous amounts of flexibility for students but the experience tends to fall apart if you let things slide and consistently miss deadlines.

Second, the TA (Cathy Day) and I will also be engaging with each of you via the Learn@UW course website, email, and Skype. So, in short, there will be plenty of engagement time, but you can engage with us from your dorm room in Madison, or your guest room in Namibia, or your apartment in DC, or Prague, or wherever! I will also have regularly scheduled office hours in Science Hall if you want to meet in person, and Cathy will have regular Skype office hours. Or just contact us via email. Office hours are detailed in the syllabus. On the basis of past patterns, I suspect the majority of you will not have taken an online course before, or perhaps only one other one. Given this, please do not be shy about reaching out – we’re real human beings and are very happy to engage with you on a personal basis!

Third, the course website (which is hosted on Learn@UW) goes live at 12:01 am on September 2nd, 2014. You will need access to a computer to watch and/or listen to the course content (apart from the textbook), and to engage in discussion forums, etc. We also make ample use of ‘drop boxes’ on the site so you can uploading written exercises, your paper, etc., on it.

Fourth, the course text this term will be World Regions in Global Context: People, Places, and Environments, 5th Edition by Sally Marston, Paul Knox, Diana Liverman, Vincent Del Casino & Paul Robbins, 2013. More information about textbook options is available the the entry above this one. Please note that all you need access to, from my perspective this term, is the ebook or paperback version or binder reader. You should get the 5th edition too, please. A copy of the 5th edition is available in the Geography Library on two-hour loan. Please note that the assigned textbook is required reading, and you will be spending a lot of time with it so please ensure that you are satisfied with the format you are considering.

Fifth, please note that those of you pursuing area/regional certificates can configure the 30% research paper to match your regional interests. This, in addition 1-2 weeks devoted to ‘your’ region, should enable you to count Geog 340 towards meeting your requirements. It is always best, though, to check with the relevant staff in Ingraham Hall about this issue.

Hope this helps provide a little background information…and watch this space for updates as we get closer to the start of term.


Kramer Gillin


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