North American Historical Landscapes
Welcome to this course about the historical geography of the United States and Canada. Your first question might be: “is this a history course or a geography course?” One might answer by pointing out that geography is the noun and history the adjective. The course looks at the geography of our continent from an historical perspective.
We selected this course for an “on-line” format because school systems in the U.S. have adopted new content standards for learning history and geography. Traditionally, students were given four or five doses of US history in the 5th, 8th, and 11th grades and in college general education requirements. Therefore most new social studies school teachers ended up teaching US history in one form or another but without preparation or experience in ancillary disciplines such as geography.
We titled this course North American Historical Landscapes because we wanted to include Canada. As Michael Moore and others have pointed out, Canadian university students know a lot about the U.S. but most American students don’t know much about Canada. Do you know how many provinces there are in Canada? What is the name of the current prime minister? (Ten Provinces and three territories, Stephen Harper). So far, the major emphasis is still on the U.S. but we will be adding more about Canadian landscapes during the term. Note that Mexico is sometimes thought of as part of North America but it is included in our Latin America course at this institution.
Our main intent, then, is to bring our heritage alive by observing the effects of generations of decision making on today’s landscapes. Reading the landscape before us is the visual evidence of how different societies, cultures, economies and personal stories have created a unique but very diverse homeland on the North American continent.
By now you have registered for the class and probably have been to the syllabus from which you can get to other parts of the course website. Perhaps you have already purchased the textbook by Michael Conzen and others titled The Making of the American Landscape. They are on order at the University bookstore or may be purchased on line from Barnes and Noble or Amazon.com. Your next step is to go to the “Topics” buttons on the top of the course home page. This is the core of the course. You will see that there are twelve topic headings. While looking at the “Topics” page click “Tutorial” for some more guidance on how to get started. The “Evaluate” link on all the pages will lead to where you can take the quizzes and exams whenever you are ready to do so. The quizzes and exams are in essay format and are timed for thirty minutes per question from when they are opened. The two exercises may be “turned in” at the “submit work” button. You should take the quizzes as you complete each topic so you can track your progress through the course content.For grading purposes, the Topic 1 question one will be considered a trial quiz. I will read your answer and make comments where appropriate but it will not be counted in your point total. Also, one quiz from the remaining eleven with your lowest score will be dropped leaving ten quizzes to be part of your course point total as shown on the syllabus.
If you are taking the course as Geog. 571 and will be using it as part of a master’s degree program there is a short research paper required. Please let me know if this applies to your circumstance. Before submitting anything you need to create a student account (see the evaluation page) with user name and password.
Please keep in mind that the course is mostly self-paced, meaning that you can go as fast or slow as you wish, just as long as you finish before the official end of the semester. The only constraint in this matter is the necessity to have set dates for the mid-term and final exams. They are posted on the syllabus and the Evaluate page. This open-ended schedule is for the benefit of students who are not on campus and may be traveling or working while enrolled on-line.
Your first task is to introduce yourself to the other students and to me by sending us an e-mail message. You can do this from this e-mail address: email@example.com . You might share info about your academic major, your career goals, or other interests outside of school. Also, it would be very helpful to me for you to tell us where you have lived and traveled in the United States and Canada. Finally, I would like to know where you have not been in North America but would like to go.
I hope you find the course interesting and useful to your future plans, especially if they include travel in the United States or Canada.
(Oh yes, if you have trouble logging on to the course web site or other technical problems, please let me know and I will refer you to the university computer center or to one of our own IT technical masters)