Capital Reef
Capital Reef National Park, Utah

Introduction to Landform Processes

GPH 211 Spring 2013 (8 week course from 3/18/13 to 5/8/13)
Sections 19986
Internet Class - 4 Units
Class Professor: Dr. John Douglass

IMPORTANT: When asked for a login and password, use:

login: landforms

password: rock


When you travel to different places, you have certainly noticed that mountains, hills, rivers, and coasts look different in different places. This course will explain why.  The study of landforms is called geomorphology.  By the end of the course, you will be able to look at the shape, vegetation, and climate of specific landscapes and be able to make hypotheses as to how processes give rise to specific landforms.

This course has no prerequisites.  It is a 200-level course, yes, but this is a historical artifact.  The course has been changed and requires no prior knowledge.


Your full course and lecture instructor is Dr.John Douglass.  He has taught at PVCC since 2004.  His office is in the M Building room 283.  I have office hours Monday and Wednesday from 12:00 pm to 2:00 p.m. in K 102 (The Honors Office), and also by appointment. However, since you are taking this class on the Internet, you may not be able to make it to my office hours in person.  You can reach me quickest at   

If you have a question about the class, please post the question on the Blackboard discussion board.  One of the best things about face-to-face instruction is listening to other peoples' questions.  So I try to mimic that on the discussion board.  But do not hesitate to contact me via e-mail.  If you need to speak to me on the phone, please e-mail your phone number and 3 good times to call or call me yourself at 602-787-6571.



You will be using free online readings that are linked in the course outline below. 

If you feel more comfortable with a traditional textbook, you can purchase  this traditional hardcopy textbook: Ritter, D.F., Kochel, R.C., and Miller, J.R. 2002. Process Geomorphology. 4th Edtion. ISBN: 1-57766-461-2. 560 Pages.  However, this is not required reading. It is simply recommended for persons who enjoy the support of a traditional textbook.

If you like a traditional textbook, but want to view one online, the Google Books version of Geomorphology (by Chorley, Schumm and Sugden) can be viewed here. This geomorphology textbook is famous for its fantastic diagrams (that could be very useful in your final examination).

Terms can often overwhelm students in any introductory science class.  You may find these resources useful if you come across a strange word in the readings on in presentations:

Other Materials

You will need to purchase a protractor appropriate for measuring angles.

You will need access to a scanner.  For example, you will be asked to sketch a rock art panel. This is done more easily by hand. Then you would scan your sketch and insert it to a file that you will turn in.

You should have access to a printer.  It will be useful to print off maps and imagery so you can make measurements.

If you decide to do the optional lab of Erosion: The Game, you will need to purchase the game from me
(just email me and I will mail you the game) It is a $10 expense, and this optional lab will help you analyze the evolution of landforms.  However, it is an optional lab. You do not have to select the lab.

Computer Requirements

You have signed up for an Internet class.  This means that you have a certain responsibility to prepare your own computer to access class materials.  Your instructor is not an expert on your computer.  They cannot diagnose problems that you are having.  Learning how to use your own computer is something you must be able to accomplish if you are to complete this class.  

  • Your computer must be able to read the following files:

  • Several labs use Microsoft Excel to help you make calculations and graphs.

  • We have a strong suggestion on the broswer you use: A.B.I.E.F. Anything But Internet Explorer or Firefox. DO NOT USE THEM, or you will be sorry causing yourself lots of problems. We  recommend that you use Seamonkey or Safari for your browser. Seamonkey is the browser that will probably work the best for you. 

  • To watch most of the presentations, you must turn off your pop-up blocker -- or you will not be able to see any of the links made and you will not be able to take the quizzes.

  • Your computer must be able to read microsoft word files and PDF files. 

  • You must be able to save files in the .rtf format (rich text format). The rich text format (rtf) exists as a "save as" option in all word processing programs like microsoft word.  We use this format exclusively to prevent incompatibility between your software and ours.

  • You must be able to download and use GoogleEarth.

  • You must have access to a scanner.

  • Your computer must be able to run Java.

  • Your computer must be able to turn different types of files into PDF documents

  • Your will be using a "paint" program extensively in the labs to modify diagrams and photographs.  All Windows computers have a paint program in the Accessories folder (in programs).  If you have a program like Adobe Photoshop, great. Use it.  However, you do not have to pay for new software.  A tutorial for the first laboratory explains how you can use the free software to take screenshots and use the paint programs. There are tutorials for Mac users and PC users.

The course is organized by topic. 

For each laboratory topic:

1. You will finish watching/listening to the lectures that match that lab and the corresponding reading.

2. After watching the lectures, you will need to take 1 or more quizzes (some don't have quizzes) on the material. There are often two quizzes per lecture.  The quizzes can be found by clicking on Quizzes button on the GPH 211 Blackboard home page, and then taking the quizzes related to the lecture material you just watched.  YOU MUST COMPLETE ALL THE QUIZZES PROVIDED, regardless whether or not you are doing the lab associated with that lecture. IMPORTANT!!!! YOUR QUIZZES ARE FOUND THROUGH BLACKBOARD AND NOT WITH THE ASU LINKS PROVIDED IN THE POWERPOINTS.

3. You will then complete the laboratory assignment, which is the culminating experience for that module.  According to the general studies guidelines for an SQ (Quantitative Science) course "includes weekly laboratory and/or field sessions that provide hands-on exposure to scientific phenomena and methodology  in the discipline, and enhance the learning of course material".  Because of this requirement, face-to-face lab science courses typically specify that if you miss more than 1 lab you automatically flunk the course.  Thus, you must stay on track in doing your weekly laboratory work.   If you miss more than 1 due date, you will automatically receive an F for your grade.  This is a hard and firm rule about completing labs is something you must embrace if you wish to take this class.

4. All of the labs are provided via CourseAssign. This program is necessary to effiecently offer this lab science class and costs $$$. Here is the link to the CourseAssign to sign up. You will take and I will grade your labs via CourseAssign.



You will have to complete 6 labs and one Final Exam Lab.  If you miss more than
1 due date, you will automatically receive an F for your grade. 

Your grade will not be reduced if one of your labs are late. 

You have to do 3 labs assigned to you, and then you pick 3 more of your choice from a list of labs.

There are SIX required labs and ONE required FINAL EXAM LAB. Each lab is worth 7.5% of your grade, and your FINAL EXAM LAB is worth 10% of your grade:

ALL QUIZZES and THE FINAL are due MIDNIGHT on Wednesday, December 12th.

Due Date (midnight)

Labs found on CourseAssign (

Week 1, Sunday

March 22nd

How to use your computer

Week 2, Sunday

March 29th

Introduction to Topographic Maps

Week 3, Sunday

April 5th

Telling Time

Week 4, Sunday

April 12th

Pick from the list for the lab due through week 4 to 6, no repeats:

Saving the Past

Honey Should We Move There?

Bury a Subdivsion

Going To the Beach

Going, going... gone

Desert Geomorphology

Secrets of Zion

Erosion the Game

Week 5, Sunday

April 19th

Week 6, Sunday

April 26th

Finals Week, WEDNESDAY,

May 8th

Grand Canyon Final Exam Lab

All Quizzes Are Due


This table helps you visualize the preparation work you will need to complete each lab.  You start with listening to the lectures and doing the reading.  The lecture and reading gives you background vocabulary and knowledge you will need to complete your lab.

NOTE 1: According to the requirements for an SQ class, you learn about the breadth and depth of a field of science.  Thus, even if you are not selecting a lab, you must still complete all of the quizzes.

NOTE 2: These rows do not correspond to weeks or any time period.  They simply indicate the suggested order that you watch the lectures and take the quizzes.

NOTE 3: All quizzes must be completed by the time the final examination is due.  At that point, the quiz process will end and the quiz grades will be finalized.

Although there are no firm "due dates" for taking all of the quizzes, you will need to have watched the lectures (and taken the quizzes) to complete the labs.  You have 24 quizzes to take, so you need to average at least 4 quizzes a week. The order of the lectures from top to bottom should be the order that you take the quizzes, because there is prerequisite knowledge and terms for many of the lectures at the end of the class.

QUIZZES are found through Blackboard, not the links provided in the Powerpoints.

Lecture & Quizzes
Note: The first quiz starts with "Overview of Geomorphology

Additional Background and Interesting Readings/Materials

Related Lab

The first lab, How To Use Your Computer, does not have any quizzes associated with it.

Target Date to finish Quizzes Linked to these lectures: End of Week 1

Overview of Geomorphology

Earth Materials

Earth Materials:
Common rocks discussed in the class.

Mineral Baby.
Mineral Photographs
Moon rock.

Igneous Rocks. (more igneous rocks)
Metamorphic Rocks.

Sedimentary Rocks.

Lecture on colorful geology of the southern Colorado Plateau in 3D.

Asteroid Hunting

One Geology Portal. Surfing rocks around the globe.

Tools of a Geomorphologist -REQUIRED LAB

Target Date to finish Quizzes Linked to these lectures: End of Week 2

Telling Time - Introduction

Telling Time - Background

Making Relief: Plate Tectonics

Making Relief: Volcanoes

Geomorphic Time:
Geologic Time.
Rocks of Ages.
Intelligent Design Editorial.

Plate Tectonics:
Plate tectonics.
This dynamic Earth.
650 Million Years in 1 Min. 20 Sec.
Fun animations.

Volcanoes and volcanic hazards.
Vesuvius Countdown.
Sunset Crater, AZ.
Volcano Map.
Photoglossary of volcanic terms.
Supervolcano Secrets.
Volcanoes in Our Times: Photoessay.
U.S. Geological Survey Lecture on Volcanoes.

Igneous Rocks (just plutons section).

Telling Time - REQUIRED LAB

Target Date to finish Quizzes Linked to these lectures: End of Week 3


Karst and Soils

Basic Hydrology: What happens if water sinks in or flows over slopes?

Devil's Marbles
Photographic Atlas of Rock Breakdown.
Gravestone Project.
Bioweathering in deserts.

What is karst.
Virtual cave.

Introduction to Soils.
Our Good Earth.
Eating Dirt: Geofagia.
Baseball and Clay.
Healing with Clay.
Lecture on connection to wine making in Napa Valley.

Basic Hydrology:
Hydrologic Cycle.
Groundwater Contamination.
Groundwater Animation.
USGS Lecture on Groundwater.
Great Artesian Basin.
World Water Panorama Map.
Creating a new lake.
Overland flow.
Erosion Basics.

Saving the Past - REQUIRED LAB

Target Date to finish Quizzes Linked to these lectures: End of Week 3

Making Relief: Faulting and Folding - Part 1

Making Relief: Faulting and Folding - Part 2

Faulting and Folding:
Folding and faulting in Earth's Crust.
Deformation of Rocks.
Lecture on the next big Bay Area Earthquake by USGS.
The Nisqually Earthquake.
Ron's favorite geomorphic image related to diastrophism.

The Tunguska Mystery.

Honey, should we move there? [Geological Hazards]
Optional lab (one of 3 you select)

Target Date to finish Quizzes Linked to these lectures: End of Week 4

Mass Wasting

Mass Wasting.
Mass Movement.
Dave's Landslide Blog.
Landsldies & why they occur.
Landsliding Sichuan Disaster.
Backstory on Research.
Roadside stabilization.
US Geological Survey lecture on "When Rocks Fall".

Directions: Bury a subdivision (Mass Wasting)
Optional lab (one of 3 you select)

Target Date to finish Quizzes Linked to these lectures: End of Week 4

Rivers Lecture Part 1
Rivers Lecture Part 2
Rivers Lecture Part 3

Introduction to rivers.
NPR Science Friday Video of the Week on Meandering Rivers.
Streams and drainage systems.
Fluvial landforms.

Directions: Should I buy that house? (Fluvial Landforms)   
Optional lab (one of 3 you select)

River lectures (End of Week 5)

Follow the Water Virtual Experience

Introduction to rivers.
Streams and drainage systems.
Fluvial landforms.

Target Date to finish Quizzes Linked to these lectures: End of Week 5

Overview of Climatic Geomorphology

Climatic Geomorphology: Glaciers

Climatic Geomorphology: Periglacial (polar) Landscapes

Climatic Geomorphology: Rocky Desert Landscapes

Glacial geomorphology:

About the ice age.
Windows on Greenhouse Earth.
Cold environments.
Glaciers. [Important info for lab.]
Backstory on Glacier Research. and Backstory on Studying Moraines.
Repeat Glacial Photography.
Glaciers and Glacial landforms.
Illustrated Alpine Glacial Landforms
Glacial Songs.
Ground Zero glacial landforms,
Molnia Lecture on Alaska's declining glaciers.

If you really like glaciers, you can play with this simulation of how glaciers work.

Cold environments.
Periglacial Landscapes.
Permafrost in the Arctic.

Rocky Deserts:
Salt Playas (Sabkhah).
Salt Lake Basin.
Alluvial fans, pavements, bajadas.

Going, going, gone ... [Glacial change]
Optional lab (one of 3 you select)


Desert Geomorphology Optional lab (one of the 3 select)

Target Date to finish Quizzes Linked to these lectures: End of Week 6

Climatic Geomorphology: Sandy Deserts

Climatic Geomorphology: Landforms of the Wet Tropics

Sandy Deserts:
Eolian processes and landforms.
Wind Transport of Sand and Dust.
Ventifacts on Earth and Mars. (archived version)
Deserts and wind.
Killer Dust Storms.

Wet Tropics:
Tower Karst.
Cockpit country.
Laterite duricrust.
Granite tropical landforms.
Termite Mounds. (and more)
History of Tropical Geomorphology.
Tropical rivers.
Fish in the trees.

Penetrating the Secrets of Zion's Dunes [sand dunes lab]
Optional lab (one of 3 you select)

Target Date to finish Quizzes Linked to these lectures: End of Week 6

Coastal Landforms

Coastal landforms and processes.
Coastal systems.
Coastal features.
Coastal Erosion.
Shoreline protection.
Cappuccino Coast.

Going to the beach [Coastal lab]
Optional lab (one of 3 you select)

Landscape Change 1: Explaining Erosion the Game

NOTE: Some students say that watching Landscape Change Part 2 will help you learn to play the game.

Erosion: The Game [Landform Development]
Optional lab (one of 3 you select)

If you decide to do the optional lab of Erosion: The Game, you will need to purchase the game from me (just email me). It is a $10 expense, and this optional lab will help you analyze the evolution of landforms.  However, it is an optional lab. You do not have to select the lab.

Landscape Change Part 2: Analyze Local Settings through playing Erosion the Game

Landscape Change 3: Thinking Globally

Mountain Geography.
Rocky Mountain Erosion Surfaces.
The channeled scablands.

Mystery at the Grand Canyon  -

How Science Works - is a great overview on why this culminating lab has its structure.


The following scale will be used to determine your final grade. 
There is no curve:
        A   90-100%               
        B    80-89.99%       
      C     70-79.99%
           D     60-69.99%
         F      < 59.99

Lab Reports: 45%

The expectation is that you will need to spend 3 hours a week to complete your lab reports.  

You have two weeks to complete each lab.

The first laboratory session will give you a chance to practice the process of report submission.

If you receive a grade of less than 50% for the laboratory portion of the class, you will receive an automatic F.  In other words, you must get a passing grade for your labs to pass the course.

Each lab is worth 7.5% of your grade.

Plagiarism Policy in Laboratory Reports:

  • You are required to abide by PVCC Academic Integrity Policy

  • Your laboratory reports will consist of a mixture of measurements (data) you compile and interpretations of those data (answering questions). 

  • You are allowed to work individually or in a group to make your measurements and acquire your data.  Scientists often work in groups, and this is good because it leads to discussions. So we understand that many data sets you submit will be similar.


  • All of the words that you submit in your lab reports will be run through anti-plagiarism detection software and a  bank of previously submitted lab assignments. 

  • It is rare that a student is foolish enough to try to "copy" and "paste" answers to our laboratory questions from the Internet, because our labs are original.  They do not exist on the Internet.  So students submitting non-original answers almost always are copying the words of another student.  Our grading program detects this as plagiarism. 

  • The rest of this policy is for the rare student who wants to throw their tuition money down the toilet by cheating ... we have "three strikes and you're out!" policy for the entire class:

  • If we determine that a student's work is not original the first time, we will return the lab report with a grade of zero. We will explain the problem, and we will give you one more chance to revise the report in your own words. 

  • If a student submits work that is not original the second time (warning: this is the 2nd offense for the class, no matter the lab ...), the student will receive a grade of zero for that lab -- and the student will be required to meet with your instructor to discuss the problem (in person is best, but by phone is possible) and explain positions. This meeting (in person, or virtual) is not optional.  We will contact the student and set up this meeting.  The student and the laboratory instructor will take written notes about this meeting, and they will share their notes with Dr. Douglass to avoid future misunderstandings.

  • If student still continues to submit work that is not original for any lab after this first meeting, the student will then meet with Dr. Douglass (in person or virtually) to explain why the student should not be given an F for the class.

  • If a student refuses to meet with Dr. Douglass and they continue to submit work that is not original, the student will receive an F for the class. 

Lecture Quizzes

  • This course has 45 contact hours of lecture, virtual field trips, animations and quizzes. 

  • There are 27 quizzes. Each quiz is worth roughly 1.75 points.  The lowest quiz will be dropped from the final quiz grade. The lecture quizzes provide you an opportunity to earn 0.5% extra credit for the entire course.

  • To take the lecture quizzes,  you have to be watching the lecture presentations.  There are links within those lectures to the multiple choice quizzes.

  • These quizzes are meant to work with the flow of the lectures.   We think and hope that you will find these quizzes quite easy. The idea is for you to watch and think about the lecture material, and then right away -- take a quiz to reinforce the learning.  The lecture/quiz is intended to provide you background information for the laboratory experience. This is backwards from the traditional lab science class that has most of the grade based on a few high pressure tests.  However, this learning strategy works best for an online science experience where the emphasis is on active learning focusing on you thinking about science in the context of labs.


  • You can watch the lecture material as many times as you wish, but you can only take the quiz once.

  • Why can you only take each quiz once?

    • If you actually watch the lecture prior to taking the quiz, you will do very well.  They are meant to be very easy, if you take the time to listen to the lecture. Once is all that is needed to get a great grade, if you actually watched the lecture.

    • We only allow one try at a quiz to try to prevent students trying to "speed up" the learning experience by trying to jump to the quizzes without going over the lectures.

    • A style of online testing, of retaking quizzes again and again, doesn't help student learning.  This style of trying to repeat testing without taking the time to listen to the lecture is cheating yourself out of the knowledge you paid for in  your expensive tuition.  Just take the time to learn, and you'll like the result on your class grade. 

Final Exam

You have ONE MONTH to complete this final and its a lot of work, hence its worth 10% of your grade. The earlier you get started, the better off you will be. You will need to write a 5 page paper and fill out a transverse drainage diagram. This is also a good time to finish up your quizzes, don't save the Grand Canyon Final or the quizzes for the last few days of the class.

Appealing your grades.

Our view is that appealing a grade is a great way to learn.  In fact, most students have to learn the material in much more depth and detail in order to make a solid, well-reasoned argument for an original answer that was not well thought out.  Thus, learning does not have to stop when an assignment is returned.

Quizzes: These are rarely appealed, because the quiz questions are so simple.  The procedure is to send Dr. Douglass n an e-mail ( and (A) identify your name and PVCC ID, (B) identify the lecture topic, (C) identify the quiz question, and (D) explain the reasons why you think your answer(s) is correct.

Labs:  If you did not receive full credit for a question in a lab, you will receive detailed feedback from your laboratory instructor.  If you wish to appeal your grade for that question, simply send an e-mail to Dr. Douglass where you (A) identify your name and PVCC ID, (B) identify the lab, (C) identify the question, and (D) explain the reasons why you think that you were correct.