Syllabus

GEOG 3000:  Travel Study in Geography
Dr. Michael Peterson
Geography | University of Nebraska at Omaha

Course Objectives: If the best way to learn about the world is to travel, the second best way is to plan a trip. This course makes use of the Internet to assist in planning a trip to a foreign country. The course is designed to learn about the world by using the Internet to research a destination. A major objective of the course is to learn how to use the available travel resources. This will be mostly accomplished by searching the Web for relevant material and assembling this material for presentation through the Web. The specific objectives are:

  1. Learn how to make a web page and post it on your free online account;
  2. Find the least expensive way to fly to specific destinations in the world;
  3. Calculate general travel costs;
  4. Learn how to find maps on the Internet and assemble them into a web document;
  5. Determine ground transportation costs;
  6. Find pictures of a region and assemble the pictures on a webpage
  7. Create a Google Street View journey through your travel area;
  8. Describe the physical and human characteristics of a country or region;
  9. Create an itinerary for a 3-week trip to a country or region.

How the course is taught: This is an asychronous online course that incorporates social assignment networking. It is taught with e-mail, a forum, and through readings on web pages. There are no formal meetings. All assignments will be submitted as web documents and everyone will be able to see each other's work. A final exam is submitted through email.

Making web pages: There are a variety of ways to make web pages. You will need to decide which method works best for you. All web pages that you submit based on the standard template design. You download, edit, and upload this file. It is not possible to copy and paste the text because this does not include the underlying formatting codes. If you learn the basic HTML codes, you can complete the course with nothing more than the NotePad text editor that is an accessory with Windows, or TextEdit on the Macintosh (with the proper settings). There are a number of free web page editors as well.

Most of you will choose to edit your pages with Microsoft Word. One advantage of Word is that it checks the spelling of words and notes grammatical errors (you should address the problems that Word finds). If you don't have Word, it would be worth getting the program. Most other students will be using it and you can ask for help on how to format pages.

If you won't be using Word, you will need to find an alterntive method to edit the template files. An option is a high-end web page editing program like Adobe Dreamweaver (available in university labs). You could also download a free program. Some alternatives are Nvu and OpenOffice. The latter is a free version of Microsoft Office. Discuss the method that you adopt in the forum so I know what you are using.

Unless you tell me otherwise, I will assume you are completing the assignments with Word. I can help you solve problems with Word but you are on your own if you use one of the other approaches (except Dreamweaver). From past experience, the major problem with Word has been images. Word files (.doc & .docx) store images within the file. When saved as a web page, the images become separated from the main text files. Word puts all of the web page images in a separate folder. If the folder is in a different location than the file, the images will not be displayed. The same thing happens if you try to rename the folder of images. Think of the file and folder of images as a single unit, and the bond between them can't be broken.

Selection of a Destination: The place you plan to visit must be outside of the United States, and it should be a non-English speaking country. It may be a single country, such as Germany, or a region, such as Western Europe – where you'll probably visit several countries. Choose a place where you would like to travel for at least three weeks. The place must also have sufficient resources on the Internet to complete the assignments (e.g., Burkina Faso might be interesting but would probably not be a good destination to choose because it is not well represented on the Internet). I strongly encourage you to plan a trip to a country that is affordable for you.

Materials: Basically, an online webhosting account, a travel book on your chosen destination, and a fast connection to the Internet.

1) A Webhosting account. See the Submit tab for instructions. You'll be creating a free webhosting account where you can store up to 2000 MB of files, more than enough for the assignments. Web pages are served from this account for everyone to see.

2) Travel book on your chosen destination. The specific book will be based on where you decide to travel, and you won't need it for the first two weeks of the course. The two major publishing companies are Lonely Planet and Rough Guide. Frommer's travel books, an American publication, are too light-weight to use for the assignments. The travel book will be indispensible for the last few assignments.

3) Internet connection: All necessary computing resources are available in any of the university computer labs. Most of you will prefer to work at home. If you do work at home, you will need a computer, a fast Internet connection, a browser (Chrome, Firefox), and probably Microsoft Word. Useful plug-ins include Adobe Acrobat (http://www.adobe.com) and Flash (http://www.adobe.com/flash/). A slow connection will make this course very difficult because you will be visiting many web pages and this will be frustrating with a slow connection.

4) Most of you likely have a Windows computer. Windows hides the file extension (the last three letters of the filename) and this can be very confusing. You'll see these last three letters on the webhosting site after the file has been uploaded. You can also change the settings on your Windows computer to see the entire filename. Since you are uploading files with standard file names, you'll need to be sure that you get the filename right. Common problems are the use of capital letters or an .html extension instead of .htm. Of course, with Windows, you don't see the file extension on your own computer. Nobody will be able to see the file if the filename is not correct. Always check out the link on the websites page to make sure the file is accessible.

Forum: We will use a forum to help each other out with the assignments, and to keep the course on schedule. You will find the forum in the Discussion Board on BlackBoard. Each of the assignments will have a forum and you make an entry for each before the due date. The forum closes at midnight on the day the assignment is due (the forum stays open through the weekend for assignments due on Friday, closing that Sunday at 11:59 PM). Make sure you submit a forum entry before the forum closes.

The major purpose of forum entries is keeping up with the assignments, and helping others. You can't help others if you make entries just before the the forum closes. It is very important to keep up with the assignments. Once you start getting behind, it is very difficult to catch-up.

Your forum contribution could be a description of how you did the assignment, what resources that you used, what software proved helpful, or what web page was a good resource. You could also simply answer someone's question so you wouldn't necessarily have to address the method you used. I give extra credit to problem-solver type entries. It is important that you contribute something to each forum, and do so before the forum closes.

Your grade will be based on how early you make an entry, how much you contribute to the forum, and whether your posting would be helpful to others. Entries made just before the forum closes, with a simple procedure for how you did the assignment, will receive the fewest points. You can also earn extra points for multiple contributions – especially if you solve someone else's problem. I give more than 10 points for these type of contributions. While the forum may help with certain issues, you will likely need to contact me if you are having major problems.

Assignments: The specific assignments will include an initial email statement, a biography of yourself; an interpretation on why people travel; a maps page with links to maps; a picture page of the region where you plan to travel; a regional geography page that describes the physical and human characteristics of the area including climate, terrain, culture, current political and economic aspects; and finally, an itinerary page that outlines a three-week trip to the area. Grades will be given on each assignment as they are submitted. One of the assignments may be re-done during the last week of class.

Posting of Assignments: All assignments will be submitted by transferring your files to a central web server. You will receive no points for an assignment that is emailed to me. All assignments must be posted. One webhosting service is http://podserver.info but others are available. The files you submit need to be placed in the htdocs folder in a sub-folder called "geog3000". It is your responsibility to make sure that your assignments link correctly from the websites page by checking to make sure that your link works. You need to email me your podserver address by the second day of class so I can make the correct links to your assignments.

If you check your link multiple times, you may be fooled by the caching mechanism of your browser. If your link doesn't work, your browser may be remembering that it has been to that page before and display the same page that was cached from the previous visit. Once you have fixed the error, you must force the browser to go to the server rather than relying on a cached, older-version of the link. This can be done by hitting the refresh button.

I expect to find your files will be in a "geog3000" folder/directory. The files in this folder must have the proper name (e.g., bio.htm, travel.htm, links.htm, maps.htm, ground.htm, image.htm, streetview.htm, regional.htm, itinerary.htm). If not, it will be impossible for me to find them.

If you are using Word to make your web pages, and the web pages contain pictures, Word will put all of the pictures in an associated folder (bio_files, travel_filess, cost_files, maps_files, ground_files, around_files, images_files, regional_files, and regional_files). If these folders of images are not transfered, no images will be displayed. Transfering folders to podserver can be done by zipping the folder to a single file and then uploading this file as an archive/zip type of file. FileManager provides the option of uploading either a simple file or a compressed/archived file. The later type of file is automatically uncompressed after it is uploaded.

Looking at each others work is an important aspect of this course and I encourage you to do so. I will comment on what I regard as good aspects of specific web pages that have been submitted. Don't worry if your pages don't look as good as other pages. I consider the content, not fancy designs, as the most important aspect of the pages.

Tips for Submitting Assignments

  1. The process of uploading files is simple, once you learn how to do it. Be sure you can master the process in the first week. Check the forum to see how others have accomplished the task.
  2. I usually have a number of students who have taken another class from me and know how to work with webhosting sites. I will identify these students. You may contact them for help.
  3. The file you submit must have the correct file name (e.g., bio.htm, travel.htm, airfare.htm, cost.htm, maps.htm, ground.htm, around.htm, image.htm, street.htm, regional.htm, itinerary.htm). Don't use upper-case letters in your file names and make sure they are spelled correctly. Don't add an "l" onto "htm". Seeing the 3-letter extension is sometimes difficult with Windowsbut there is a way to make them visible. You can find instructions through a Google search.
  4. Put files in the correct folder. They must be in a folder called "geog3000" within the base htdocs folder. Some webhosting services use a different folder name like 'Public'.
  5. If the file has images, remember to also transfer them to your geog3000 folder. If using Word, the folder of images will have the name of the file with a "_files" extension.
  6. It is usually not possible to upload a folder. There are two solutions: 1) Create a new folder on the server with the same name and upload the individual files into that folder; or 2) Compress the folder as a zip file and upload this file. If uploaded as a compressed file, podserver will automatically uncompress (expand) the file. Another solution is to use an FTP transfer program like FileZilla (strongly recommended).This program is described on the Submit page.
  7. It is not possible to rename the file or the folder outside of Word. To rename the file, you must open the file in Word and use "Save As..." to save the file with a different file name. The procedure will also create the corresponding folder with the associated name for the pictures. Essentially, Word "marries" the HTML file with the folder of images. It is not possible to rename either the file or the folder outside of Word. You'll need to go back into Word and re-save the file with the correct name.
  8. Always check your link on the Websites page once you have submitted your file. I can only see the file if you can see the file from this page. If your link does not work, check to make sure that the file is in your geog3000 folder and that it has the correct name. All filenames for assignments are in lower-case. An upper-case letter to the filename will cause the link to not work.
  9. If you check your link more than once, remember that your browser is looking at the cached version so it may show your previous page which might be the page telling you that the file couldn't be found. Force it to connect to the server again and download a new version of the file (F5 key on Windows or the refresh button). Cache has become more of a problem recently. One way to see if you are dealing with a cachin problem is to switch to another browser.

Prerequisites: An introductory course in geography as well as a working knowledge of the Web, including a basic knowledge of search engines. Familiarity with and access to e-mail, a text editor or a word processor is essential. Experience with Microsoft Word or a web page editor is a plus.

Grading: The web page assignments are each worth between 5-10% of your grade. Participation in the forum and ontime submission for each assignment is worth 10% of your grade. The final exam constitutes the remainder of your grade. Cut-offs for letter grades: A: 90%; B: 80%; C: 70%; and D: 60% A+: 97 and above; A: 93-97; A-: 90-93; B+: 87-90; B: 83-87; B-: 80-83; etc. Incompletes are not given.

Word of Advice: Be sure to reserve some time for this course. If your schedule is tight, you might not have time to complete the assignments. Some students will get so far behind with the assignments that they cannot catch-up. This is a problem with online classes where a greater degree of self-discipline is needed. Don't fall behind because catching-up is not fun! Maintain a schedule that allows you to complete the assignments on time. That may mean not engaging in typical free-time activities.

I would like to have everyone finish the class. Online courses require self-discipline. If you don't have it, don't take this course.