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GEOL-107 -Introduction to Physical Geology

This course is designed as an introduction to the composition and structure of the earth, its rocks and minerals, surface erosional and depositional features, and the agents that form them.  Topics include plate tectonics, volcanoes, weathering and erosion, earthquakes, streams and groundwater, glacier, shorelines, faults and geologic structures. (This course is a Science core course, Science elective, and an Arts and Sciences elective.)  The optional one credit lab can be taken as an online course, GEOL117. Since the lab is a separate course, it is graded separately.

Credits                 3
Prerequisites       If you need a 4-credit laboratory science course, you need to also
                           register for GEOL-117.
Instructor             Jennifer Kling
Mailing Address    Dept. of Science/Technology
                              Howard Community College
                              10901 Little Patuxent Pkwy
                              Columbia, MD 21044
Phone                    (443) 518-4083

Overall Course Objectives | Major Course Topics | Course FormatCourse Requirements | Texts and Materials | Exams

Overall Course Objectives

Once you have completed this course you will be able to:

  • Explain the basic divisions of the earth, their compositions, and their role in plate tectonics.
  • Build a silicon-oxygen tetrahedron for silicate minerals.
  • Discuss physical properties used to identify common minerals.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of Bowen's Reaction Series and the mineralogy of magma.
  • Describe the relationship between cooling rates and mineral crystal sizes in igneous rocks.
  • Describe the processes and pathways of the Rock Cycle.
  • Describe types of volcanoes, lava viscosity and compositions and their relation to plate tectonics and volcano volatility.
  • Given a basic explanation of the effects of physical and chemical weathering.
  • Explain how sedimentary rock composition, textures, sedimentary structures and fossils indicate specific environments of deposition.
  • Discuss the process and grades of metamorphism.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the earth's history as related to the fossil record and to geologic time.
  • Describe the geologic provinces comprising the State of Maryland.
  • Construct models illustrating how basic geologic laws relate to the juxtaposition of rock structures.
  • Relate the concepts of plate tectonics to seismology, the Rock Cycle, and structural geology.
  • Explain the relationship between sea-floor physiographic features, sea floor core data, sediments, and paleomagnetics as supportive evidence for plate behavior.
  • Recognize the types of plate boundaries and explain their relationship to crustal movement and mountain building.
  • Discuss an earthquake prediction system.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of stream dynamics with regard to the transport and deposition of sediments.
  • Identify major surface landform features and relate them to the geologic agents that formed them, including stream, groundwater, glacial, and marine processes.
  • Explain groundwater pollution problems.
  • Describe the possible causes of an Ice Age.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of crustal deformation and recognition of geologic faults and structures.
  • Discuss geologic natural resources and explain where and how to explore for oil and natural gas.

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Major Course Topics

  • Introduction to Plate Tectonics
  • Earth's Interior
  • Minerals: The Materials of Earth
  • Volcanism and Extrusive Igneous Rocks
  • Intrusive Igneous Rocks
  • Weathering and Soils
  • Sedimentary Rocks
  • Metamorphic Rocks
  • Geologic Time
  • The History of Plate Tectonics
  • Paleomagnetism and Plate Dynamics
  • The Sea Floor
  • Earthquakes
  • Streams
  • Groundwater
  • Glaciers
  • Structural Geology
  • Natural Resources

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Course Format

  • Is not self-paced. Although it is an independent study course, you must keep up with the schedule to be successful.
  • Does require on-campus meetings--four tests are given in the Test Center. Distance students may find a Test Center at another college to serve as a proctor.  It is the students's responsibility to take care proctor arrangements and fees
  • Does not require real-time chats.
  • Communication in the course will take place through HCC's LMS email.

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Course Requirements

  • Review the “What you should know before you register” section of the eLearning Homepage.
  • 4 Tests must be taken during the assigned time period (usually a 1 week period).
  • You should allow for a minimum of 9-12 hours per week for reading and reviewing for this course.

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Texts and Materials

Textbook information:  To visit our bookstore's online sales site, please visit and follow the instructions for selecting textbooks.

Technical Requirements and Plug-Ins:

Review the Technical Requirements link above. The following plug-ins are required for this course:

  • Internet browser

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For purposes of verification and assessing learning outcomes, this course has at least four tests that are given in the HCC Testing Center for students in the local region or at a regional institution for remote students. The tests will have a flexible window of time during which it needs to be taken rather than a single date and time.

If you have any questions or comments about this course, please send a message to:
Jennifer Kling,

Last updated on 09-Jul-14

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