Course Syllabus

Welcome to Agronomy 502 at Iowa State University!

Instructor: Dan Dobill
Email: ddobill@iastate.edu

Office Hours: ​Key activities in Office Hours include answering unclear content from modules, review of key Module content, assignment issues/questions, and preparation for exams.

 
 

Course Overview

Course Description: Soil chemical, physical, and biological properties that control processes within the soil, their influence on plant/soil interactions, and soil classification. Basic concepts in soil science and their applications. Required course for the Master of Science in Agronomy degree program and Agronomy Graduate Certificate program.

Course Prerequisites: AGRON 181 or equivalent, AGRON 182 or equivalent, BIOL 101, CHEM 163, MATH 140. Restricted to graduate students enrolled in MS Agronomy & Agronomy Graduate Certificate online degree programs at ISU. Students from other departments must get permission.

Agron 502 covers the basics of soil science focused primarily for crop production. This involves many factors (see the figure below) from climate (i.e. sun, rain, evaporation, temperature) to what the soils are developing from (bedrock or other materials) to living things (vegetation, microorganisms, earthworms) to landscape characteristics (erosion or drainage) to time (weathering). To cover these topics, first we will look at soils in general and then look closer at soil properties as they relate to three areas: soil chemistry, soil physics, and soil biology. Although we will be talking about specific details in soils, we will always try to look at these properties in relation to a bigger picture — crop production and the environment. We realize that many of you have vast experiences with soils in your profession and we would like this course to bring out your experiences through the discussion and assignments.

Soils and some of the factors that influence them.

Soils and some of the factors that influence them.

 

Agron 502 is one of the beginning courses in the MS in Agronomy distance education program. It is a course that builds towards other soil courses in the program, Agron 512: Soil-Plant Environment and Agron 532: Soil Management. Agron 512 focuses deeper on soil physical properties, nutrients and their cycles, and plant growth relative to soil properties, whereas Agron 532 focuses on field level management of soils. Agron 502 also builds towards the three capstone courses in the program, Agron 591: Agronomic Systems Analysis, Agron 592: Current Issues in Agronomy, and Agron 594: Workshop in Agronomy (on-campus). These capstone courses encompass all areas of agronomy from individual properties of crops and soils, to field, farm, regional, and global agriculture and the environment. As with any course, the depth and level of details presented do not fully explore any particular concept. The course material is a summary of what we considered to be the most relevant information you need to know in order to support your reasoning when making assessments on agronomic and environmental issues related to or impacted by soils and their management. Consequently, it is important to fully understand the course information at the level of detail presented in order to build your own mental database, which should enable you to be critical about new information in the future.

Everyone has a different level of knowledge about soil. We all know this course contains concepts that will be easy for some and more work for others to learn. It is inevitable. This is because what you know is based on your experiences and everyone has different experiences. However, even if you know a lot about soils, knowing what you understand and what you don't understand is important to learning more. Also, it is beneficial for us (instructors and program) to have an understanding of what you know coming into the course, how you connect these together, and how deeply you connect them so we can build more relevant courses. This is why there are assignments and discussions in this course that ask you what you know and how you can contribute to the course. Let's start with an assignment...

Course Objectives

  1. To understand that knowledge of soils and their properties is vital to crop production.
  2. To be able to look at individual soil properties and understand how they fit in the larger picture of agriculture, the environment, and the world.
  3. To broaden your understanding of soils to improve your utilization of information for understanding and solving problems.

Course Structure

Module Format

The online course materials in Agronomy 502 consist of 13 modules and four open-book exams.

To accomplish the course objectives, Agronomy 502 modules are categorized into four areas: soil basics, soil chemistry, soil physics, and soil biology. Below is the breakdown of each of these areas by modules. Before the areas, a short introduction to the section is available and the section is concluded with submission of reflections and completion of a take-home exam. At the end of the course, there is a summary activity related to the case study and the soil concept map assignment.

Soil Basics
The following are modules in this area:
- Introduction/Case Study
- Module 1: Soil Development and Classification
- Module 2: Soil Mineralogy and Weathering

Soil Chemistry
The following are modules in this area:
- Module 3: Ion Exchange
- Module 4: Ion Distribution
- Module 5: Ion Activity and Liming
- Module 6: Solubility and Chemical Reactions

Soil Physics
The following are modules in this area:
- Module 7: Soil Solids
- Module 8: Water Flow in Soil
- Module 9: Soil Temperature

Soil Biology
The following are modules in this area:
- Module 10: Soil Organisms
- Module 11: Soil Organism Interactions
- Module 12: Carbon Cycle
- Module 13: Nitrogen Cycle

Instructor Interactions

Office Hours: ​Key activities in Office Hours include answering unclear content from modules, review of key Module content, assignment issues/questions, and preparation for exams.

Email: Feel free to message the instructor via the Canvas Inbox if you have any questions or concerns.

Discussions: The instructor leads the first couple discussions. After that, leaders are assigned per week by the instructor. The instructor regularly monitors the interaction and questions for clarification as needed.

Graded Feedback: All graded assessments will be returned with feedback within 7 days of the due date. Exams will be returned within 14 days. Be sure to check your graded submissions for comments regarding your work.

Grading Procedures

The graded portions of the course are divided into assignments/reflections, discussions, exams, and a case study.

Course Grading System
Assignments ~20%
Discussion Topics ~30%
Soil Basics Exam ~10%
Soil Chemistry Exam ~10%
Soil Physics Exam ~10%
Soil Biology Exam ~10%
Case Study ~10%

Total 100%

Expectations

Descriptions of Expectations

  • Assignments are worth ~20% of the points in the class. Assignments are intended to tie module concepts to the case study. For the assignments, they generally are at the end of the module.

    Module Reflections for the four course sections are also considered assignments in the course. These include top 10 items an Agronomist should know, unclear module content, and learning strategies used.
  • Discussion Topics are worth ~30% of the points in the class. The class will be divided into several discussion groups based on class size. During the semester, 2-3 people per module in each group will be assigned to be discussion leaders. This means that several times a semester you will be asked to be the discussion leader for your group. On the weeks that you are discussion leader, you are responsible for the postings in the discussion forum daily (initiating the discussion and facilitating further discussion). At the end of the discussion period, you and your fellow leader(s) are responsible for posting a summary of the discussion that the entire class can see (If there are three discussion groups in the course, there should be three summaries). During weeks you are not the discussion leader, you are required to contribute at least one original posting and reply to two or more other postings on the discussion topic. Discussion grading will involve quality of postings, active participation in the discussion forum, level of involvement as discussion leader, and quality of discussion summaries. You are expected to post and reply to messages weekly (a good measure is to constructively contribute several times over several days during the time frame of each module).
  • Exams will be open-book examinations consisting of a mix of objective questions (e.g., calculations) and subjective questions that require you to apply content to questions of importance to agronomists. You will have one week to complete each examination. However, since there are four exams, you are still responsible for continuing with the next module during the exam period. Assignments and discussion topics will not be required during the exam period. In total, the exams are worth ~40% of your points in the class.
  • Case Study will be a summary project for the course that will involve discussion, role-playing, and a written submission. Most assignments and a few discussions during the course relate to the case so you will be working with the case most weeks that builds to this final project.
  • Final Grade will be assigned on a +/- scale.
    Letter Grade Percent
    A 94+
    A- 90 to <94
    B+ 87 to <90
    B 84 to <87
    B- 80 to <84
    C+ 77 to <80
    C 74 to <77
    C- 70 to <74

Extra credit will be given for contributions to Bonus Discussion Topics. These are available in the summary section pages of the course and ask about your experiences related to the concepts covered. You can post to these anytime in the course, whether we are on the topic or not. These are not required but are a valuable addition to the content of this course because others can learn from your experiences. Also, if your course grade is marginal between values (e.g. between B+ and A-), satisfactory contributions to these topics will increase your course grade to the higher value.

Policies

Communication Policy

All communication within the course should adhere to university standards of Netiquette at ISU. Specifically, communication should be scholarly, respectful, professional, and polite. You are encouraged to disagree with other students, but such disagreements need to be based upon facts and documentation. It is the instructor’s goal to promote an atmosphere of mutual respect in our interactions. Please contact the instructor if you have suggestions for improving the interactions in this course.

Please contact me by email: ddobill@iastate.edu. I will primarily use your ISU email to communicate important course information on a timely basis.

General announcements will be posted to the Announcements section of the Learning Management System (Canvas).

Be sure to properly configure your Notification settings or commit yourself to checking Canvas daily for new communication.

Additional guidelines apply to communication within your discussion groups. Please review the Discussion Topic rubric shown above.

Feedback Policy

All graded assessments will be returned with feedback within 7 days of the due date. Exams will be returned within 14 days. Be sure to check your graded submissions for comments regarding your work.

Deadlines

All deadlines are posted on the Course Calendar in Canvas.

Need extra time to meet a deadline? Explain the situation to your instructor IN ADVANCE and accommodation can be made. The explanation doesn't need to be extensive. The important factor is to attempt to notify the instructor ahead of time.

University Policies

Academic Integrity Policy

The class will follow Iowa State University’s policy on academic dishonesty. Anyone suspected of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Students Office.

There are several resources available to help you avoid committing academic misconduct.

Disability Accommodation

Iowa State University complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Sect 504 of the rehabilitation Act. If you have a disability and anticipate needing accommodations in this course, please contact me to set up a meeting within the first two weeks of the semester or as soon as you become aware of your need. Before meeting with me, you will need to obtain a SAAR form with recommendations for accommodations from the Disability Resources Office, located in Room 1076 on the main floor of the Student Services Building. Their telephone number is 515-294-7220 or email mailto:disabilityresources@iastate.edu. Retroactive requests for accommodations will not be honored.

Harassment and Discrimination

Iowa State University strives to maintain our campus as a place of work and study for faculty, staff, and students that is free of all forms of prohibited discrimination and harassment based upon race, ethnicity, sex (including sexual assault), pregnancy, color, religion, national origin, physical or mental disability, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, or status as a U.S. veteran. Any student who has concerns about such behavior should contact his/her instructor, Student Assistance at 515-294-1020 or email mailto:dsosas@iastate.edu, or the Office of Equal Opportunity and Compliance at 515-294-7612.

Religious Accommodation

If an academic or work requirement conflicts with your religious practices and/or observances, you may request reasonable accommodations. Your request must be in writing, and your instructor or supervisor will review the request. You or your instructor may also seek assistance from the Dean of Students Office or the Office of Equal Opportunity and Compliance.

Study Tips

  • Know the course format and make certain your computer is set up adequately.
  • Know the Agron 502 Course Calendar in Canvas. The calendar provides all of the start and due dates for required submissions in the course. If changes to the course schedule are made during the semester, the changes will be identified in the course calendar.
  • Do not fall behind schedule! Work ahead when you know that you will be out-of-town or unable to do a module during its designated week. If an unforeseen absence from the course occurs, please notify us at your earliest convenience so we can work together to get you caught up as quickly as possible.
  • Complete one module each week. Allow at least 8 hours per module (4 hours to do the module + 2 hours to do assignments and participate in discussions + 2 hours for text readings). Depending on your knowledge of the subject, you may spend less time or more time on a particular module.
  • Do each In Detail as you come across its link in the module. In Details always contain required information and often have study questions or other required information in them. The FYI pages are not required unless specifically noted. These are only for additional resource value.
  • Do each Activity as encountered. They are designed to enhance your learning, to provide opportunities to apply the information presented, and to let you evaluate your understanding of the material. They often expand on the concepts, so don't skip any.
  • Be sure to submit all Assignments and Discussion Topics on time. Discussion on topics with the class are not effective if the entire class doesn't participate in a timely manner. Assignments and Discussion Topics may be done as they appear or after you finish the module and readings.
  • Compose and save your Discussion Topic postings in Word. Use the spell-check and grammar-check features of Word to enhance your postings. Also, saving your work locally will avoid problems with submitting errors that may have consequences of losing your work and having to recompose.
  • Interact with your classmates and instructor. Visit the discussion board often! Discussions need not be limited to the assigned topics. Use the Course Info forum in the discussion board to ask questions, answer questions, share an interesting article or observation, or comment on current and relevant events. When you work ahead, be sure to go back and post your comments and responses to classmates during that module's scheduled week.
  • Do the text readings. Readings from the texts supplement the material presented in the module and are required unless stated otherwise. The online course materials are not intended to be complete by themselves. The text provides more detailed information in some areas and is to be considered as important as the online modules.
  • Get to know your classmates. The introduction discussion is a great way to get to know each other further.
  • Something unclear? Consult with your instructor and/or classmates through the discussion board or email. Don't be afraid to post your question in the discussion board unless it is of a personal nature. All can benefit from the response in the discussion board but not via email. An area is available on the discussion board for questions that you want to ask but would prefer to remain anonymous.

Support

Category Description Action

Course Content Support

Questions related to course content or grading should be directed to the course instructor. Instructor via Canvas Inbox

Student Support

The Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching is an organization dedicated to supporting, promoting, and enhancing teaching effectiveness and student learning at ISU.

Self-guided orientation which you may find useful.

CELT: Online Learner Support

Self-Guided Orientation

Canvas Technical Support

If you experience any technical issues while using Canvas, contact the Solution Center. The Solution Center's hours are posted on their website.

Solution Center

Technology support

If you have any technical issues while using the University Library's Course Reserves system, please contact the The Library's Help Desk hours are posted on their website.

 

For all other technical issues, contact Agron DevLab Support. The Agronomy Development Lab staff is guaranteed to respond to requests within 24 hours during regular business hours. All requests made during the weekend will be addressed first thing Monday morning.

Agron DevLab Support

Library staff

Writing Support

The MS Agronomy program has built a Writing Guide to help answer some of the questions you may have while working on your courses.

Deborah Burns is available for one-on-one consultations and can assist you with any part of the writing process. Schedule an appointment with Deborah through the CELT's website (Links to an external site.) or via email.

Writing Guide

CELT Website (Links to an external site.) or email.

Library and research support

Anita Kay is the liaison librarian to the Department of Agronomy. She can help find any article, book or any other piece of information that you want assistance finding. Anita has also built a really useful Agronomy Research Guide (Links to an external site.).

Anita Kay
Agronomy Research Guide (Links to an external site.)

Department Contact

Contact Dr. Allen Knapp, Associate Chair for Academics in Agronomy, if issues persist after working with the support systems listed above.

Dr. Allen Knapp

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