Hello everyone!

This is the support blog for Geography 340 (World Regions in Global Context), a 100% online course being offered in the Summer 2015 term. We will use this blog to update you, though most of the substantive course content is accessed via Learn@UW.

Here are several updates to get some things moving before term starts on Monday 1 June.

photo-1First, please note that this is a 100% online course.You do not need to be in Madison at anytime in the summer to take and complete the course. If you are, great, but physical presence here is not required.

Second, this is a 100% asynchronous online course. 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 develop, finish and then submit your written assignments. Each and every deadline will be 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.

Third, the TA (Kramer Gillin) and I will also be engaging with each of you via the Learn@UW course website, email, and Skype. I will also have regularly scheduled office hours in Science Hall if you want to meet in person, and Kramer will have regular Skype office hours as well as on campus office hours. Or just contact us via email. Office hours will be 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!

Fourth, the course website (which is hosted on Learn@UW) goes live at 8:00 am on 1 June. 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 on it.

The syllabus will be ready early next week. For now, though, please note that we will flow through the regional content this way over the four weeks the course is running in June:

1.     The United States and Canada

2.     Europe

3.     Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific

4.     The Russian Federation, Central Asia, and the Transcaucasus

5.     Middle East and North Africa

6.     Sub-Saharan Africa

7.     Latin America

8.     Southeast Asia

9.     East Asia

10.  South Asia

11.  World Regions in Global Context

See here for a copy of the Summer 2014 version of the syllabus – the Summer 2015 version will be ready early next week. Please note, however, there are some substantial changes to the requirements. What are these?

Well, in the summer of 2015 we will move through each region noted above every 2-3 days. You will be required to read, closely and thoroughly, the relevant region chapter in the course text (see below for more information on it). You will also be provided with access to complementary recorded lectures and podcasts for each region via the course site on Learn@UW. You will be assigned three region-specific questions to respond to, in written form (1-2 paragraphs each) and then upload these into a drop box for our review. The deadlines will be specified and roll out every 2-3 days. You will also be asked to identify an English language but region-specific media site (e.g., a Shanghai newspaper published in English; an Australian radio station’s website with links to recorded stories) to explore – the choice of media site is yours to make. You should then discuss one contemporary topic being debated about in this media site in 1-3 paragraphs and post your reflections in the discussion forum for other 340 students to read and comment on. Commenting is encouraged, and will generate some bonus marks, but is not required as we want dialogue to be natural vs forced and stilted. You can focus on any topic – political, cultural, environmental, entertainment, sports, etc. – go with what topic genuinely interests you most!

In short, each region has four smallish but interesting and learning-oriented tasks. The three region-specific written exercises (i.e. three exercises for each of the 11 regions above) total up to 75% of your final grade. The one region-specific media site discussion (i.e. one for each of the 11 regions above) is worth 25% of your final grade. Up to 5% bonus marks can be generated via natural insightful commentary/dialogue on other students media-related postings in the discussion forums. Please note that there are no exams or research papers this summer term (unless you need to do one as part of an area-studies certificate requirement — if so, please email me as soon as possible).

Fifth, the course text this term will be:

We are using the 5th edition so please acquire a copy of it and not the 4th edition. Textbook options include fully online:


An ‘a la Carte’ edition for a binder:


and the standalone book (without MasteringGeography):


340bookcoverThe 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. Multiple reserve copies of the 5th edition are available in the College Library and the Geography Library on two-hour loan. And, finally, we will be placing electronic copies of first region chapters on the Learn@UW course website to give you time to get the best/most affordable version – this is as many as we are legally allowed to post, however.

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.

And sixth, here is the grading scale:

  • 92-100 = A
  • 88-91 = AB
  • 80-87 = B
  • 76-79 = BC
  • 68-75 = C
  • 60-67 = D
  • 0-59 = F

Grade outcomes are not curved in this course.

OK, that’s it for today – I’ll let you know when the syllabus is finished early next week! And feel free to email me if you have any questions about the above course now that you know what’s required.

Kris Olds