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RELS 101: Introduction to World Religions: Summer 2010 (Online
Department of Religious Studies: San Diego State University
Dr. Khaleel Mohammed
Office: Al 674
Wimba Classroom Hours: Wed/Th: Noon-1 p.m.
(Private Wimba or phone consultations by appointment)
This syllabus is intended to guide us through the semester. However, circumstances may change
and so I reserve the right to change the syllabus as needed to ensure that we fulfill the course
objectives. You will receive full and fair notification regarding any such changes.
Meeting the Needs of Diverse Learners: As your instructor, I will do everything within reason to actively
support a wide range of learning styles and abilities. I have taken training and applied the principles of
Universal Design for Learning in Higher Education to this course. Feel free to discuss your progress in this
course with me at anytime. If you require any accommodations, please let me know at the start of the
course. You may also wish to contact Student Disability Services at Calpulli Center (Suite 3101),
telephone: 619.594.6473, or visit http://www.sa.sdsu.edu/sds/triosss/
Distance Learning Prerequisites
Please take the ‘readiness survey’ at
https://sunspot.sdsu.edu/pls/webapp/survey.hybrid_learning.main and, if this is the right
course for you, please prepare your computer for the course.
• Please download necessary software, including: Adobe’s Acrobat Reader and Flash Player,
QuickTime Player, and Microsoft Word Viewer (if you do not already have Word installed).
o If this sounds intimidating, please do not panic! Information about all of these tools and
links enabling you to install them are kept under the ‘Technical Support’ button on our
• Please enter the Wimba Classroom and run the Wimba Classroom Setup Wizard that appears.
• Please get speakers or a headset so that you can hear pre-recorded lectures, film soundtracks,
office hour discussions, etc.
• Please learn how to use Blackboard. For an orientation to Blackboard or for Blackboard help, go
Remember: This is an online course. Information technology or IT challenges
can and will come up. Be prepared to handle them.
Please be assured that if and when problems occur on the SDSU end, you will not
be penalized. However, when problems occur on your end, the story is different:
You are responsible for your computing needs. When problems occur on your
end, you must fix them. The instructor cannot provide IT support. IT problems
that you experience do not constitute an acceptable excuse for non-completion
REL S 101 which is an introduction to the academic study of the world’s major religious traditions. We
will explore diverse religious philosophies and practices to understand how they enrich humanity, and
shed light on the nature, meaning and struggles of human existence. Since this course does not seek to
affirm or deny the belief systems of any of these traditions, personal religious conviction or lack thereof
will neither benefit nor hinder one’s performance.
RELS 101 is one of the nine courses that you will take in General Education Foundations. Foundations
courses cultivate skills in reading, writing, research, communications, computation, information literacy,
and use of technology. They furthermore introduce you to basic concepts, theories and approaches in a
variety of disciplines in order to provide the intellectual breadth necessary to help you integrate the
more specialized knowledge gathered in your major area of study into a broader world picture.
This course is one of the four Foundations courses that you will take in the area of Humanities and Fine
Arts. Upon completion of this area of Foundations, you will be able to
1. Analyze written, visual, or performed texts in the Humanities and Fine Arts with sensitivity to
their diverse cultural contexts and historical settings.
2. Describe various aesthetic and other value systems and the ways they are communicated across
time and cultures.
3. Identify issues in the Humanities that have personal and global relevance.
4. Demonstrate the ability to approach complex problems and ask complex questions drawing
upon knowledge of the Humanities.
A Concise Introduction to World Religions by Willard Oxtoby and Alan Segal (editors):
Oxford University Press, Don Mills, Canada, 2007. Hereinafter referred to as “class text.”
Student Workbook: Oxtoby Version (available ONLY at Aztec).
I have selected two books that are informative and economical. They are available at
www.sdsubookstore.com Please take advantage of the SDSU Bookstore free shipping offer by
using coupon code "Summer10" on the payment process page. All orders are shipped by the
next business day. You can contact the SDSU Bookstore online ordering dept at 866-388-7378
1. Demonstrated completion of Workbook Learning Enhancement Exercises by answering
questions via Wimba Live classroom
2. Effective participation on Discussion Board on Blackboard.
3. Successful and timely completion of all quizzes and examinations.
• Discuss the role religion plays in culture and to improve multicultural
• Define and use specialist religion terminology appropriate to the level
• Discuss the basic history, philosophy, and practices of major religious
traditions and begin to engage in Comparative studies.
• Differentiate between confessional and academic studies of religion.
• Discuss Religion in the American context.
How will the course be conducted? Via Blackboard and the Wimba Classroom.
How will I access WIMBA? You will need to run the Wimba setup wizard available on Blackboard.
Please ensure that you run the wizard on any computer that you might use to access Live Classroom. If
not, you will NOT be able to attend Live Classroom.
Is there anything I can do to ensure things are set up correctly from the beginning? You can run the
wizard right now; this will allow us to troubleshoot in advance if you run into any problems with Live
Classroom. If all systems are up and running, you will be relaxed and ready to embark on the learning
To run the Live Classroom Setup Wizard
1. Go to the RELS 101 Course Blackboard site
2. Click on the “Live Classroom” (left side of menu)
3. You will find a room titled “Live Presentations of the RELS 101 Materials”
4. Click the blue upward facing arrow (below “enter”)
5. A pop-up window will appear asking “Is your computer ready?”
6. Click on the “Run Wizard” and follow the instructions.
How do I know where to look for an assignment, or notes, or quizzes? You will need
to familiarize yourself with the Blackboard functions. From Control Board, you will see self-explanatory
labels: such as Course Documents, Assignments, Discussion Boards, and Grade Book etc.
How can I communicate with the course Professor? Via WIMBA classroom, by email, either directly at
firstname.lastname@example.org or through Blackboard using the “Send Email”tool within the BB
communication folder. Your email subject line MUST show “RELS101” and your surname, with a very
short reference term to your email topic—failure to include RELS101 may result in your email being
rejected by my spam detectors. I will try to respond within 24 hours during weekdays, but it is your
responsibility to re-contact me if you do not hear back within that time. If the issue cannot be solved via
email, a telephone call or individual WIMBA session can be arranged.
How can I ensure that I will get course-related Email? Check and update your Email address at SDSU
Webportal (https://sunspot.sdsu.edu/portal/) as this address will be used automatically by Blackboard.
How will you know that I am NOT cheating? In many cases, quizzes etc. will be timed. As much as
possible, I will try to design assignments in order to minimize the possibility of cheating. Section 41301
of Title V of the California Code of Regulations defines academic misconduct as “cheating or plagiarism
in connection with an academic program at a campus.” Cheating includes copying others’ work during
an exam, falsifying data or records for an exercise, etc. Examples of plagiarism include copying other
students’ answers or, when working in collaborative groups, not stating answers in your own words
based on your own understanding. More information is available from the SDSU Center for Students
Rights and Responsibilities (http://scrr.sdsu.edu/index.html).
Does this mean that we cannot work in groups to complete the learning enhancement exercises in the
workbook? No; I encourage you to work in groups to discuss and find the answers. What will be
deemed as cheating is if you are not part of a group and borrow someone’s workbook to copy answers.
How will you conduct a learning module/classroom session? I will lecture and use PowerPoint slides to
facilitate active learning. That means you and I will be working together, rather than me just lecturing.
YOU are required to come to each session fully prepared to participate in polling questions quizzes etc.
This means you will have completed the assigned readings and workbook learning enhancement
exercises BEFORE each lesson. Since I will focus on the MAJOR religions of North America, I have not
scheduled any LIVE CLASSROOM for Chapter 10. Note too that for the Chapter on Indigenous Religions,
although I will focus on the material from the workbook, you are required to read the entire chapter in
the class text. This is to improve your reading and independent analytical skills as you will be asked
about this material in the final examination and quizzes.
Will you give us learning guides for the final and quizzes? Not directly. Those are built into each module
and your workbook. As you study each religion, you should use your workbook and ensure you find the
right answers to the questions therein.
The questions in your workbook are taken from the same bank that I will use for your quizzes and
exams. You may also use the Discussion Board feature on Blackboard to engage your peers in on-line
study sessions. If you wish to do so in specific groups only, I will be happy to set up such a forum if you
provide me with the names consenting participants.
How will you ensure that we are on schedule? Keeping on schedule is your
responsibility. The schedule is designed to allow you optimum convenience, and I
have strategically designed tests and quizzes to assist you in your learning goals. I
may send email reminders, but will not act as a kindergarten school teacher, rousting
and nagging you.
Students and teachers have obligations to each other. Successful teaching and learning depends to a
great degree on honoring these obligations.
Here’s what I expect from students: Since you have chosen to be part of this class, you
will enter every session prepared to and give your full attention there. You will come to
class, having done the required readings and preparation, and submit all required work on
time. You will treat everyone in the class, including the professor, with the respect due to
all human beings. (If someone in our class is treating you disrespectfully, you will alert me
immediately.) You acknowledge that previous academic preparation will affect your
performance. You acknowledge that your perception of effort, by itself, is not enough to
justify a distinguished grade. You will not make excuses for your failure to do what you
ought. You will accept the consequences of your actions. Given the nature of this course,
you will keep your personal faith beliefs to yourself and understand that the academic study of religion
means that we are only concerned with certain points of investigating the various religions we will
study, and NOT making value judgments.
Here is what students can expect from me: I will treat you with respect. I will prepare
and monitor every class with care. I will manage the class in a professional manner;
that may include educating you and or other students in appropriate behavior. I will
keep careful records of your on-line activity, performance and progress. I may allow
extensions or make-ups only for students with valid excuses that I have confirmed. I
will pursue to the fullest extent the university imposed penalty for plagiarism, cheating
and other violations of academic integrity. I will make myself available to your for
advising. I will maintain appropriate confidentiality concerning your performance. I will
support your efforts at learning. Your grade will reflect the quality of your work and
Components of Final Grade Assessment
WORKBOOK (5%): Your workbook is to assist you in self-assessment while reading the material in the
class text, and to assess your writing skills as required in General Education courses. At the end of each
workbook religion topic, there are several essay type questions. Starting from Judaism, you are
required to answer ONE of these questions from each religion topic. You will submit your answer to me
via email AFTER we finish the religion of focus, and before we go on to the next religion. I will ensure
that the dates for submission are noted in your syllabus or learning guides. You will also use the multiple
choice questions in your workbook as a learning guide and to prepare for quizzes/exams. I will read
your answers at random and give an overall grade at the end of the course for this component.
DISCUSSION BOARD PARTICIPATION (25%)
We will utilize this tool to engage in critical thinking and to expand upon issues
raised during our online classes and from your readings. The Discussion Board
allows you the opportunity to interact with your classmates and with me and to
discuss topics of interest. Do note that your input must be effective in order to
get the marks for this segment of the course. Do not ask a question just to be on
I may start some discussions myself. In such cases, you are required to post one
response of your own and to post one reply to a classmate’s response. Thus, you must respond twice to
each Discussion Board topic. You are effective if you make your posts in a timely way. This means that
you must make a post or respond to one during the week after we first encounter a new chapter or
topic. If, for example, we start discussing Buddhism on June 11, you will need to make your posts on the
Learning Discussion board topics by June 18 to receive credit. If I feel that your responses are not
original, I may disable the function that allows you to see what your peers have posted. You are still
required to respond, and since you will NOT see other postings, this will presume your truly personal
input. In some cases, I may put you in groups so that we may have the choice of various topics on a
Your 25% will be calculated thus: at the end of the summer session, I will review the input and award up
to 5 points for each of up to 10 discussion Board postings that you have made over the course of the
semester. The provision of 5 points for your posting will be based on the quality of your post. The
maximum points available for Discussion board participation are 50.
You will be assigned to a small group by Week 2 of the course. Each team will form a
collaborative learning community through which you can find camaraderie and support.
After the first week, all discussion board-type learning activities will occur within your
small group’s discussion board. Through your groups, you will be assured of more
fulfilling interaction than you might experience if only interacting with the class as a
There will be THREE tests, to be taken as noted in the schedule below. Together, these tests are worth
40% of your course mark. Each test will be worth 50 points. The tests will cover each section of the
course independently: they are not cumulative.
All test questions will come from lectures and readings in the textbook, the lectures, and from the same
question bank as the workbook. You MUST read the textbook in addition to answering the questions
and doing the supplementary readings in the workbook. Do note that I do not think my role is to
rehash everything that is in the class text. I explain or add where necessary, and respond to questions. If
you read something that you don’t understand and I don’t cover it in my lecture, please ensure you ask
me about it. Good questions via the Discussion board will get you points.
All tests will be completed via Blackboard. Instructions will be forwarded later.
There will be FIVE quizzes, each carrying a maximum of 20 points. You may not use your textbook or any
other materials, including your class notes to assist you in completing the on-line quizzes. There is a
running timer for each quiz to insure you do not use any outside material. I will drop the lowest of your
five quiz scores when calculating your final grade. You may want to make sure that you complete the
relevant multiple choice questions in your workbook before taking any quiz.
It is your responsibility to complete quizzes, exams, and other
assignments in a timely way, that is, before they are due. This policy
is intended to insure that you are working on each chapter
according to the syllabus schedule. All quizzes and exams will be
available on Blackboard for a specific time only. Once they have
been removed, they will NOT be made available to you again. DO
NOT WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE TO DO THE QUIZZES AND TESTS.
CRASHED TESTS: Tests sometimes ‘crash’ if the system is overloaded. This sometimes happens very
close to a deadline. If your test crashes, let me know right away through both an email to
email@example.com and a phone call to 619.594.3108. Remember, although I can reset
a crashed test for you, I do need ample notice to do so. If your test crashes between the close of
business and midnight, even with notification via phone and email, I may not be able to reset it in
time for you and you will receive an F (unless the problem was SDSU-based). To help yourself avoid
the crash hassle, take your test early—take it before noon if possible.
Furthermore, although I may ‘reset’ crashed tests for retaking, the decision to do so is at my
discretion. The circumstances in which a given test crashes will be taken into account as I decide on
the appropriate course of action.
To prevent crashes, do not adjust your browser or switch between programs in any way during a
quiz or test.
Missed tests and quizzes (make-ups): Because tests are taken online, make-ups will only be
permitted in the direst of unexpected and unanticipated emergencies (e.g., hospitalization,
extradition), provided that appropriate and legitimate documentation has been supplied. In other
words, take all of your tests when they are due. Since I will drop the lowest quiz score, there are
NO make-ups for missed quizzes.
Polling Questions during Live Online Classes
During almost every online class session, I will present polling questions. These polling questions
will be used in several different ways. Most often, I will use them to review lecture content on-the-
fly as well as allow for student input. Specifically, this means that I will build in questions that will
permit you and me to know if you are learning what I am teaching, and to allow you the
opportunity to enrich our active learning by your personal knowledge and experience. These
questions will also give you a good sense of the sorts of multiple choice questions that will appear
on the tests. Sometimes there will not be any right or wrong answers to such questions; your
answers, however, will help me gauge the overall perceptions of the class with regard to specific
issues of interest in the course. You will also have the opportunity to score discussion board points.
For every one correct answer, you will receive one point.
During the course of the semester, you will be able to see your grade by checking
the GRADEBOOK section on BLACKBOARD. Your final grade is determined on the
basis of accumulated points from quizzes, tests, discussion board and brief writing
exercises. This is an introductory course, so with industrious application of study
and effort, an A is not beyond reach. If you are taking the course for C/NC, do note
that the university considers a C- (C minus) as a NC or failing grade.
Please note that all scores in this course are converted to percentages and that
course weighting applies. This means that if you obtain 50 points in the Discussion
board component, you get the full 25%. The same amount of marks in the TEST
component, however, will translate differently. Since TESTS account for 40% of your
grade weighting, the percentage in terms of your overall grade score will be
calculated thus: × = 13.3%.
I will only issue an Authorized Incomplete (I) when a small portion of required coursework has not been
completed due to unforeseen, but fully justified reasons. You must complete the required work within
one calendar year immediately following the end of the term in which it was assigned. If this is not done,
you will receive an IC-Incomplete Charged Grade that will count as an F for GPA computation.
A grade of "WU" for "Withdrawal Unauthorized" (formerly "U") indicates that you did not officially
withdraw from the course, but failed to complete course requirements. For purposes of GPA
computation, this grade is equivalent to an "F". If you attend a portion of a course and then, after
receiving a failing average, stop attending without officially withdrawing, you will receive a final grade of
"F" rather than "WU".
Grade Queries: Grades are very carefully determined and checked prior to being entered into the Grade
Book feature on Blackboard. If you do find an error, or have a question, please feel free to ask about it.
It pleases me greatly to raise grades when warranted. On the flip side, it annoys me terribly when
students push for points when they are not warranted; this is disrespectful to me, your fellow students
and yourself—so please avoid it. Such a request will bring your entire test and, in some cases, your
entire record into account and may result in lower as well as higher grades. Queries MUST be done
within two days of the grade posting.
A total of 300 points is possible. You can keep track and
determine your grade using these tables.
Total Points Course Weight Your Mark
Workbook 20 10%
(June 8) 20
Quiz 2 20
Quiz 3 20 (your lowest quiz score
(June 23) will be dropped 25%
Quiz 4 20
Quiz 5 20
(June 2) 50
(June 17) 50 40%
(July 7) 50
Board/ 50 25%
Total 300 100%
Minimum %/=Letter Grade Minimum %=Letter Grade
94 A 74 C
90 A- 70 C-
85 B+ 65 D+
82 B 60 D
79 B- 55 D-
Date Topic Reading/ Learning Specific Student Learning Outcomes
5/27 Introduction/Overview Oxtoby: Chapters I, 1. Discuss syllabus and related
6/1 of Study Content/ 11. administrative material
Nature of Religion Workbook: 2. Explain importance of religion
Pp 1-6. 3. Define religion
4. Defining common terms used in the study
5. Explain the different approaches to the
study of religion.
6/2 Indigenous Religions 1. Define indigenous religion
2. Discuss Western approaches to
3. Provide reason for non-coverage of non-
American indigenous traditions
4. Describe four major indigenous traditions
5. Discuss some terminology of indigenous
6/2 TEST 1
6/3 Judaism Oxtoby: Ch. 2 6. Defining Judaism
6/7 7. Describe Origins/Social Setting of Biblical
8. Describe Composition of “Tanakh’
9. Explain why we should not use “Old
Testament” as a term.
10. Describe Documentary Hypothesis.
6/8 Workbook: 31-7 11. Describe evolution of Judaism and its
12. Describe the evolution from Temple to
13. Discuss some Jewish ritual
By midnight on 6/8, 14. Discuss the Holocaust/Israel/Zionism
you must submit 15. Discuss Judaism in America
the essay answer 16. Compare some themes in
to your workbook Judaism/Christianity
question on page
6/8 Quiz 1 : Subject: Judaism
Course Schedule 12
Date Topic Reading/ Learning Specific Student Learning Outcomes
6/9 Oxtoby: Ch. 3 17. Explain the Social Setting to which Jesus
6/10 came. Discuss who is a Christian or what
Christianity Workbook: Christianity is.
39-46 18. Discuss historical versus creedal Jesus
19. Describe compilation of scripture
20. Discuss Paul and development of the
21. Discuss Constantine’s Conversion,
Christianity 22. Discuss Development of creeds/classical
and sectarian developments and
23. Discuss medieval Christian scholasticism/
6/14 By midnight, you 24. Discuss Protestantism, Modern
must submit your movements
essay type answer 25. Discuss Christianity in the US:
to any question on Fundamentalism, Evangelical Christianity,
p. 46 of your Politics and Religion
6/14 Quiz 2: Subject: Christianity
6/15 Islam Oxtoby: Ch. 4 1. Describe social setting to which Islam
6/16 Workbook: 47-54 came
2. Discuss etymology of “Islam” and
3. Explain main sources of Islam
4. Explain main beliefs of Islam
5. Discuss compilation of Qur’an
6. Discuss the caliphate.
Midnight on 6/20 7. Describe sectarian movements
deadline for 8. Discuss Civil war in early Islam
submission of 9. Discuss modern developments, crises,
essay type answer: Israel, Afghanistan, Iraq
10. Discuss Muslims in America
Workbook, p. 54.
6/17 Test 2
Course Schedule 13
Date Topic Reading/ Learning Specific Student Learning Outcomes
6/21 Hinduism Oxtoby, Ch. 5 1. Discuss the problematic issues of
Workbook: 57-67 defining Hinduism
6/22 2. Discuss origins, development of
3. Describe the stages of life
4. Describe the four goals
5. Describe the caste system
6. Discuss aspects of advaita philosophy
7. Discuss scriptures, different types
8. Describe different ways to liberation
9. Explain Moksha, Samsara, Dharma,
other specific terms
10. Discuss Hindus in diaspora
11. Discuss Hinduism as foundation of other
Midnight deadline 12. Sanskrit and its influence on western
for submission of languages
essay type answer: 13. Discuss Hinduism and modernity,
Workbook, p. 67. Hinduism in modern politics
6/23 Quiz 3
6/24 Sikhism Oxtoby, Ch. 6 1. Discuss the social setting in which
Workbook: 69-78 Sikhism arose.
Midnight 6/27: 2. Describe the early ideas of founder
deadline for 3. Discuss development of Sikhism
4. Discuss its some of its teachings vis a vis
Hinduism and Islam
essay type answer: 5. Discuss Sikhism in the USA
Workbook, p. 78.
6/28 Jainism Chapter 7, Oxtoby 6. Discuss basic ideas of Jainism
Workbook: 78-87 7. Name latest Jina and
understand/memorize terms at end of
Midnight deadline chapter 7, Oxtoby
8. Understand some comparative aspects
for submission of
of Jainism, Hinduism, Sikhism
essay type answer: 9. Discuss Jain influence on the Satyagraha
Workbook, p. 87 of Mahatma Gandhi
6/28 Quiz 4: Subject: Sikhism and Jainism
6/29 Buddhism Oxtoby: Ch. 8 10. Discuss the early life of the Buddha
Workbook: 11. Describe his path to “awakening” and
89-100 early history of Buddhism
12. Explain different sectarian movements
13. Describe basic ideas of Buddhism
for submission of 14. Provide overview of Buddhism in
essay type answer: America, famous American Buddhists
Workbook, p. 100 15. Discuss the Dalai Lama
6/30 Chinese Religions Oxtoby: Ch 9,10 16. Discuss essential philosophical concepts
Course Schedule 14
Date Topic Reading/ Learning Specific Student Learning Outcomes
Workbook: 101-13 of these religions.
Midnight deadline 17. Discuss Falun Gong.
on 7/5 for
essay type answer,
Workbook, p. 113
6/30 QUIZ 5: subject: Chinese Religions
7/5 Independence Day No class
7/6 Wrap up. From on-line 1. Discuss definitions of cult versus religion
sources /possible 2. Examine ideas of Latter Day Saints,
video Rastafari, and other Religious
Latter Day Movements.
3. Discuss proliferation of religious
Religious Movements 4. Discuss idea of spirituality vs. institutional
in America religion.
5. Discuss reification, institution, and
6. Recap major issues course
7/7 Test 3