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Photo: Dr. Nilsson by Rio Grande, Roma, Starr County, Texas, U.S.A.

This is a lot of reading -- but it will help you understand the class. Do you have coffee?

Welcome to Environmental Biology!

If this is the first time you’ve been in one of my classes, or if you are an "old" student, I’d like to welcome you!

This page was written to help you understand this class and the teaching philosophy of the instructor. It is assumed that you have submitted the Student Contract, and that you have read the "Start Here!" page on the Blackboard Designated HomePage for the class. If not, go back and read that page first. Then come back here...

Read Start Here? Then let's continue...

If you read this page with care you will get the "big picture" of the class, a pretty good idea how this class is organized, and what is the instructor's idea behind it. But keep in mind that in order to become really familiar with the organization of the class it is not enough to just read about the class pages -- you also must navigate and visit the class pages -- several times.

Too much to read? Don't want to read this page? Don't like to read instructions? Prefer trial and errors attempts? That is fine, and for some of you that might be the best way to approach this class. Let me then just say that this class is self-paced, and it is easy -- as long as you pay attention, do all the assignments, and do them on time. Need help -- use the Help Desk -- but not until AFTER you have read the instructions for what you seek help with.

Below are the assignment categories for both the online and hybrid class, and a link to the General Biology Hub (click on the picture) where you can find a link to the the Syllabus. For the assignment details see the Grading Criteria and for the assignment due dates see the Semester Calendar.

Chapter quiz 5 is a prerquisite for several other quizzes, so you need to do Chapter Quiz 1 - 5 first, or the Class Discussion "Key" Quiz, which is a prerequisite for the General Class Discussion.


I. Introduction Assignments
II. Chapter Quizzes
III. Case Studies
IV. Semester Project
V. Geography Drills
VI. General Class Discussion
VII. Town Hall Meeting
VIII. Endterm (Final) Exam
IX. Learning Self-Assessment

The photo is used for educational purposes by Dr. Nilsson, South Texas College, downloaded from Facebook .

Still here? Want to know more? Want the bigger picture? Excellent! Let's get started!

Before you start reading this page -- if you have decided to do so; you must at least read some of it for the Start Quiz -- just a note about "overlib links". You will see a few on this page and on other class web pages.

OVERLIB LINKS INFORMATION: To reduce the length of this page it contains nifty "overlib links" for comments and additional information in boxes hidden until you move your mouse over the link. It is your responsibility to read the information on these "overlib links". It is possible to read this page without "clicking" on the "overlib links", but you might not understand some parts until you read the text in the "overlib link" box. You open the link by moving your mouse over the link, and closing it by removing the mouse. To separate the "overlib links" from regular links the text in an "overlib link" is colored blue, and has a small colorful arrow in front of it. Regular links, which takes you to another page, are NOT blue. I have found one "draw-back" so far with these links, in that one cannot use " signs and ' signs in the posted text -- since these characters, " and ', are part of the overlib code. Kind of like Data in Star Trek. He cannot say "don't", only "do not". Oh well, guess we can live with that flaw... x Erik Bostrup, at www.bosrup.com, wrote this JavaScript code.

xx Here is an "overlib link". If you don't know what it is -- try it!

About this class

I have designed this Environmental Biology Cyber Classroom to assist and facilitate your learning. This cyber classroom has two main locations on the WWW -- the ENVIRONMENTAL BIOLOGY HUB (click on the link) on the regular STC server, and BLACKBOARD PLAZA on the STC Blackboard server (link not provided here, you must log in to Blackboard to navigate to Blackboard Plaza).

Most students find their way to this "Welcome -- Start Here!" page from a link on the Blackboard Plaza page (the page illustrated below with a glass pyramid), but a big portion of the class is located on the Environmental Biology Hub (the green page below) -- it is actually the center of the class. (We will discuss these pages again later.) The pages are updated every semester, but still look somewhat similar to the figures below.

Blackboard Plaza Page
Environmental Biology Hub

Let me say this immediately, during regular semesters there are no "real" assignment deadlines the first two weeks! Use this first period of the semester well to become familiar with the course!!!

x That is the assignment the first two weeks -- to become familiar with the course!!!

(Note: During the shorter Summer III semester "two weeks" is ONLY six to seven days!!!)

To access Blackboard you need to use your STC username/password. To access Environmental Biology Class Hub -- where instructions and reading assignments are located, you do not need a username/password. Below is the phone number to the Blackboard Help Desk if you need assistance with Blackboard. The instructor usually cannot help you with Blackboard problems -- unless they are tied to the class setup controlled by the instructor...

Student Blackboard
Help Desk


You could be reading this without having accessed Blackboard. However, I will from now on assume that you have already accessed the Blackboard course shell, read the first page you get to when clicking on the class link, and are reading this and ready to take the START QUIZ (maybe you have already submitted it). I will also assume that you have the textbook -- or at least know what textbook to use, and plan to get it immediately. (Although, there will be some information about the textbook, further down this page...)

If you have not yet visited the Class Communication page here is a link (we will mention the page again below, but click on the link just to see what it is -- it will open as a separate page in most browsers -- then come back here...):


If you have not yet visited Blackboard (you found the Hub first) there are several links to it on the Environmental Biology Hub, where you can click on the hexagonal icon as seen below, to log in to Blackboard (or if already logged in it will take you to to the "My Institution" page). Try it -- it will open as a new page on most browsers:


The things you are going to do during the semester are listed in the Semester Calendar and the Grading Criteria -- located in the online Syllabus. However, to help you get a good start below are some things I recommend you do the first few days (if you have not done it already).

x Take the Student Contract Quiz. (You must pass it with a 100 -- and acknowledge that you have received the information where to obtain the syllabus for the class.)
x Take the Start Quiz. (You must pass it with a minimum 90, indicating that you have read this page to learn about the class.)
x Spend the first few days becoming familiar with the learning tools. Click around on Blackboard. Click around Environmental Biology Hub. Look through the textbook.
Read the Syllabus Information. Spend time reading the Grading Criteria -- so you will become familiar with the assignments. Pay attention to the Semester Calendar -- so you know when the assignments are due, and print out the Grade Recorder -- and prepare to use it. As already stated, at the beginning of the semester there are no immediate deadlines, but you need to keep an eye on the calendar. Most, but not all, assignments are due at the end or close to the end of the semester. However, that doesn't mean you can procrastinate and do everything the last week. This class is a WORK CLASS, and you work the whole semester.

There are several links to these important documents. The figure below illustrate a shortcut located on the Environmental Biology Hub.

x Find information about the two class discussion assignments, and prepare to take the required quiz for the General Class Discussion -- the Class Discussion "Key" Quiz (the first "real" assignment due date in class). Reading assignments for that quiz and the discussion topics can be found here. x x x

I wrote this page to help you succeed in this class; to get a general overview of the class and to understand what it is about -- read it carefully!

x x Start Quiz. The purpose of this quiz is to help students understand the class and become familiar with the class pages. In addition the Start Quiz is a prerequisite for textbook Chapter Quiz 01 and the Class Discussion "Key" Quiz, the first two quizzes you must take in the class. (The Start Quiz is located on Blackboard Plaza. In order to access Blackboard Plaza you must first have submitted the Student Contract Quiz.)

Since you are starting this class by taking a quiz, you need some information about the quizzes before you start. (You will get additional information later.)

If you have already visited the Blackboard page called "Blackboard Plaza" (opened up when you submitted the Student Contract with 100) and looked in the folders found there, you have notice that the "Start Quiz" is the only quiz that is available. This will change as you proceed through the semester.

x Quiz taking using Blackboard

The Next Quiz. The next quiz you will take, and maybe some other assignments, will remain hidden until you EARN a minimum 90 on the "Start Quiz". When you have answered all Start Quiz questions -- and EARNED at least a 90 -- the next quiz, and some other assignments, will become available/visible in the folders on Blackboard Plaza. Then it is up to you to proceed with the quizzes at a speed you feel comfortable with -- as long as you finish within certain due dates listed in the Semester Calendar.

Repetition. Each quiz may have a slightly different format and number of questions, but all have in common that if you do not pass with a certain minimum grade, you must take it again until you EARN at least that number grade. The Start Quiz requires 90, the chapter quizzes and geography drills 90, and the so called short "key" quizzes require 100 (all answers must be correct). If you don't get the required grade the first time -- many students don't -- don't worry; taking a quiz several times will help you learn the material. You have UNLIMITED amount of attempts until you EARN the required minimum.

This is not a speed race. Learning is the name of the game.

So, when you pass the Start Quiz with at least 90, the class will open up.

For most quizzes (not all -- see the info box when you start thge quiz) you have 4 hours, plenty of time. If you don't score the required minimum grade you can take the quiz or drill again. For more Chapter Quiz information click on the button below.


Do you know that you can have both this page and the Blackboard quiz page open -- or any other web page you wish to see while reading this page? You should! If you have a wide screen you can have both windows next to each other, if not they can overlap. Don't waste time surfing between the pages using only one window.

x x Unlike some other college classes you might have had, the method to learn in this class is "work" and "repetition", and "academics" take a back seat to "exposure".


The cartoon above is used for EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES by Dr. Nilsson, South Texas College, scanned from The Monitor, McAllen

x x x x


This is the most important class you will ever take!

Sure, you say, I bet all college professors say that! Hmm!? Perhaps! But this class really is the most important class you will ever take if you care about the Earth, your kids, and your grandkids! Seriously!

After the Summer 2008 Semester a student made this comment:

I remember reading from Dr. Nilsson's instructions that this class is the most important class of our academic life. Honestly, I started thinking about it, and as the semester was going by, I continued supporting his thoughts.
At this point I can say that I will never forget this class, because this class provided me with important knowledge of what should be in top of our priorities' list and that is to take care of our environment.


The cartoon above is used for EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES by Dr. Nilsson, South Texas College, scanned from The Monitor, McAllen

This is a "WORK CLASS". You do the work -- according to the instructions -- you get a 100...

With the help of your textbook and online reading assignments, you do "work" using open book learning-drills, and various types of open book quizzes. All "tests" are this way, with the (slight) exception of the Endterm (Final) Exam. Hopefully when you do this work, and repeat it (if you have to) x, you learn. The goal of the class is not to make students learn a ton of facts, but rather "expose" students to environmental problems and wrongdoing to the REAL world -- and with help of critical thinking you will, hopefully, form your own educated opinion about the REAL world and what is happening to our planet.


The cartoon above is used for EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES by Dr. Nilsson, South Texas College, scanned from The Monitor, McAllen

Noticed that above it said "with help of critical thinking you will, hopefully, form your own educated opinion about various issues that affect biology..."

x One reason for the problems we face on our planet is wide spread ignorance (lack of educated knowledge) about how the REAL world works and what is presently happening to the planet.

The word "education" means to "lead forth" and implies leading forth away from "imprisonment in ignorance". If people were better educated about the REAL world and had a better grasp of reality based on facts -- rather than being satisfied with uneducated opinions and beliefs -- we would have much less problems.

We will have class discussions where we will use CRITICAL THINKING (hopefully) and debate various issues. Based on observations from previous semesters, ignorance, belief, knowledge and opinions will be part of these discussions. But after reading the textbook, viewing YouTube videos, reading cases studies, and participating in eye opening discussions, hopefully there will be less ignorance and beliefs, and more knowledge and educated opinions, at the end of the semester.

In this class it is not enough to "show up" or "go online" -- you have to do the work... And don't come the day before the final exam and ask if you can make up all the assignments you never turned in by doing something else (preferably easy?).

A previous semester a student asked to make up 19 assignments AND the final exam the day before the grades were due at STC.

Yes, 20 assignments THE LAST DAY OF THE SEMESTER!

For an interesting discussion and for the source of this cartoon -- click here or on the cartoon...

Again, this is a "WORK CLASS" and this is COLLEGE -- in this class you do the same work, on time, as per the instructions, AS REQUIRED BY ALL STUDENTS (not just the A students). You have PLENTY of time for ALL assignments -- for some assignments the whole semester -- that is 3.5 months.

If you miss an assignment YOU MISS THE POINTS, don't ask for a make-up -- there is none...

x If you don't understand why this is the policy and philosophy of this class, here is something for you to read. If you DO understand, and don't want to read this, you can scroll down to number x x

HOWEVER, why not read it anyway just to stay informed, and you must at least look at the ADVOCATE magazine cover below to answer one of the Start Quiz questions...


The cartoon dated 1927 -1938 is used for educational purposes by Dr. Nilsson, South Texas College, reposted here, from http://www.ucl.ac.uk/sts/cain/projects/ejn/ejn_comics/. For further source information and fair use statement see bottom of page.

x Education a main priority!

x A previous semester student posted the following on the Class Help Desk: "Dr. Nilsson, you're making me use every available cell in my brain!"

xI replied: A challenging course? Excellent!

Used for educational purposes by Dr. Nilsson, South Texas College, reposted here, from the cover page of Advocate, summer 2008. For further source information and fair use statement see bottom of page.

x Unfortunately, the public education system is not necessarily challenging. Some students enrolling to STC must, before they qualify to take college level courses, take "developmental courses". The lowest level of developmental english at STC is 3rd grade level! How can that be? How can students who have gone to school for 12 years write like 3rd graders? Unfortunately part of the answer is, in my opinion, students go through 12 years in a low quality education system where one thing one learns very quickly is that one does not have to care about quality.

x Sometimes when I grump about how many students don't care that they write like third graders in this class, I remember a "Student of the Week" article in the Monitor during the summer semester 2008. I am sure that there are many excellent exceptions, but some of you should read it and take the advice from that student. If for nothing else you may get inspired to say something in the Class Discussions or the Help Desk. Click on the article icon for a readable page.

x We all do spelling mistakes -- the point here is that SOME don't care...


xMaria DeLeon also stated: "students should... become adults."

x Adults? Hmmm!? That must mean that you should not spell like a third grader when you turn in assignments in a college class... x

xIn addition Maria DeLeon stated: "students should be making their education a main priority."

x Right, that is what we wish... So, let's do that this semester in this class, folks!!!! x

The cartoon is used for educational purposes by Dr. Nilsson, South Texas College, scanned, from The Monitor, McAllen.

x Several semesters ago (fall 2007) there was a series of articles discussing the problems with education in the Valley. Something to think about -- and if not for yourself then for your children?


Holeywell, R. and E.P. Hernandez. 2007. 'Dropout factories' -- Is your teenager attending one? The Monitor, McAllen, Texas. (November 02): 1A

"Nearly two dozen Rio Grande Valley high schools were being labeled "dropout factories" by a national study citing them for having substantially fewer seniors enrolled than freshmen -- considered by some to be a telltale sign of dropout problems."


Editorial. 2007. Our view -- Owning up to dropouts. The Monitor, McAllen, Texas. (November 04): 1D

"The time has come for area school officials to knock off the song and dance and start facing up to the issue. An alcoholic has no hope of cure until he or she admits to having the problem... Nothing much depends on it -- except, maybe, the economic wellbeing of the Valley and the quality of life our children are able to enjoy in the future."


Berghom, J. 2008. South Texas schools to be part of pilot literacy program. The Monitor, McAllen, Texas. (March 29): 4B

"Worried about the low graduation and high illiteracy rates in South Texas, U.S. Congressman Ruben Hinojosa hopes a pilot program he is starting will reverse those statistics. ... to end the chronic problem of reading apathy and illiteracy plaguing our region."


Florida before...
Florida after...

The photos above are used for educational purposes by Dr. Nilsson, South Texas College, downloaded, from this web page.

x x One subject covered in this class is Global Warming. The photos of Florida above (Copyright Rodale press, downloaded from this page -- see copyright and fair use notice at the bottom of this page.) is perhaps a little more dramatic than what would happen to the Rio Grande Valley, if the climate changes, but we would get flooded too. (Go to this page for larger photos.)

There is some "Global warming controversy" because some people feel that we are not changing the climate. Are we changing the climate? You will, hopefully, in this class come up with your own conclusion, using critical and reflective thinking based on facts. Below are some links on the web you might want to explore. However, don't drift away from this welcome page, for too long -- come back here if you click on the links (the underlined text)! You can come back to the links later...

Global warming is the observed increase in the average temperature of the Earth's atmosphere and oceans in recent decades and its projected continuation into the future.

For 17 years, former Vice President Al Gore has been on the forefront of warning against global warming. But in his new documentary, The Inconvenient Truth, he says that he "failed to get the message out." He's now getting the message out with his documentary and new book of the same name. The Washington Post calls the book "downright chilling." The documentary has been critically acclaimed.

This is what Florida would look like if Greenland melted or broke up and slipped into the sea, or if half of Greenland and half of Antarctica melted or broke up and slipped into the sea. Sea levels worldwide would increase by between 18 and 20 feet.

Many evangelicals think that because they don't believe in evolution, they have to reject the science of global warming, too.


Need a break? Go get your favorite poison. Good thing about doing class work online...

Lets continue with what this class is about...

x x College classes in the 21st century. Depending on what class you have registered for, you might be in a hybrid class or an online class. Both kinds of classes use the amazing resources of the Internet as a learning tool -- especially the World Wide Web. Note that a hybrid course is not an on-line course, because on-line courses have no regular class meetings, but Environmental Biology Hub gives you access to class material, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Hybrid courses and online courses are the same as traditional classes in terms of academic quality and credit hours, but have required web components, and students access classroom content and material via the web and e-mail. This instructor doesn't teach "regular" classes -- traditional classes -- because such a class is a dying type of dinosaur class that is soon going to disappear...

Whatever type of class you are (web-enhanced, hybrid or online) in this class -- to help you succeed in the real world after college, you will be using the Internet...

x x The Environmental Biology Hub is the central area of the class. It is NOT located on Blackboard, but on the regular STC server. BackG_TrollForest_sm10_nat Bu_EnvHome_grewhi229_gretxt The icons displayed to the left, can be found on many web pages in the cyberclassroom, and it will always take you to the Environmental Biology Hub. In case you get lost surfing in the cyberclassroom, locate the icons with the link back to the Environmental Biology Hub. On the hub page click on the button Bu_WelcomeSH_Gre300_dgretxt if you wish to get back to this page.


x x The "hub". BackG_TrollForest_sm10_nat Bu_EnvHome_grewhi229_gretxt Let's take a look at the Environmental Biology class hub. As stated, this is the center of the class. We have already mentioned the Bu_WelcomeSH_Gre300_dgretxt button. The button you click to get to this page that you are reading at the moment.

The Bu_CourseGo_Gre300_dgretxt button takes you to the page with a description of the general goal of the class. Note the background picture taken north of Edinburg a beautiful spring bloom day.

If, after reading this page, you are still confused about what to do next in this class the Bu_WhatNext_Gre300_dgretxt button takes you to a good place to continue.

If you click on the Bu_Instruct_Gre300_dgretxtbutton you will find information about the instructor. That button is followed by the Bu_Syllabus_Gre300_dgretxt button. The syllabus is an important document. While much in the syllabus is obvious, some parts are more important than others -- especially the Semester Calendar and the Grading Criteria. These are so important that we will discuss them separately later. To read the standardized STC syllabus for the class click on the Bu_SyllSecOu_Blu300_yeltxt button.

We will return to the syllabus again and discuss the two most important parts the Bu_SyllCalend_Blu300_yeltxtand the Bu_SyllGraCri_Blu300_yeltxt. But CLICK on both links NOW so that you know what they are about -- then come back here and continue reading this page.

Next we will discuss the Bu_Textbook_Gre300_dgretxt. There is a link to the publisher on the Environmental Biology Hub.

The Textbook

x x 5/e x x 6/e x x 7/e

x x The most important learning tool in this class, your textbook, is not online. You can read in this Monitor article that professors often fuse textbooks with technology. You will use the textbook to read and answer questions using online quizzes and participate in online class discussions.
Without the textbook you will get lost in this class. The textbook is an STC requirement -- all students must purchase a textbook. The textbook for both the hybrid classes and the online classes is Principles of Environmental Science: Inquiry & Applications.

xx Make sure you obtain the textbook illustrated


xx Before we continue with the contents on the Environmental Biology Hub, let's discuss the computer requirements for this class.


The Computer

x x Computer? A computer with Internet access from your home is not required for the class -- although if you are enrolled in the online class it is almost silly if you didn't. (I think you might have misunderstood what online classes are about.) If you are in the online class you SHOULD have a computer at home, connected to the Internet. In the hybrid class, although you have class meetings and can do class work when coming to campus, it is really convenient if you can do some work at home.

General class communication, such as reminders from the instructor, tips on the assignments, announcements, or news for the class, will come to all students via the Internet. It is very important that you check online class messages and communications several times each week.


I check the Blackboard bulletin boards (used for class discussions, several times each day, and I RECOMMEND that you do the same. If you do not have Internet access at home you can use a computer at STC (e.g., student success center or the library), or a public library, but it is more convenient from home in your pajamas and with your favorite beverage... x

Computers are necessary in today's society, and they are very helpful tools to help you receive a college education! If you have never had an online or a hybrid course before perhaps you are afraid of computers or perhaps last time you went to school the Internet was not invented?

The first serious personal computer was introduced in 1984. That was the year Macintosh revolutionized computer technology with a mouse and graphical interface method, instead of merely using the computer as a typewriter. It is understandable if people back then, who were getting close to retirement age -- and today are over 80 years old, were and still are uncomfortable about computers. However, two decades later, I unfortunately often have students who were not even born in 1984, but are afraid of computers and have barely or never used one.


Computer literacy is a Texas higher education requirement regulated by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. This is the 21st century. One skill necessary in today's world is the ability to work with computers. If you have the misguided idea that you should not have to use computers in your college classes, either quickly change your mind, or find something else to do with your life. Just as it is a requirement to be able to read and write, knowing how to use a computer is a "must" in the 21st century. But don't worry you will quickly "catch on", as you can read in this Monitor article.

For the online class: This IS an online class

These days you cannot do much without the help of a computer -- this is especially true within the field of education. If you are familiar with computers and the Internet, but have never had an online class before, soon you will see how practical and helpful it is to have course information available online.

An online class that uses the Internet to DELIVER the course. If you are in an online class you really should have a computer with Internet connection at home. It is unrealistic and not very smart to register for an online class if you don't have a computer with Internet connection at home.

In addition it helps if you are the kind of students called a "self-starter". Let me make very clear: You will not, unlike a regular class that meets in the classroom, have the instructor or other students pushing you to do class work.

STC now has a Virtual Campus. The difference between the classes is decreasing. As STC enrolls more and more students -- the college is running out of land, parking area, and classrooms -- more classes will go ONLINE. STC is expected to have close to 50,000 students 2020. The number of students in 2007 was 18,000, in 2008 22,000, in 2009 26,000.

For the regular (web-enhanced) class or the hybrid class: This is NOT an online class

Some of you, not familiar with the Internet, might struggle at first with the online part of this course, but relax, keep at it, and soon you will see how practical and helpful it is to have course information available online. But let me make very clear: A hybrid or web-enhanced class is NOT an online class. As tye name implies, a web-enhanced class is a regular class that uses the Internet to ENHANCE the course.

The computer part of the class really isn't hard, so in such a class you do NOT have to have a computer at home. However, you need to start to use the online part as soon as possible. If you don't have a computer at home you must use a computer elsewhere, e,g.. at STC or a public library. These days you cannot do much without the help of a computer -- this is especially true within the field of education.


x x The next two links on the Environmental Biology Hub are about education in general
Bu_WebEnh_Gre300_dgretxt Bu_NotETime_Gre300_dgretxt.
Be sure that you click on the latter x if you are one of those students who think you don't have time to study for college classes. You might also want to read the article by Chris Ardis (click on the article icon).

Next we will have the Bu_ClassCommPage_black button.

This button links to the page where the instructor will put messages, such as hints and reminders, to all students in class. It is therefore a good information page for the class. There are already messages on the Class Communication Page -- posted the first day of the semester. Click on the button now, then come back here.

x xx x We are getting closer to the bottom of the class hub page.

This rectangular button x is not a link but a sign for all the class assignment folders found below. All class assignments instructions can be reached from this location. (To submit the assignments you must log in to Blackboard.)

Bu_ClassDisc_Gre300_dgretxt Bu_Quizzes_Gre300_dgretxt Bu_Geography_Gre300_dgretxt Bu_VideoAtt_Gre300_dgretxt Bu_CaseStud_Gre300_dgretxt Bu_FinalExam_Gre300_dgretxt Bu_SemProj_Gre300_dgretxt Bu_LearnSelf_Gre300_dgretxt

You can explore these links on your own. If you don't, remember this: The instructor may -- if deemed necessary -- clarify instructions, but will normally not answer student questions about assignments explained in these online instructions. If you don't understand this read the information about self-starters again, and -- again -- read the article by Chris Ardis (to the right...).

The cartoon is used for educational purposes by Dr. Nilsson, South Texas College, scanned, from The Monitor, McAllen.


Bulletin Board Class Discussions

xx x Class Discussions. You will communicate with the instructor and with other students through web postings in various Blackboard bulletin boards, in class discussions. Here you debate educated opinions about current issues, which can be read by the instructor and all the other students in class. These class discussions have associated reading assignments -- usually online.

The discussions have specific dates noted in the Semester Calendar, and they last over a longer period of time. There are two kinds of discussion assignments, the General Class Discussion, taking place in the regular course shell, and the Town Hall Meeting, taking place in a special shell called the Town Hall. (This shell opens later in the semester as per the Semester calendar.)


Semester Calendar and Grading Criteria

xx x Close to the bottom of the class hub page you have two links to the most important syllabus documents, the Bu_SyllCalend_Blu300_yeltxt and the Bu_SyllGraCri_Blu300_yeltxt . The semester calendar informs about the order and WHEN you must do things in the class to EARN a grade. The grading criteria informs about HOW you will EARN a grade and how much each assignment is worth. The grading criteria are on a scale between 0 and 100. An A in the class is minimum 90 points or 90 percent, , 80 minimum 80, and so on...

The Semester Calendar may be updated during the semester, so you should check each one at last a couple a times every week. Do NOT rely on printed copies. Web pages are dynamic (changing). That is one of the strengths of the Internet. The following statement can be found on many pages:

Comment: The page may be changed due to unforeseen circumstances to meet the needs of a particular class. The instructor therefore reserves the right to alter (add, delete, or revise) any items of the above, online or via verbal instructions in class. The student is responsible for taking note of any such changes and acting accordingly.


x x x Student-centered learning. One of the goals of Dr. Nilsson’s CyberOffice is to help you learn how to learn; that’s called student-centered learning. This kind of learning puts the responsibility for learning on the student, YOU. The term student-centered learning is fairly new, but it has actually always been that way in higher education.

College is quite different from high school. In college students are responsible for their learning. In high school they should also be responsible for their learning, but that is -- unfortunately -- often not the case, as you can read in this Monitor different from high school article by Chris Ardis. (Did you click on the link?) Some high schools are not doing a good job teaching students facts about the real world. (Did you click on the link?) High school and college is often very different, as very well described in another article by Ms. Ardis (did you click on the link?), and the sooner college students understand this difference the better their chance for college success is going to be.

One of the Class Discussion topics is about "education". If human education was better, so that more people had knowledge and understood how the real world works, we would not have any environmental problems --we would take care of things BEFORE they became problems.

Learning is a lifelong process. You can't possibly learn everything you need to know in a few years of college. Instructors can point you in a direction for what is important in a course, explain how to approach problems and issues, show how to find and make some sense out of the information. Much of what you learn in this class can be applied to other classes or other things you choose to pursue in life. That's why every college class you take is important, whether it's in your field of study or not.

In this class you can improve skills necessary in any life situation, such as your critical thinking skills, your ability to write and speak, and to use technology. And we will venture in a direction which humankind should have taken a long time ago -- SPACE -- and discuss astrobiology. And that includes Pandora...

Source: http://syntheticbiology.arc.nasa.gov/

Source: Nexus

Since the STC biology department teaches this class, it takes a "biology slant", but if you take a look at chapter 1 in your textbook, or the figure below, you will notice how many areas and subjects this field covers. (This figure was for some mysterious reason not included in the last edition of the textbook.)

Again -- unfortunately the textbook authors removed this excellent figure (the one above with all the overlapping fields of Environmental Science) from the present textbook edition. It had been included in all editions from the start. I have recommended the authors to put it back in the next edition. We will see if they listen...

At this point it may be time for another cup of coffee! Or at least time to warm the cup you have been drinking from. Come back when you are ready...


Let's Continue

x x x Student comments

At this point I would like to introduce a link to some student comments about the class. (Some of you might already have encountered these, since the link is available at other places.) I provide then because I am proud of them, but also because I think it will be helpful for you to hear from other students, after reading all of this -- so far -- about the class.

For comments click on this link-- then come back here...


We are not finished yet... Ready to move on? OK, ready or not, here we go...

Get a good start!

x x x In review -- the main components of the "CyberClassroom" are -- the Environmental Biology Hub and Blackboard Plaza.

Note that these components are two different but interconnected WWW locations. They are located at different servers. As the web master of Environmental Biology Hub, on the STC server, I have full control of that web site. As the course builder on Blackboard Plaza, on the STC Blackboard server, I have a fair amount of control, but much less than the on the Hub. When things go wrong on Blackboard it is often out of my control.

x The hub page for this part of the course should now be familiar to you.

The background picture is from a temperate rainforest in Washington State...

x Now we will look at Blackboard Plaza, the second component (illustrated below). It can be best reached from the Environmental Biology hub.

Do you recognize the location of the picture? You might recognize it if you have seen The Davinci Code...

The background picture is of the Louvre Pyramid outside the Louvre Museum in Paris, France.

To get to Blackboard Plaza you must log in using your username and password. As stated earlier I recommend that you do this over the xEnvironmental Biology Hubx. On that page click on the hexagonal button. This will take you to the Blackboard log-in-screen.

After logging in you will first be on the "My Institution" page.

Designated HomePage. When selecting your class you arrive at the Designated HomePage (picture below).

Until you have passed the Student Contract Quiz you will not have available much more than some instructions and a link to the Student Contract Quiz. However, as soon as you have passed the Student Contract Quiz you will notice some functional links. CLICK ON THEM!!!

One of the links on the Designated HomePage is to Blackboard Plaza.

CLASS HELP DESK. Blackboard Plaza has all the folders where you submit assignments. It is also the location of the HELP DESK/STUDENT COLLABORATION bulletin board. Here students can help each other out by posting and replying to messages, and ask for help from the instructor.

If you need to contact the instructor and other students the help desk on Blackboard Plaza is the safest and most convenient way. I encourage you to use this bulletin board feature for class communication, but there will be limitations to how much the instructor will participate (see below about the instructors typical answer to student questions).

Sure, you can of course use you car, fill it with expensive gasoline, and pollute the air while you drive it to my office. However, if you need to do that you are probably in the wrong class, or you might even be living in the wrong time period -- when gas was cheap and the Internet didn't exist. These days we travel using the Internet! "Beam me up, Scotty!" will soon be something we all will say and do? If you decide to waste gasoline, pollute the air, and drive to my office, make sure you have an appointment -- I am personally trying to pollute the air as little as possible and prefer to do work via the Internet...

Many students do not know that online instructors are NOT required to keep office hours in their designated office room. My office hours for online students are ONLINE.

All problems with the class must first be communicated online in the HELP DESK/STUDENT COLLABORATION bulletin board. If that doesn't solve the problem, and if the problem is "private", the next step is via e-mail. Not until these steps have been taken, and the student can show that an "in office" appointment is needed, can a meeting arranged in the physical office.

Let's face it, if you have problems that cannot be solved via the Internet -- you should NOT be in an online class... (I do meet with Face-to-Face students in my "physical office", but since that class is web-enhanced, students in that class also need to first try to solve the problems via the HELP DESK/STUDENT COLLABORATION bulletin board bulletin board.

Teach students to teach themselves. All of this "solving the problems online" has to do with my teaching philosophy -- and that is to teach students to teach themselves, which was well noted by this spring 2009 environmental biology student:

One more thing, I have to say that the unique way Dr. Nilsson answers questions or doubts is very detailed and perhaps the best way I have seen to make us learn and really think about what we are writing and asking. What I am really trying to say is that he doesn't answer the question he makes you think! Perhaps this is the only way an educator can get students to think on their own.

As the student said above, "Perhaps this is the only way an educator can get students to think on their own." My answers to many class questions asked by students -- whether online or in my office -- often come in the form of a question back to the student. Often that question is:

Have you read the online instructions...?

The answer is usually, NO...

Late Work? Make-Up? Another question sometimes asked by students is, if they can turn in an assignment late. The answer is in the syllabus, and here it is again: NO. Most assignments in this class are due at the end of the semester -- you have had 3.5 months to finish the assignment. Another popular question is if they can make up a missed assignment. The answer is in the syllabus, and here it is again: NO. Again, you had 3.5 months to do the assignment.

Don't wait to the last minute to finish an assignment you have had 3.5 months to finish. If you have an emergency there is no make-up. Why? The answer is related to what is written below (keep reading).

There are no 3.5-month-emergencies...

Consequences are the best teachers? This is a WORK CLASS, but all assignments are easy. You do them -- you earn 100. Don't try to make the class even easier by asking for make-ups because you have procratinated for 3.5 months...

Now you know the answer to these two questions, and you don't have to ask during the semester. Excellent! You have the whole semester to finish almost all assignments in class. Finish them early if something unexpected should happen. If you procrastinate -- you are on your own...

It is called CONSEQUENCES!!!

So, after this a little bit of advice: The HELP DESK/STUDENT COLLABORATION bulletin board is a very helpful tool, but it is your responsibility to first read online instructions and take responsibility as a students. Don't continue "typical" (?) high school behavior, and go here and ask uninformed questions because you think you shouldn't have to read online instructions, or because you think it is too hard to think for yourself. (Take a Tylenol if you get a headache!)
And let me remind you about what the former student said above:

"Perhaps this is the only way an educator can get students to think on their own."

That student is now a teacher!

When this is said, when I get questions I always check to make sure that the answer is online (if I am not already sure it is), and if I then think it is unclear I often try to clarify in the help desk, and rewrite the instructions online to make them more clear... I also appreciate serious and well-meaning help from students to make instructions easier to understand (including spelling and other language problems)...

If you don't understand what I mean with all of the above, perhaps reading the students of the week article below again -- from earlier on this page -- will help you. (Click on the article icon for a readable page.)


Among several excellent things Maria DeLeon stated (read the article for more): "If you can imagine it, you can achieve it; if you can dream it, you can become it!" I like to add my own (and Richard Bach's) interpretation.



So, if you any time during the semester feel nostalgic about high school or an earlier college class where you didn't have to do much, or a class where Blackboard was set up differently, or the instructor did not use his own web pages, you better lock those memories away and start working in THIS class. x

OK, that was Blackboard Plaza. We spent a lot of time on the HELP DESK/STUDENT COLLABORATION. Is the coffee in your cup still hot? Now let's look at the green frame you have to the left on all Blackboard pages.

To the left of the main frame of any Blackboard page is a green box with links. In the x Designated HomePage you have a link to the Designated HomePage (useful if you are not on that page). x Blackboard Plaza -- the page we have discussed above. x Semester Calendar -- a faster link is also provided on Blackboard plaza. x Mailbox (Messages) -- the Blackboard e-mail box, a feature not always be available. (Again all class related questions should be addressed to the Class Help Desk. Class related questions sent via e-mail to the instructor will NOT be answered. E-mail of private nature that you don't want to share with other students can be sent, but the instructor claims the right to decide if the message needs an immediate answer.) And x My Grades -- where SOME assignments -- the ones automatically grades by Blackboard will be posted.

On and off during the semester there may also be other links...

Note that as an instructor I have only limited control over these features. Also -- and perhaps most important, your final Environmental Biology grade, EARNED at the end of the semester, cannot be displayed on Blackboard. Grades are not posted. You get that grade from STC...

OK, by now you should have started to get "the hang" of this class. This college class attempt to be challenging, uses the Internet to communicate class instructions, and puts the learning responsibility on the students -- including figuring out how the class works -- on YOU!


x x x FIRST WEEK. For the online class there is no first class meeting. The class is completely online. Successful online students are usually "self-starters" and don't need a teacher to tell them to get started.

To be a self-starter -- is also the characteristic of any good college students. But some students in the hybrid class and the face-to-face web-enhanced class with some class meetings, often students think the first week is not important -- the instructor will just call the roll and hand out the syllabus. Not so in this class! The first week is very IMPORTANT -- especially if you are nervous about the online part of the course. During the class meetings the first week, I will give an overview of the course. If you miss the class meetings the first week you are "on your own" -- I don't give private lectures... x

If you are a student who have found this web page BEFORE the start of the semester -- excellent! I lift my hat!

During the first week -- outside of class, for those of you who have class meetings (some students are used to, from high school, not having to do anything outside of class -- forget that, this is a college class), you should as a MINIMUM familiarize yourself with the links on the Environmental Biology Hub Page, especially the Syllabus -- in particular the Grading Criteria, the Grade Recorder,, the Semester Calendar and the Class Communication Page.

The Class Communication Page has information you need to read about what to do the first week.

And, perhaps most important, start reading your textbook!

The cartoon above is used for EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES by Dr. Nilsson, South Texas College, scanned from The Monitor, McAllen


Cartoons, Opinions, Academic Freedom, and Freedom of Speech

x x x If you haven't already, you will soon discover that this class uses cartoons to deliver opinions and discussion topics. Political, educational, and other forms of cartoons, can be very effective communication tools. As we go through the semester you will study, think about, and react to many cartoons.

When a cartoon artist makes a cartoon about something -- that something has become a serious problem in society. Just like the artist drawing a cartoon is usually not doing it to be mean or disrespectful, the educational cartoons in this class are not included to be mean or disrespectful to anyone. Flag burning is not required, because they are included as tools for critical and reflective thinking. Please study the cartoons and think (and smile if you think they are funny).

For cartoons and for the various discussion topics it is very important that you understand one of the "background philosophies" for this class:

x In this class you listens to other peoples opinions (hopefully the opinions are educated, but it doesn't matter if they are not). You have no right to become offended by cartoons or anything said in this class!

If you don't agree with what someone say and the language used, don't get offended -- "slap back" with an educated reply instead. However, all opinions must be delivered in a civilized manner and with a civilized language (and spell checked x). The instructor has the ability to remove students from discussions with the help of Blackboard technical features. Read the Class Discussion Philosophy, Scope and Instructions -- it is mandatory reading for all students.

This is a college in the United States -- where we have Academic Freedom, Freedom of Speech, and Freedom of Expression!.


The Town Hall

x x x We are getting close to the end, but before we get there I must mention the Town Hall... x

The Town Hall is an extra course shell on the STC Blackboard server set up by the Blackboard people after about 3 weeks of the semester, where all students in all classes taught by Dr. Nilsson will participate in the same bulletin boards -- and debate "evolution" and closely related topics in the assignment called the Town Hall Meeting. For many students this is the most interesting part of the course. For more information click on the links below (these links are also on the hub page).

Bu_TownHallM_Gre300_dgretxt Bu_ClassDisc_Gre300_dgretxt


x x x
What grade can you expect from this class? xYou EARN your grades for doing and submitting the assignments listed in the Grading Criteria, and submitting them according the the Semester Calendar. Late assignments are not accepted.x

Photo: Dr. Nilsson sitting by his orange tree.

So the question above is easy to answer. This is a "WORK CLASS". Remember? You do the work -- according to the instructions -- you get a 100...

Click on the link to the Class Communication page for a list of letter grades from last semester. Understanding what to expect from a class by looking at EARNED grades from previous semesters can be very useful information.


Remember YOU decide your life... no one else! We all need time to relax -- or as the French say "joie de vivre", so sit by your orange tree now and then, but if you are serious about your education you must study every day! No one else is going to do it for you! Understand that college instructors do not GIVE grades; students EARN them. Earning a C is usually pretty easy, but students who make A’s accept that they must study hard -- for hours every day, not just five minutes! Off and on there are students who EARNED a D in this class, and some of them have no clue why they got such a low grade. All students who received letter grade A know why -- they E A R N E D it!

Almost at the end of this page...

x x x Number x x... x

Actually, there is not yet a number 20 -- but just wait, in a semester or two there will be...

However, I have made major updates on this page for this semester -- it has been in use since 2004, so I justs want to say here that if you see any language mistakes, I appreciate messages about it in the HELP DESK -- so it can be corrected. Use the help desk, not e-mail -- that way you will know if someone else in your class has already reported the error... Thank you!


Did you click on the links on this page?

The Internet is a place full of information and misinformation. When you read a web page, don't just read the page. You are supposed to click on the links on the page not just to learn more, but also to investigate sources and cross references to help you establish the reliability of the information given on the page you are reading. A page without any links is not a very good web page and should be taken with "a grain of salt" -- it may simply be the personal opinion of the author or misinformation and/or propaganda written to mislead.

Finally, if you get lost -- the link below with a small picture of the rainforest page background photo will always take you to the Environmental Biology Hub Page. Try it!

BackG_TrollForest_sm10_nat2 Bu_EnvHome_grewhi229_gretx2

This is the end of the Welcome Page. I hope you now have a better undertanding of the class, and the philosophy of the instructor!? Now warm your coffee and then submit the Start Quiz! Or if you have already submitted that quiz, attempt Chapter Quiz 01 or the Class Discussion "Key" Quiz. Let's have an interesting semester!

Really, this is the end...

Dr. J.A. Nilsson -- your Environmental Biology professor

x -- bye!

Copyright © 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 Jan A. Nilsson. Page created 08.I.2004, last updated 10.I.2013, most likely during the wee hours of the morning on an iMac -- for the record -- owned by Jan A. Nilsson. Web page layout and design © and intellectual property Jan A. Nilsson. Content on Dr. Nilsson's CyberOffice may not be used for commercial purposes. All rights reserved. Except for educational purposes and 'fair use' (see below), reproduction of the whole or any part of the contents without written permission is prohibited. If used for educational purposes and 'fair use', including photographs, source must be given. (Some clip art, texts and backgrounds used on Dr. Nilsson's CyberOffice downloaded for educational purposes and/or 'fair use' from Internet free domain has no source.)

-- Disclaimer: "Dr. Nilsson's CyberOffice", at the time of writing located as a file under the South Texas College's (STC) web server with the general URL http://www.southtexascollege.edu/, is the intellectual property of Dr. Jan A. Nilsson, member of STC biology faculty. The content of Dr. Nilsson's CyberOffice does not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of the STC faculty, staff, administration, and Board of Trustees.

-- Fair Use Notice: Web pages on Dr. Nilsson's CyberOffice are used for educational purposes; I understand the "fair use notice" below as the correct interpretation of the copyright law. Fair non-commercial use is necessary in order to maintain an open and free Internet -- as originally intended. As an educator I thank whom it may concern for allowing the use of material under the "fair use rule" for educational purposes to educate this and future generations.

If anyone feels that his or her material cannot be used this way I will immediately remove it if notified.

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-- Statement not related to the instructor of this course:

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South Texas College
Copyright Notice for Distance Education and Web-Enhanced Classes

Course materials may be protected by copyright. United States copyright law, Title 17 USC and South Texas College policy prohibit unauthorized use, duplication, or retransmission of course materials. See http://www.copyright.gov/legislation/pl107-273.html#13301 and STC policy at http://www.southtexascollege.edu/president/policies/pdf/3000/3835.pdf