2004 Course Syllabus

This is a preliminary version of the course syllabus. Some changes will be made during January and February and during the academic term. This is not a legal, binding document and changes should be expected throughout the term. Be aware that this is the case, please.

Click here to read an important letter from Prof. Ross!

Instructor Information

Mr. Andrew Ross
E-mail: aross@mail.com
Work phone: (301) 386-7533 [voicemail only]
Office Location: Contact person on PGCC campus is Marie Robinson in Chesapeake 100.

Prof. Ross is in Oxford, England.
Office hours: 8:00-10:00 a.m. Monday, Wednesday
Hello! I'm Professor Ross. This is probably a bit of a shock to you, but I'm not in Maryland.

I've taught at PGCC since 1995, and have absolutely loved it. In the Fall of 2000, I came to Oxford University in England to conduct research for a few years, and was fortunate enough to be able to keep teaching PGCC students via the Internet.

So I'm a few thousand miles away from you right now...

But what you'll probably find is that I'll be even easier to contact than most instructors, even the ones whose offices you can drop by. I've got excellent Internet access, and I'm usually very fast in responding to e-mails. We can set up chats in the Blackboard system to talk one-to-one or in groups, and I'm also available on the telephone, anytime you need to call (before 9 p.m. please). [Check to find out the cost first before you call me in England, however... sometimes it's not expensive (5-8 cents/minute) and sometimes it can be a lot (40 cents/minute)].

My student-only cellular phone is 011-44-7940-123044.

But, if you're not desperate to call me, please just use e-mail or leave me a voicemail on my PGCC phone at (301) 386-7533. You can also always leave a message with the departmental secretary, Marie Robinson, at (301) 322-0420.

My background is in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and I also have done a considerable amount of work on using technology in teaching. So this online course seems like an old friend to me.

Please let me know as soon as you can, if you're having difficulties with using the Blackboard system. I can help with quite a bit, and if I'm not the person who can/should help, I can find someone smart to help you.

Good luck this term. I can't wait to learn all about you.

Andrew Ross


Course Description
This course is an online version of Biology 101 at Prince George's Community College. It is equivalent to the in-person course, and will deal with roughly the same material.

The course timetable follows PGCC's regular semester schedule, and final grades will be given in line with the regular semester schedule.

Please approach this class as a serious endeavor-- one that will require approximately 6 hours per week of interaction online and with exploratory laboratory materials. In addition, students should plan to spend about the same amount of time studying independently. This is a university-level science course and should be treated as such.

The class should also be a lot of fun for everyone involved! Students will attend virtual lectures three times each week, complete independent laboratory exercises, and will collaborate with their peers online. In the end, students will be articulate about biology and will be able to discuss the natural world intelligently and confidently.

Welcome to the class!

Computing Requirements for Online Biology 101

Because you will be conducting much of your coursework in conjunction with a computer, you will need to make sure that you have easy, DAILY access to a computer that fulfills the following criteria:

You will also need to make sure that you are able to save word processing documents in .DOC or .RTF or .TXT format. This term, NO WORK WILL BE ACCEPTED IN .WPD format. This means that if you have a copy of Word Perfect that you use for word processing, you need to make sure that you can save files in one of the formats listed. If you have Microsoft Word, you are already set-- Word automatically saves documents as .DOC files.

If you are concerned about the technical requirements for this course, you will probably need to choose an in-person class rather than the online version.

**Please note that computer malfunctions or problems will never be accepted as an excuse for late or missing course requirements. You should be prepared with a back-up computer, if your regular one has problems. Also note that there are hundreds of computers at PGCC's Largo Campus that you can use to work on this course, in case of difficulty.

Required Textbooks

This is where Online Biology 101 looks different from most of the other courses you'll take. First off, your required textbook is actually two sets of CD-ROMs. You will also be required to obtain a copy of the course outline by Bres & Weishaar, as well as the laboratory kit. All of these items are available in the PGCC bookstore.

You will not need to purchase the regular Biology 101 textbook for this course. The CD-ROM sets will take the place of this.

Here's the information on the textbooks you'll need:

1. Thinkwell's Biology [CD-ROM set from the bookstore]

2. 'Human Biology: Condensed', Fourth Edition, M. Bres and A. Weishaar

3. Online Biology 101 Laboratory Kit [This will be available from CH-206 and is NOT sold in the bookstore.]

4. Fetal Pig Dissection Diagram Sheet (buy a used one if you can-- they're in the bookstore).


Required Materials

A decent calculator that can handle exponents (i.e. most $10 calculators are OK); an e-mail account; a metric ruler; toothpicks; some other materials which will be detailed later (though nothing expensive).


Course Grade

Your grade in this course will be calculated by adding the total points scored in four different areas:

  • Examinations (3)
  • Online Discussions (approx. one per week)
  • Group Projects
  • Laboratory Assignments (approx. one per week)

You will be able to check your grade online, to monitor your progress in the course.


All exams (except the final) will be given online. You will be expected to hand in the examination within the time allotted to you, and you are also expected to complete the exam entirely on your own.

Your one in-person assignment will be the Final Exam, which will take place in the Campus Assessment Center (not during class), during the final week of the semester. Make arrangements for taking this examination NOW. No excuses for missing the final will be accepted.

Examinations will cover material which has been discussed in the lectures (on the CD-ROMs), in the online discussions, and in the virtual chat sessions, along with any other reading materials you are assigned for that particular unit of study.

Each exam is worth 150 points. These exams will all be entirely in short-answer format, with some diagrams, graphs, and calculations. Anything we discuss in class or read about in assignments or handouts is fair game for tests!

Online Discussions & Virtual Chats

Part of taking an online course in biology is learning to talk articulately about the natural (and sometimes un-natural) world. Therefore, you will be expected to participate actively in discussions and chats. 


Please note that weekly discussions are a very large part of the final grade. These should be taken seriously and should be worked on throughout the week. Writing something brief on the due date will not allow you to score well. In order to do well on this, you need to be an active and interactive participant in the discussion, talking not only about information you've found yourself, but also about what other people say in the discussion.

Your grade will be determined by the instructor, who will read your posts and your comments to other students. Your score is based on three criteria:

1. Your use of careful, well thought-out statements and questions. [Original Contribution]
2. The degree of your involvement in the discussion. [Ongoing Involvement]
3. How you integrate other people's comments into your own postings. [Interactivity]

Grammar and spelling will not count against you in discussions. What Prof. Ross is looking for is for you to express your opinion about the topic in a way that shows that you understand the issues involved and are aware of opinions other than your own.
Please also note that you will never receive credit for information that is cut and pasted from the web into a discussion. All postings must be 100% your own words.

In order to score well on these assignments, you will need to make several postings to every discussion. Keep in mind, however, that WHAT you say is more important than HOW MANY TIMES you post. A brilliant comment is worth a ton of 'I agree' postings.

When the discussion closes formally, you will receive a grade within the next two weeks.

Virtual Chats:

Work similarly to the Online Discussions described above. However, during the virtual chats, you will be expected to meet up with Prof. Ross and several other members of the class to talk (in real time) about some topic. You will always have a choice of three or more chat times, and should therefore choose one that suits you best. You will be expected to be online during the entire chat time, and your grade will be based on the same criteria as above.


Please also note that any inappropriate behavior during these chats and discussions will immediately result in a grade of zero being assigned to you for that assignment.


Group Projects

At several points during the semester, you will work as part of a group of students. Blackboard allows the course instructor to group classmates into teams. When you have been made a member of a group, you will work with that team on completing your assignment. All team members will receive the same grade for the assignment. However, at the instructor’s discretion, individual grades may be assigned. 

Late homework will not be accepted. No excuses and no exceptions will even be entertained (this includes traffic, car problems, illness, floods, alien abductions, etc.).

Laboratory Assignments

During every week of the semester, you will have a laboratory assignment to complete. These assignments are designed to be done at your home, with very inexpensive materials. Be aware that you will need to purchase (or borrow) a few items throughout the semester, in order to complete the work assigned.

You will also need the Laboratory Kit which will be available from the 25th in Chesapeake Hall Room 206 at PGCC . This kit contains some items that might be impossible or difficult for you to find on your own. Keep the kit in a safe place, and out of the reach of children.

All laboratory exercises should be completed and handed in on time, in order for you to receive full credit.

Reading Assignments

Because this course is taught online, the reading assignments and the lecture assignments are the same.

Lectures are all on the Thinkwell CD-ROMs. You should certainly take notes while watching these, and return to them as often as you need to, for reference. The nicest thing about having all of the lectures on disc with you is that if you're ever confused about something, you can just go back and replay the part of the lecture you need. It's very convenient.

Please also remember that there will be other readings that Prof. Ross will tell you about. They will usually be kept in the 'Weekly Assignments' folder.

E-mail Policy

I read my e-mail several times every day. If you send me e-mail, I will do my very best to respond to you within 24 hours.

If I will be somewhere without Internet access for a few days, I will make an announcement on Blackboard to let you know about this.

If you have an urgent problem, you are always free to contact the Biology Department at (301) 322-0420.