University of Minnesota
College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences
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Department of Soil, Water, and Climate

SOIL 2601

The Social Life of Soil

3 credits, Environment Theme

Course description: The bacteria, fungi, and microscopic animals that live in soil break down waste, cycle nutrients, and maintain fertile, well-structured soil that can support plant – and thus human – life. The course will introduce basic soil biology concepts, including soil organisms and the roles they play, before focusing on interactions between plant root systems and soil microorganisms. Finally we will discuss various management practices that build and sustain a rich soil ecosystem. The course is a large enrollment, interactive online class designed to appeal to students from a variety of majors.

Course format: This course will be delivered online via Moodle (the open-source learning platform used at the University of Minnesota), with no face-to-face requirements. Class will “meet” twice per week, for a total of 29 units. Each unit will consist of posted readings, a videotaped lecture, review questions, and a quiz based on the readings and lecture. Units will open approximately one week before the assignments are due. Each student will be assigned to a discussion group of 6-8 students. Every two weeks, discussion groups will receive either a topic for discussion or a collaborative assignment.

Assessment: Quizzes: (35%); Individual project (15%); Discussion forum (20%); Group projects (30%)

Instructor: Karen Ballen, Ph.D.