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This page is being updated. Please ignore all information remaining in the text about the General Class Discussions (and the associated quiz called the Class Discussion "Key" Quiz). The General Class Discussions (and that quiz) has now for the first time this semester been merged with the assignment called the Town Hall Meeting (and the associated quiz called the Town Hall Key" Quiz).


- - - Please read this! (more than once -- you might want to prepare your favorite beverage...) - - -

Welcome to class! I hope you are ready for a hectic, interesting and fun semester? I can guarantee the hectic -- at least if you aspire to EARN an A in this class...   The interesting and fun will depend on your interests, and are in large parts up to you...

This class is a completely online class and has NO CLASSROOM MEETINGS in a building on campus!  This page is an overview explanation of what I have called Dr. Nilsson's CyberClassroom.  For further information and more details you must EXPLORE all components of the CyberClassroom... 

If you are a student who doesn't like to read instructions -- maybe doesn't like to read much?  Here is another method -- navigate around by "trial-and-error" and try things out.  Try posting in the help desk.  Maybe there are more students with the same idea.  HOWEVER, at some point, you MUST sit down and read this page, and follow what it says, in order to really start to understand this class.  You have the first 2 weeks to do this (a bit less if you are registered for a Summer III semester, but still plenty of time)...  Coffee might help...

  Dr. Nilsson CyberClassroom

There are four important parts to this class, (1) Blackboard Plaza -- located on the STC Blackboard server -- where you submit assignments (e.g., quizzes, drills, worksheets and participate in discussion bulletin boards), (2) the Environmental Biology Hub -- located on Dr. Nilsson's "desertbruchid" web site -- where you obtain and read class documents (e.g., syllabus, semester calendar, grading criteria, reading assignments, and learning resources) (click on the link?), (3) the Town Hall -- also located on the STC Blackboard server, but in a separate course shell you access from the "My Institution" page (will not be available until a couple of weeks of the semester), and (4) the Textbook -- you may be able to use several editions, but I recommend you get the latest -- where you will read about selected environmental science concepts (click on the link?).  You will learn more about these parts later.  For now, just keep reading... 

Introduction Period

Introduction period (also sometimes called "Familiarization period" or the "Orientation" for the course).  Understand that it will probably take a while to figure out what to do in this class ­ this is normal and part of the required class work.

With the exception of the "Student Contract" -- which is due the first week of the semester as given in the Semester Calendar -- and the Introduction post, there are no assignments DUE during the "Familiarization period". (As a practice the first time you log in, I suggest that you locate the Semester Calendar and look at it -- links are located on the Environmental Biology Hub and on Blackboard Plaza.) The first two weeks of a regular semester (first week during summer semesters) , the "introduction period", is a time set up by the instructor to help you learn to understand the course, to become familiar with the class pages and the textbook (note agian that during the shorter summer semester it is only one week!!!). Except for the Student Contract Quiz and the Introduction post there are no assignment deadlines during this period! Use this period to navigate and familiarize yourself with the class pages, read online instructions, look through your textbook, and visit the Help Desk / Student Collaboration bulletin board.  For some students it might be tempting to procrastinate because there are no "real" assignments due.

 If you don't use this learning period wisely -- when you don't have much of any assignments to "worry about", don't expect the instructor to be your personal tutor later. The time to learn the layout and the requirements of this course is NOW -- at the beginning of the semester...

  Assignment Categories

 Brief list of Class Assignments. This is not a hard class -- although it is a science class, and sometimes science classes are considered a bit harder than some other classes. I like to call it a WORK class class -- you do assignments, sometimes (often) repeat them to earn a minimum required grade, and learn as you do so. Many assignments use "all or nothing" grading. You do an assignment as instructed ("as instructed" includes doing it in a timely fashing following the Semester Calendar) -- you earn a 100. You don't do the assignment as instructed (or don't do the assignment at all) -- you earn a ZERO. "All or nothing" grades are NOT posted (and you will not get the grade if you send e-mail and ask for it). You should KNOW if you did the assignment and if you did it correct -- all grades are either 100 or ZERO -- hence, no grade posting is necessary...

Below is a list of the assignment categories for both the online and the hybrid class, with a brief description. You can read more on the "Class Communication Page" (link is also on the Environmental Biology Hub), and for more assignment details in each category, a list if individual assignments in each category, and due dates read the Grading Criteria and the Semester Calendar.   (Links to both these pages are located on the Environmental Biology Hub.) By looking at the categories here first, it will be easier to understand the more detailed list of assignments in the Grading Criteria.

I.  Introduction Assignments:  A group of "assignments at or near the beginning of the semester to start the class (the quizzes included in this category are multiple attempt quizzes).

II.  Reading Quizzes:  A series of "open book" Blackboard multiple attempt quizzes (can be attempted until minimum grade is earned) to assure learning until you score the required grade, covering the textbook chapters and sometimes some additional material.

III.  Case Studies:  Reading of two selected case studies from the textbook, submitted as Blackboard bulletin board discussion/reflections.

IV.  Semester Project:  Outdoor assignment, to be done individually, or in small groups, (or with your family?), to be completed over a period of time during the semester.
V. Geography Drills: Online studies of maps to assure student understanding geography and maps in the textbook, submitted as Blackboard multiple attempt quizzes.

VI.  General Class Discussion/Reflection: Online discussions or individual reflections (reactions) to current topics important to the field of biology.  (This "discussion" takes place in Blackboard bulletin boards in your REGULAR course shell.)

VII. Town Hall Meeting: Online discussions about "evolution related" topics.  (Takes place in Blackboard bulletin boards in an special extra TOWN HALL course shell setup by the Blackboard people (NOT the regular course shell), with all students registered in one of Dr. Nilsson's classes -- not just this class.)

VIII.  Endterm (Final) Exam: Comprehensive, "open book" exam, timed to reduce the use of the textbook when the test is taken, which cannot be repeated (one attempt only) and have no required minimum grade.  Most questions are from the reading quizzes completed during the semester.

IX.  Learning Self-Assessment:  Student self-analysis of learning attempts, to see if you have learned -- or not, what worked well, and what did not work well, and why or why not. 

  First two assignments

The first assignment -- First Critical Deadline -- part of the Introduction Assignments, you have probably already done since you are reading this, and it was to submit the Student Contract Quiz (it is possible to bypass the Student Contract and read this page without first logging in to Blackboard, but most students usually find the Read This First link after submitting the Student Contract).  The Student Contract opened up the class for you, so that you now can see links to other pages (like this page).  After reading THIS I recommend that you do the second assignment -- posting an Introduction message in the "Introduction" folder located on Blackboard Plaza and say hello to all students in the class. There is no reason to introduce yourself and say "hi" to your classmates after more than two weeks, is there...?  

The next two assignments

Additional assignments opening during the "introduction period". These are required assignments that open already during the "introduction period", but they have a deadline a little while after the end of the "introduction period". (So no "pressure".  See the Semester Calendar for specific dates.) 

The Start Quiz -- (to become familiar with Dr. Nilsson's CyberClassroom setup, and submitted with minimum 90 to get access to other Blackboard class assignments) is due rather early in the semester. The quiz is a "progress" assignment making sure that students keep up with the class work in a manner conducive to quality learning. It doesn;t make sense, and it sure is not conducive to quality learning, to submit the START Quiz and START "cramming" class assignments late in the semester. If you miss the START of the class and miss the START Quiz deadline you need to drop the class. The instructor may drop students missing the START Quiz, but it the students responsibility to drop the class (STC Policy #3335).

The Class Discussion "Key" Quiz (for the General Class Discussion participation). The "Start Quiz" must be submitted with minimum grade 90 before the Class Discussion "Key" Quiz will be available.

Some of the other assignments may also open during the "introduction period", but the deadlines are much later, for most assignments it is near the end of the semester.  (See the Semester Calendar.)

Critical Deadlines?

A critical deadline is "progress deadline" to assure that students participate in class in a way conducive to satisfactory academic learning. These are, Student Contract, the Start Quiz and Reading Quiz 05 (due much later in the semester). Student who has not submitted any of these critical deadline assignment as required by the date noted in the Semester Calendar will be considered a non-participating student and will be removed from the class roster.


Make sure that you use the time wisely during the "introduction period" so that you understand the class pages, the assignments, and the textbook!!!  Just because there are no due dates for most of the assignments until sometime near the end of the semester, doesn't mean that you should not do anything.  Most quizzes must be done in a certain order, so if you don't start to work from the beginning of the semester, you may not have time to finish all quizzes and may not be able to pass the class. Make sure you spend time navigating the class pages, spend time reading the syllabus documents called the "Grading Criteria", the "Grade Recorder", and the "Semester Calendar". (The best place to access these documents are from the Environmental Biology Hub.)

More to do?

If you wish to have more assignments to do the first two weeks, then you can start taking the first Reading Quiz, or prepare for Case Study 1, or thinking about which Semester Project you wish to do -- although the deadline for both of these assignments are not until  later in the semester (see the Semester Calendar).  However, the submission bulletin board for Case Study 1 is open from the first day of the semester, and so is the bulletin board for the Semester Project Selection.


Don't forget the textbook.  Get it as soon as you can!  The textbook information is on the Environmental Biology Hub.  YOU ARE EXPECTED TO READ THE TEXTBOOK!!!   Having a textbook is an STC requirement.  You do NOT need a lab manual for this class -- all labs are outdoor or online projects.

YouTube videos

You will view YouTube videos in this class. These videos are especially important for students who think getting a college education is sleeping in a classroom or taking notes getting cramps in the hand, while listening to a person called the instructor talking at the front of the room.  That was THEN, this is NOW...

Help with Blackboard

There is an excellent tool, Blackboard Help, available by clicking on the Tools link in the frame to the left when logged in to the Blackboard Course shell.  (Don't confuse this tool with the Class Help Desk or the STC Blackboard Help Desk.)  It has searchable topics and step-by-step instructions.  If you have technical problems with BLACKBOARD  that cannot be solved with this tool, you can contact the STC Blackboard Help Desk -- the instructor cannot help you with this. The phone number -- 872-2598 -- is also at the bottom of the Designated HomePage on Blackboard.

Help with this class

  If you need help from the instructor (or other students) with the CLASS, find the link to the Help Desk / Student Collaboration bulletin board. Navigate to the Designated HomePage and click on the Help Desk / Student Collaboration link). This is a good place to become familiar with already the first week of the semester!!!  Understand that "Class Questions", i.e., questions of interest to all students in class, will NOT be answered via e-mail.  Such questions must be posted in the Help Desk / Student Collaboration bulletin board...

The Help Desk / Student Collaboration bulletin board will be available as soon as a student has submitted the Student Contract Quiz....

The Town Hall Course Shell

  Town Hall Class Discussions.  Finally, there is one more aspect to this course that I like to mention -- the place where we will have the class discussions called the Town Hall Meeting. It will NOT be available immediately at the beginning of the semester.  The Blackboard people will set up a separate course shell, called the TOWN HALL, which will open up for ALL students in ALL classes taught by Dr. Nilsson -- not just your own class.  It will be set-up after the semester has started (see the Semester Calendar).  You will find it on the same page where you find this course shell, on the "My Institution" page. (The Town Hall is usually not visible until some time after the "introduction period" is over.)


  Thank you for reading this page several times! Scroll down for some additional recommendations how to proceed... 

  Again, welcome to class!  Use the "familiarization period" well!!!  Don't miss this opportunity for a non-stressful start, set aside for you to learn the course setup and to read instructions and familiarize yourself with the reading assignments and the textbook...  Let's have an interesting semester!

Dr. Nilsson


  --- To proceed, again, during the first period of the semester, to familiarize yourself with the class pages, I recommend that you navigate around -- and as soon as possible find and read these two "messages" (below) from the instructor.  Finding these messages is a good way to help you become famliar with the class setup -- and it is part of the class assignments.

1.  While you are on the Environmental Biology Hub (where you found the link to this page) read the message on the "Class Communication Page" on the Environmental Biology Hub...  and while on the Environmental Biology Hub explore the other links!
(There is also a link on Blackboard from the Designated HomePage to the Environmental Biology Hub...)

2.  Go back to Blackboard and look around on the "Designated Homepage" (where you submitted the Student Contract Quiz) including the "Class Help Desk/Student Collaboration" bulletin board. Then navigate to Blackboard Plaza... and while on Blackboard Plaza explore the other links!

When you have looked at these documents -- Post an "Introduction" message in the Introduction bulletin board (located on Blackboard Plaza), and say hello to the class, and take the Start Quiz (located on Blackboard Plaza) as soon as possible.  Link on Blackboard Plaza to both...

As I hope you understand now that part of the assignments during the "familiarization week period" is for you to navigate around and find the correct locations for this class.

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Copyright 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 Jan A. Nilsson. Page originally created 08.VIII.2004, last updated 22.V.2015, 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.