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I Got A Rock

January 2, 2023 Update:

I dropped this course. Uncooperative professor, poorly edited textbook, inherently flawed way of teaching. Really, there is no way to do labs except in person. But the page below describes the main problem — a terrible textbook and a professor and a publishing house that doesn’t care about their students. Click on the title, “The Essential Errata.” (internal link).

The Essential Errata

Original article:

My course materials came today. I’m taking an online class offered by BYU. That’s Brigham Young University for those of you outside the States. It’s Geology 101 and it is being conducted by a well thought of professor. 25 lessons in all at a university level. I’m warned the class is rigorous but I have a year to complete it. It should advance my knowledge of all things rocky and help in the writing of my new book.

Pictured below is the $160 textbook (!) and a bag of rocks and minerals with only numbers on them. No master list. I assume at some point their identities will be revealed. Or, more likely, I will have to figure them out myself.

Getting this rock and mineral collection reminded me of the classic Peanuts television movie, “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” All he got was a rock.

By thomasfarley01

Business writer and graphic arts gadfly.

2 replies on “I Got A Rock”

Hey mate. Just wanted to ask, how hard was Geology 101? I’m thinking about taking that online. Would you recommend?

Thanks for the comment. I’ve avoided reporting on my experience because I didn’t want to seem negative. But after talking to many earth science professionals, I think we are all in agreement, that any science course needing lab work must have that part conducted in person. There’s no way to duplicate online the experience of having the students, teaching assistants, and the professor all working together to get lab assignments done. In this BYU course, much of what I was graded on depended on me interpreting photographs correctly, trying, for example, to distinguish between two specimens by judging whether they were a lighter or darker shade of gray. Impossible.

They sent a kit of rocks and such but you had to follow difficult directions. Those steps would be made immediately clear in person by watching the TA’s demonstrate the process and the ability to ask questions and get immediate answers. Can’t do that online. I’ve done afternoon labs in person with other college courses and its really the only way to go. I wish online resources could duplicate this kind of feedback in person but they can’t.

As to this course specifically, the $150 textbook had numerous errors that I as an editor could not tolerate. I was told they wouldn’t impact testing but I couldn’t be sure since the professor didn’t know about these mistakes until I e-mailed them in. There were probably more that I didn’t find and I only made it through six chapters before quitting. There was no errata sheet online at the time which was completely unforgivable. Every major text has an errata sheet but not this one. I think the author was a friend of the professor and the professor clearly resented me bringing up these mistakes.

Sorry to seem negative but as I said before, I can’t imagine how a science course can be taught without in-person lab work. Tom

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