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Course Materials

Course Learning Outcomes

When you successfully complete this course, you should be able to:

  1. Outline the difference between minerals and rocks.
  2. Identify common rocks and minerals.
  3. Discuss where and when the basic rock and mineral types form and how they are related to the hydrologic and tectonic systems.
  4. Describe how the hydrologic system helps to shape the Earth and how the different subsystems interact.
  5. Explain the causes of climate change in both ancient and modern times.
  6. Outline the basic evidences and ideas that support the theory of plate tectonics.
  7. Discuss how the plate tectonic system works, including the role of the different types of plate boundaries and the forces that help to drive the system.
  8. Describe how the plate tectonic system has helped to shape the Earth’s surface.
  9. Gain a greater insight into the enormous length of geologic time and outline for the evidences that support this claim.
  10. Explain the different ways that scientists can determine geologic ages.
  11. Describe how and why the other planets and moons in our solar system are different from Earth.
  12. Understand and utilize scientific graphs, charts, and topographic maps.

Course Materials


Christiansen, E. H. and Hamblin, W. K., Dynamic Earth, Burlington, Massachusetts: Jones & Bartlett Learning, LLC, 2015.

Christiansen and Hamblin’s physical geology textbook, Dynamic Earth, is an outgrowth of an earlier text by these two authors that was the industry standard for many years. The graphics and illustrations are superbly done, and the text is carefully written. Each chapter in the text contains the following useful features: an introductory statement, an outline of major concepts, a list of key terms, and a few review questions. Also included in the back of the book is a glossary of terms. Instructions on how to access the supplemental material on the textbook website should also be included with the text. Near the start of the book you will find a helpful section on how to use the textbook.

Rock and Mineral Kit

You should receive a set of twenty numbered rocks and minerals to be used with lessons 3–6.

Other Materials

You should also receive a small test tube and stopper that you will use in lesson 4.

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Each chapter in your book will be aligned with a separate lesson (25 lessons in all). These lessons include an introduction, a list of major objectives, practice/review questions, and an assignment. Each of the assignments (except lesson 23) are worth 10 points (240 points total for the lessons), even though some may be more difficult and time consuming than others. These assignments are all completed online through your course website. For each of them, you will receive feedback and a grade.

Lesson 23 is worth 60 points and includes an assignment to take a fieldtrip near your home and then write a report about the trip. A grading rubric for this report is included with the assignment. This assignment is intended to help you synthesize the things you have learned throughout the course and make observations about different rocks, minerals, and geologic processes that lead to interpretations about the geologic history of the area you visit.

Every student is different. Some of you may find it useful to read through the practice/review questions before reading the chapter; others may want to skim through the reading and then go over these questions before going back for a more careful examination of the chapter; and still others may prefer to read the lesson in detail before attempting the review questions. Try to find the method that works best for you.

As your instructors, we will try our best to provide you with timely, courteous, and helpful feedback on your assignments and on any other questions you may have. In return, we expect you to carefully read your text and syllabus where the answers to most of your questions can be found. We expect you will find this course to be rigorous and informative. You should keep in mind that it is a university level course, and will require a university level effort. It will be helpful to us and to you if you will work on the course regularly, submitting assignments in a timely, but unhurried manner. It is best not to allow large gaps in between lessons, nor to try and cram all the lessons into too short a period of time.

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Two midcourse examinations will be given, the first after you have completed lessons 1–8 and the second after you have completed lessons 9–16. These examinations will focus on the materials from the included lessons, but the second midcourse will also rely on information and terms you learned for the first midterm. Each midcourse exam is worth 50 points and consists of 50 multiple-choice questions. Before taking the midcourse exam, be sure to read the “Exam Preparation” page.

The final exam is comprehensive and worth 100 points (one point for each of the 100 multiple-choice questions). The examinations are intended to test your knowledge of basic physical geology, as well as your ability to apply that knowledge to situations you may not have encountered in either the text or the assignment questions. In order to perform well, you should review carefully and thoroughly prior to taking the final exam and read “Preparing for the Final Exam.”

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Your grade in this course will be based upon the following assignments and exams:

24 Lesson Assignments 240 points (10 each) 48%
Fieldtrip Report 60 points 12%
2 Midcourse Exams 100 points (50 each) 20%
Final Exam 100 points 20%

Grade Scale

Your letter grade will be based on these percentages.

A above 93%
A− 92% to 89%
B+ 88% to 85%
B 84% to 81%
B− 80% to 77%
C+ 76% to 73%
C 72% to 69%
C− 68% to 65%
D+ 64% to 61%
D 60% to 57%
D− 56% to 53%
E (fail) below 53%

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Copyright Notice

The materials used in connection with this online course are only for the use of students enrolled in this course for purposes associated with this course and may not be retained or further disseminated. Any copying or further dissemination of these materials may be subject to applicable U.S. Copyright Laws. For questions or more information, please visit the BYU Copyright Licensing Office website.

“Members of the BYU community who willfully disregard this Copyright Policy or the BYU Copyright Guidelines place themselves individually at risk of legal action and may incur personal liability for their conduct. The unauthorized use or distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, may subject individuals to civil and criminal liabilities, including actual and statutory damages, costs and fees of litigation, fines, and imprisonment

Violations of the Copyright Policy may result in university disciplinary action including termination of university enrollment or employment.” (Emphasis added. Excerpt taken from the BYU Copyright Policy)

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University Policy - Title IX Statement

Preventing & Responding to Sexual Misconduct

In accordance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Brigham Young University prohibits unlawful sex discrimination against any participant in its education programs or activities. The university also prohibits sexual harassment—including sexual violence—committed by or against students, university employees, and visitors to campus. As outlined in university policy, sexual harassment, dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking are considered forms of "Sexual Misconduct" prohibited by the university.

University policy requires all university employees in a teaching, managerial, or supervisory role to report all incidents of Sexual Misconduct that come to their attention in any way, including but not limited to face-to-face conversations, a written class assignment or paper, class discussion, email, text, or social media post. Incidents of Sexual Misconduct should be reported to the Title IX Coordinator at or (801) 422-8692. Reports may also be submitted through EthicsPoint at or 1-888-238-1062 (24-hours a day).

BYU offers confidential resources for those affected by Sexual Misconduct, including the university’s Victim Advocate, as well as a number of non-confidential resources and services that may be helpful. Additional information about Title IX, the university’s Sexual Misconduct Policy, reporting requirements, and resources can be found at or by contacting the university’s Title IX Coordinator.

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Accessibility Notice

BYU is committed to providing a working and learning atmosphere which reasonably accommodates persons with disabilities who are otherwise qualified to participate in BYU's programs and activities. In this spirit, BYU Independent Study aspires to improve web accessibility for users. While not required by law, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Levels A and AA provide a wide range of helpful recommendations to make Web content more accessible. BYU Independent Study strives to apply WCAG 2.0 recommendations where feasible, but may deviate from any recommendations that would result in an undue hardship to BYU Independent Study or alterations to program and course content and objectives. If you have questions about accessibility, or if you need to report problems with any accessibility features please see our Accessibilities and Accommodations Web Page.

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