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GEOSC 30 - Volcanoes

This is a sample syllabus.

This sample syllabus is a representative example of the information and materials included in this course. Information about course assignments, materials, and dates listed here is subject to change at any time. Definitive course details and materials will be available in the official course syllabus, in Canvas, when the course begins.


Since the dawning of history, humankind has been faced with the destructive power of volcanoes. Volcanic eruptions can wipe out entire populations, destroy food supplies, and alter the Earth’s climate for years at a time. At the same time, volcanoes provide fertile soil for growing crops and natural geothermal energy. This course uses virtual field trips to one pre-historic and five historic volcanic eruptions to introduce basic concepts in geosciences and volcanology. Each visits a different type of volcano with unique characteristics and impacts – a shield volcano, a cinder cone, a fissure, a stratovolcano, a lava dome, and a supervolcano. We will examine the tectonic driving forces behind these volcanoes as well as their hazards and environmental impacts. You will use real data from active volcanoes, as well as original data collected during laboratory experiments, to monitor volcanic activity, calculate physical properties of magmas, and interpret the potential impacts of various volcanic hazards.


Upon completing this course, students will be able to:

  • Describe three ways in which tectonic processes drive magmatism on Earth.
  • Explain the relationship between mantle convection and plate tectonics.
  • Classify volcanoes on the basis of their physical features.
  • Accurately record observations in a field or laboratory notebook.
  • Plot data obtained from experimental observations or downloaded from sources on the internet using Excel.
  • Interpret trends observed in plotted data.
  • Calculate physical properties such as magma viscosity or projectile trajectory using given or observed data.
  • Identify the major hazards, directly and indirectly, resulting from volcanic eruptions.
  • Defend the value of volcano monitoring.
  • Evaluate why humans have chosen historically and continue to this day to live in close proximity to volcanoes, despite the risks.

Required Materials

Typically, there are no required materials for this course. If this changes, students will find a definitive list in the course syllabus, in Canvas, when the course begins.




We have worked hard to make this the most effective and convenient educational experience possible. How much and how well you learn is dependent on your attitude, diligence, and willingness to ask for clarifications or help when you need them. We are here to help you succeed. Please keep up with the class schedule and take advantage of opportunities to communicate with us and with your fellow students. You can expect to spend an average of 8-10 hours per week on classwork.

Major Assignments

This course consists of 6 modules. There is no final exam. In each of the modules, students will read the lectures online, complete a quiz in Canvas, complete a hands-on laboratory activity at home, watch a video, and participate in an online discussion forum in Canvas. 

  • Quizzes (25% of total course grade)
  • Weekly lab activities (50% of total course grade)
  • Discussion participation (25% of total course grade)


Course Schedule

Course Schedule
  • Weekly Quiz
  • Lab Activity: GPS Monitoring of Deformation at Pu'u O'o 
  • Discussion
2 Lakagígar
  • Weekly Quiz
  • Lab Activity: Mentos and Diet Coke; Magma Degassing
  • Discussion
  • Weekly Quiz
  • Lab Activity: Modeling Tephra Thickness Using Excel
  • Discussion
  • Weekly Quiz
  • Lab Activity: M&Ms Magma Chamber
  • Discussion
5Mt. Pelée
  • Weekly Quiz
  • Lab Activity: Dropping Ball Viscometer    
  • Discussion
  • Weekly Quiz
  • Lab Activity: Taking the Pulse of Yellowstone
  • Discussion