BIO 180/ENV 101 Syllabus |

Revised 06/06/05

Note: Subject to change

Note: This is a draft syllabus only. The online course will open 6/7 at

Please read this entire syllabus. There is a wide range of information that will make the class easier and more enjoyable.


You will take this course using WebCT hosted by the Connecticut Distance Learning Consortium (CTDLC). I'm sorry that WebCT is such a pain in the neck. You will get used to it in a few days. You can get help on certain functions within WebCT by clicking the HELP link in the lavender (or dark blue) WebCT menu at the top of each WebCT page. You can reach CTDLC tech support toll free at at 1-866-GO CTDLC (462-8352). On the web you can contact CTDLC at

Before you start the course, it's a good idea to "tune-up" your browser at You should read the information on that page. I believe we are using WebCT 3.8 this fall. If you are using AOL and you don't follow the instructions on the browser tune-up page, you will be very frustrated. Also, some of the assignments use files in Microsoft Word format (version 97 or later). I prefer to receive assignments in this format. Let me know if you don't have this software.

To Contact Me

Please use the course email within WebCT for routine communications. I will similarly use it routinely to communicate with you. If WebCT is down, or you can't use the course email for some other reason, you can email me at In an emergency, call me at (860) 885-2386 (my office) or at (401) 439-6710 (my cell phone). (Note: If you use regular email, be sure to include a clear subject or your message may be deleted as spam.)

This course has been a work in progress since I first offered it online in January 2000.  I thank you in advance for your patience and perseverance as I continually work the bugs out of it.  Last fall the course was pretty stable. If you have trouble with any pages, please tell me. As with any online course, there will be expired links. Send them to me as you find them.

Note on course name and number

This course goes by two names and two numbers at Three Rivers Community College. At one time, the two names referred to two distinct but similar courses. They were in fact so similar that they are now combined into one. Students may register for either BIO* K180, Principles of Environmental Science, or ENV* K101, Environmental Studies. The content is exactly the same. (You will actually be taking the course with other students enrolled under both names.)

Important Information about Enrollment and Withdrawal

To get credit and a grade for this class, you need to be registered with Three Rivers Community College. Likewise, if you wish to withdraw from the class you must contact the Three Riversí registrar by Thursday, July 21st. The registrarís office can be reached by phone at (860) 892-5756. The official start date for this course is June 6th and the official end date July 28th. Shortly after that I have to turn in a grade for every student who has not withdrawn from the course, so if you just stop doing the lessons, you might get an "F." The schedule below will get you done by July 28th, so try to be finished by then. I may accept work after that date, but will not be happy about it.

To participate in the course (eg, to get a grade), you need a student ID. This is a number like @01234567, generated by Three Rivers. You probably have a number already if you are reading this. Since Spring of 2003, you use the same password for WebCT and the Connecticut Community College online information system (

Course Description

Environmental Studies presents an interdisciplinary overview of the workings of the environment and human interactions with it. The course includes a description of ecosystems, geological processes, hydrological processes, and atmospheric processes. The causes and treatment of air and water pollution are discussed as are issues related to energy development and waste disposal.

Course Objectives

My broadest objective is for you to learn to understand the environment better. Some of the more specific objectives to help us achieve this overall goal include an ability to analyze news of scientific advances, a grasp of the terminology of environmental matters, and a comprehension of the basic concepts of how the natural environment works, as well as excellent reading and writing skills.

If we achieve the broadest objective, certain other accomplishments are likely as well:

All of these goals are fairly general. For each learning unit you will have more specific and concrete goals.

Course Content  

We will cover the following nine topics over the span of seven and a half weeks:

Topics for BIO180/ENV101 with Learning Units and Deadlines:
Topic Learning Unit Approximate Deadline for Completion
1. Introduction 1.1. Welcome and introduction
1.2.  Environmental science...
1.3. ...and environmentalism
2.  Ecosystem Fundamentals 2.1. What is an ecosystem?
2.2.  Biotic structure (trophic structure)
2.3. Abiotic factors
2.4.  The chemistry of ecosystems
2.5. Energy transformations
3. Biological Communities 3.1. Communities
3.2. Population dynamics
4. People, Resources and Money 4.1. The human population
4.2.  Environmental economics
4.3. Natural resources
5. Earth 5.1. Soil resources
5.2. Food production
6. Water 6.1. The water cycle
6.2.  Water quality and water pollution
7. Air 7.1. The atmosphere
7.2. Air pollution
8. Wastes and Hazards 8.1. Hazardous materials
8.2. Toxicology and risk assessment
8.3. Solid waste
9. Fire 9.1. Fossil fuels
9.2. Renewable energy
Here's an important note: There is no penalty if you miss the deadlines in this course (except the last one). BUT, try to stick close to them to stay on track.

Required Reading

Most of the background information for this course you can get from the textbook:

RT Wright, Environmental Science, 9th Ed., (Pearson Education, 2005).  This book is a secondary source, a compilation and summary of information developed by other people.

There will also be discussion threads and other assignments based on about twelve of the articles in T Goldfarb, ed., Notable Selections in Environmental Studies, 2nd Ed., (Dushkin/McGraw-Hill, 2000).   These articles are considered to be primary sources, not rehearsals or summaries of other people's work.

We will continually refer to websites (in fact, you will refer me to sites).  See the "Evaluating Websites" after Lesson 1.3 for more information on finding and judging websites.

Both of the books can get a little bit technical in places.  Be sure to use email and the Course Discussions (see below) to get your questions answered.

Course Work

Keep a copy (on paper and/or on disk) of everything you submit for this class!

There is a popup table of all the assignments and discussion topics.

Get ready to do a lot of writing over the next 8 weeks.  Since you will not be attending class, all of our discussion will be in writing in the course discussions.  Most of the lessons will have a brief assignment that you will need to write out and submit to me. On the lefthand course menu of the WebCT page, there is a link titled "Assignments." Click that for a list of links to the official Assignments. You can think of these as homework.

When you click on an assignment link, you will get a description of what you need to do. There may be a file to download. Write up your response (in Microsoft Word format please). There is a function within WebCT for turning these in. It's a little bit finicky, but you will get plenty of practice. I won't be too fussy about the content of these assignments, so be sure to turn in something for each one. They are supposed to help you learn. I will grade them on a 0-5 point scale. If you turn in nothing, you will get nothing. If you turn in something, you will probably get at least a three. Most will earn a four. Very good ones will get fives. Neatness, grammar, and style counts. A well-written answer is a better answer. See my notes below about copying and plagiarism.


You will also write essays. The final version of each essay should be submitted via WebCT. You may send draft versions of your essays as email attachments, either to me or to other students in the class.

Especially for the second and third essays, you may swap rough drafts with someone else in the class. The recipient will review your essay and give you suggestions for revision.  You will then get a chance to revise the essay.  You should likewise make comments on the essay that you get and send it back. It is OK for you to discuss each other's work, but no copying unless I say it's OK. You must always clearly indicate the source of all words and ideas. Three Rivers has a writing center ( that is available to help you with your writing. I will be even more picky about the content, style, grammar, and readability of the essays than I am in other assignments.

Unless I specifically state otherwise, all work that you submit should be your own. I encourage you to discuss anything with your classmates, but what you turn in has to be yours, not theirs. I have given zeros when two students turn in work that was too similar. Please feel free to ask me any questions you have about this. I am not out to get anyone; I just want you to learn as much as possible.

The first essay is due 20-Jun-05.  See the popup for a complete list of essay topics and deadlines. The three essays will be the basis for a third of your grade. In some cases, I may allow you to rewrite an essay.

I expect you to write clearly in all the assignments and discussions, but I will be especially fussy about the essays--I reserve the right to take points off for grammar, spelling and other lapses in writing quality. I will also be reading for the quality of the information and thinking in the essay.

Important note about plagiarism:

Everything you submit should be your own work and your own words. You should feel free to use information and ideas from any book, article, website, and so forth, and you may quote from these word for word. But, you must mark all quotations with quotation marks and clearly indicate the source of all words, ideas and information which are not your own. See for more information and examples. Students have failed this class because they submitted copied work without proper documentation.


You will also pose questions, make suggestions, issue complaints, and so forth in the form of email.  Likewise, you will get answers, thanks, encouragement, etc, back from me in the form of email.  Email will be our least formal mode of communication.  One of the advantages of email that many do not use is the ability to think and edit before you speak. You should communicate in your emails in whatever fashion is most comfortable and effective for you. Remember that the recipient of an email needs to understand what you wrote. Also, my impression of you will be based on what you write. I have one specific request: Please do not write in ALL CAPS. Some assignments may require you to send me a specific email message. These will be part of your discussions/assignment grade. Other email will not be formally graded, but students who send me interesting ideas and information may get a few extra credit points. There is an email utility within WebCT. It is not hard to use. Whenever possible, please use the course email.

Course Discussions

The Discussions are a vital part of this class.  This is a virtual class discussion, except that we will not all participate at the same time.  You enter the discussions by clicking on the Discussions link on the left side of your browser window to display a list of topics.  If you click on a topic, a list of messages is displayed.  If you click on the title of a message, the message is displayed in a new browser window.  You can reply by clicking the "Quote" link.  You can read the next message or the next thread by clicking the appropriate link.  (Note: all the messages in a topic with the same subject are grouped together as a "thread.")  You can add a new message by clicking the "Compose Discussion Message" link on the main discussions page.

You should try to post to the Discussions at least twice for each topic.  In many cases, I will start the discussion in the lesson for the topic based on a reading from Notable Selections or from a Web site, but feel free to start a new thread whenever the spirit moves you.  Unfortunately, there's no way for you to edit a message once you have posted it. If necessary, I can delete a posting. Use the Preview button to check what you have written before you send it. You might want to write your posting in a word processor, save the file and then copy and paste it into the discussion message form.  That way it will be easier to write in complete sentences and thoroughly proofread for spelling errors and typos.  Think and organize before you write.  My rule of thumb is 10 minutes thinking for 5 minutes of writing (your mileage may vary). It's possible to attach files to postings, but in most cases you shouldn't.

After you have made your initial posting, read the comments posted by others and respond to at least one of them.  Again, think before you write.  Postings and responses do not have to be long. Shoot for about 7 sentences as a first estimate, though more or less are ok depending on what you are trying to say.  In almost every case, they should not be simple summaries or rehashes of the reading.  Keep in mind that we have all read the same thing.  In some cases, it will be appropriate for you to give your explanation or interpretation of what we read.  In other cases I will ask you to react or respond to what we read. Reading the responses in threads can get to be a bit tricky. When you respond, try clicking the "Quote" button rather than the "Reply" button. That way, the text of the message you are responding to will be in your response. As always, clearly indicate the source of all words and ideas.

You can get help with the discussion board at  If you are new to on-line conferences (also called threaded discussions or news groups) check out some suggestions for Internet etiquette at (check out the Core Rules link).

You should also feel free to use the discussions to ask questions about the class material.  For example, if you don't understand something in the text, post a question about it.

There is a Chat and a Whiteboard function in the course. Last spring I had a number of good conversations in the Chat room. Unfortunately, it was hard to get many people together at the same time. These are also available as links on the left side of the WebCT page. These are synchronous--you participate at the same time as others. Post chat time suggestions to the Chat Time thread in the Discussions.


In addition to class participation (the discussions), essays and quizzes, you will need to do some exploring on your own.  Your exploration can take many forms: observing the environment around you; interviewing people whose life or work affects the environment (eg, a town planner or a transfer station operator); or reading newspaper articles, magazine articles, or books relevant to environmental science.  Use the assignment dropbox to submit the results of your Exploration (or use snail mail and submit a dummy file via the dropbox). 

You can write about your findings, or draw, or take photographs.  If you have access to a digital camera, it is easy to email the pictures.  But even with a film camera, you can create digital pictures by requesting the pictures on a disk when you have the film developed.  Some photo processing services post your pictures on-line (for example, see or  Even CVS or Brooks will give you your pictures on disk if you ask. 

If you interview someone, write a summary of what the person said (or give the questions and answers verbatim).  Identify the person at least by describing them (you do not have to give the person's name). 

If you read a book, write a book review.  See the popup for guidelines.

If you read something in a newspaper or magazine (or on a Web site), write up a summary of the articles.  One exploration should consist of at least three related newspaper articles or one to three magazine articles.  Analyze the information (use the same guidelines as in the book popup).  If possible, provide me with a copy of the article(s).

Finally, you can draw or sketch anything you think is relevant to the course.  Once, a student did a watercolor diagram of much of the information in the first half of the class. I have it up in my office.

With your permission, I may make your Exploration or other work available at the class Web site so that we can all learn from each other.  Some previous Explorations can be viewed at  Note: You don't have to submit a web page, though you can if you would like.  The posted explorations were mostly Microsoft Word files that I converted.


Each topic has a multiple-choice quiz.  These are supposed to help you review the material that you are learning.  You can get a "100" on each quiz by using the following procedure:

First, answer the review questions under the Review link for each topic.  Use your book, notes, the Course Discussions, email or the Web to get answers to any you don't know.  Second, take the quiz with your book and notes closed.  Keep track of any questions you get wrong or are not sure about.  Third, look back at your books, notes, and so forth to get an answer for any questions you missed the first time. Email me an explanation of why my answer is right or why you still think your answer is right.  If I like your explanation, you will get credit for the question.  If I don't like it I'll explain why, and you'll get another chance.

If you really bomb, you can study again and take the whole quiz over again.  Your highest quiz grade will be the only one that counts for each quiz.  So, everyone can get a 100 on all the quizzes!


Your grade will be based on the following four categories:

Course Discussions, Assignments, and Chats

30 points

Three Essays

30 points


30 points


10 points each

I reserve the right to throw in extra bonus points as the semester goes along.

On-Line vs In Class

Don't let the bonus points and my good nature fool you into thinking that this will be an "easy" class.  That is, if you want to achieve the objectives listed above, you will need to devote a large amount of time and energy to doing the work. Count on spending several hours at the computer at once a week.

What will you need to do?

First of all, since we will not be gathering in a classroom for a three hour block of time each week, you will need to set up your own blocks of time to "attend class."  This will be your time to review the lesson, read and respond to postings and emails from other students, and send your email comments and questions to me.  I will set aside a similar block.

Second, you need to set aside time to do the reading.  This could easily be three hours or more in any given week.  Some of the material in the text you will breeze right through, some you will puzzle over several times (remember, I'm always just an email away--use the course mail).  The primary sources (Web sites and Notable Selections) will require close concentration.  You will often want to read them two or more times.  You will want to read them with a pad and pencil handy (or word processor file open).  Write (or type) your thoughts, questions, reflections, brainstorms or expletives (#$@#%!) as you go along.

Third, you will need to set aside time for your "homework."  The homework will consist of (1) doing any exercises given in the lessons, (2) writing your discussion postings and responses, (3) writing your essays, (4) commenting on essays you receive, and (5) rewriting your essays.

Note: I made that (joking) comment about expletives above.  Occasional Fred Flintstone grumbles (like the shift characters on keys 1-8) are OK, but please use restraint and discretion in your discussion postings.  Write in the polite way that you would speak if your boss and your Aunt Millie were in the room.  After all, they may be taking the class!

Final Notes:

The author of this course is Anthony Benoit. Photographs, drawings, and other figures throughout the course are the works of the author and are ©2000-2005 unless otherwise stated.

You read all the way to here? Good for you! You are off to a great start. Please have fun with this course. ~}8^)