Skip to main content

Online Learning

Course Number SCM 171
Course Title:  Fundamentals of Biology
Term:  Fall 2014


Deacon Dr. Donald W. Sparling



This course is an introduction to the biological sciences. Topics include elements of biochemistry, cell structure and function, reproduction, genetics, evolutionary theory, plant and animal diversity, elements of physiology, and a brief examination of ecology.  


  • Gain knowledge about the basics of living organisms, their composition, genetics, development and interactions with other living organisms.
  • Attain a clearer understanding of humans as biological organisms and as creatures of the Almighty
  • Promote critical thinking in the biological sciences


Each week Podcasts will be available and students are expected to either listen to them or read them.

Week 1.  Introduction and the Chemistry of Life

Objective: Become acquainted with basic biochemistry as it pertains to the rest of the course.


  1. Read Mader Chapters 1 and 2; Pages 21-552.
  2. No Quiz this week
  3. Discussion Question:  Many students think chemistry is a difficult subject.  Do you agree or disagree with this statement?  How come?

Week 2. The Cell

Objective:  Learn the various parts and functions of the cell.


  1. Read Mader Chapters 3 and 4; Pages 56-94
  2. Take Quiz #1 over weeks 1 and 2
  3. Discussion Question:  What are the functions of proteins in cells?

Week 3.  Sources and Nature of Energy

Objective:  Be able to identify the path of energy conversion from the foods we eat to how the energy is packaged by cells to how we use this energy


  1. Read Mader Chapters 5 and 6: Pages 95-124
  2. No quiz this week
  3. Discussion Question:  What do carbohydrates do in cells?

Week 4.  Cell Division

Objective: Be able to distinguish mitosis from meiosis and the principal stages of each form of cell division.


  1. Read Mader Chapters 8 and 9; Pages 125-160
  2. Take the Quiz for weeks 3 and 4
  3. Discussion Question:  Why is meiosis so important to the perpetuation of life?

Week 5.  Genetics, DNA and Inheritance

Objective:  Begin to understand the mechanisms of genetic inheritance


  1. Read Mader Chapters 10 and 11, Pages 126-206.
  2. No Quiz
  3. Discussion Question:  Gregor Mendel was a Catholic monk.  What do you know about the role of the Catholic Church and Catholics in the development of science?

Week 6.  Genetics, continued

Objective:  Genetics is sometimes a difficult but very important topic in biology.  This week we will continue with our discussion of inheritance and begin to understand some of the problems associated with inheritance.


  1. Read Mader Chapter 13
  2. Quiz over weeks 5 and 6
  3. Extra Credit:  (10 points)  Solve the problems associated with the attached file
  4. Discussion Question:  Suppose you were a genetic counselor and a mother and dad came in with a problem – each of them carried the recessive gene for cystic fibrosis, a serious disease that when a child has two of the recessive genes they will have the disease.  (Note: A couple of decades ago CF would result in non- curable, increasing congestion of the lungs eventually leading to death by the time the child was in his/her early 20s. ).  What advice would you give them?

Week 7.  Evolution

Objective:  Learn the elements of the theory of evolution and the Catholic Church’s position on the teaching of evolution. 


  1. Read Mader Chapter 14 through 16, pages 236-238
  2. Read the attached encyclical from St. Pope John Paul II.
  3. No Quiz
  4. Discussion Question:  Based on St. John Paul II’s encyclical, is it alright for Catholics to believe that humans developed through a process of evolution rather than a direct and immediate creation by God?  Does this surprise you?

Week 8.  Diversity of Life – Microbes and Plants

Objective: Become acquainted with simple life forms including single-celled organisms and plants.  Begin to understand the concept of systematics.


  1. Read Mader Chapters 17 and 18; Pages 289-336
  2. Take the Quiz over weeks 7 and 8
  3. Answer the midterm survey of the course found on the right.
  4. No discussion question this week but feel free to discuss anything that is relevant to the course if you wish.

Week 9.  Animal Diversity

Objective:  Continue our exploration of the diversity of life by encountering the Animal Kingdom.


  1. Read Mader Chapter 19, pages 337-371
  2. No Quiz this week
  3. Discussion Question.  Do you believe that humans (Homo sapiens) are a part of the animal kingdom or are we special creations of God? Or – is there a need to make a distinction?

Week 10.  Plant Structure and Function

Objective:  Take a more detailed look at plant life and how plants make a living


  1. Read Mader Chapters 20 and 21; Pages 372-413.
  2. Take the quiz over weeks 9 and 10
  3. Discussion Question:  Could any type of animal life as we know it exist without plants?

Week 11.  Animals – Organization and Physiology

Objective:  Take a more detailed look at animals and how they function


  1. Read Mader Chapters 22 and 23; Pages 414-449
  2. No Quiz this week
  3. Discussion Question:  Consistent with the discussion question in week 10, how would plant life be affected if there were no animals?

Week 12.  Maintenance and Nutrition

Objective: This week we get into biological mechanisms and physiology.  How does the animal (read : human) body work?


  1. Read Mader Chapters 24 and 25; Pages 450-495
  2. Take Quiz over weeks 11 and 12
  3. No discussion question this week unless you have something you’d like to say

Week 13.  Disease and Homeostasis

Objectives:  Develop an understanding of homeostasis within the body and some of the mechanisms that maintain homeostasis.  Understand what happens when the body goes out of homeostasis and some of the causes for that.


  1. Read Mader Chapters 26 and 27; Pages 496-512
  2. No quiz

3.  Discussion Question.  One of the great questions of those who have or are seeking faith is why does God allow suffering.  What are your thoughts on why God allows disease?

Week 14.  Nervous System, Reproduction and Development

Objective:  Really these are two loosely related topics.  So one objective is to become acquainted with the nervous system from the brain to the peripheral nerves.  A second objective is to study human reproduction and fetal development.


  1. Read Mader Chapters 28 and 29; Pages 536-579.
  2. Read the Encyclical posted on the right.
  3. Take the quiz over weeks 13 and 14
  4. Discussion Question:  Why does the Catholic Church insist that human life begins at conception?

Week 15  Basics of Ecology

Objective.  Begin to understand how animals, plants, and the non-living elements of the world (air, water, land, etc.) interact with each other.  Take the final exam


  1. Read Mader Chapters 30 and 31; Pages 580-624
  2. Take the final exam (there will be questions from these chapters on the exam)
  3. No Quiz
  4. No discussion question. 


  • Mader, SS and Windelspecht M. 2015.  Essentials of Biology.  McGraw-Hill.  ISBN 978–0–07–802422–1. $64.08 as ebook from
  • A couple of Catholic Encyclicals    
  • Miscellaneous readings for extra credit


  1. Participation in discussion questions. 120 points (Contribute something meaningful to each week’s discussion). 
  2. Seven (7) Bi-weekly quizzes  @ 30 points 210 points
  3. Final Exam 100 points

Total Points 430 points

Class participation will consist of contributions to the Class Dialogs section of the course website. All students were expected to contribute to the running discussions on that site and participation will be evaluated using the class participation guidelines under GRADING RUBRICS on the course website.

There will be 7 quizzes spaced every other week. These quizzes will include multiple choice, true or false, and subjective questions (short answer) to determine if the details of biology are being conveyed.  A final, comprehensive exam will be given in the 15th week.  Because there is no way to determine if books are open or closed during quizzes and exams all will be consider to be open book.  Every student is expected to do their own work and evidence of plagiarism will result in a zero for that quiz or test for all involved.   Students will have 7 days to complete a given quiz.  All quizzes will be open for 10 days but late points of three points per day will be assigned for late turn ins. The final exam must be completed by the end of the 15th week. 

Course weeks start on 12:01 AM Central Time the Monday of a given week and stretch until 11:59 of the following Sunday. 

Students who have difficulty with research and composition are encouraged to pursue assistance with the Online Writing Lab (available at


A 94-100; A- 90-93; B+ 87-89; B 84-86; B- 80-83; C+ 77-79; C 74-76; C- 70-73 60-69; F 59 and below


Holy Apostles College & Seminary is committed to the goal of achieving equal educational opportunities and full participation in higher education for persons with disabilities who qualify for admission to the College. Students enrolled in online courses who have documented disabilities requiring special accommodations should contact Bob Mish, the Director of Online Student Affairs, at or 860-632-3015. In all cases, reasonable accommodations will be made to ensure that all students with disabilities have access to course materials in a mode in which they can receive them. Students who have technological limitations (e.g., slow Internet connection speeds in convents) are asked to notify their instructors the first week of class for alternative means of delivery.


Students at Holy Apostles College & Seminary are expected to practice academic honesty.

Avoiding Plagiarism

In its broadest sense, plagiarism is using someone else's work or ideas, presented or claimed as your own. At this stage in your academic career, you should be fully conscious of what it means to plagiarize. This is an inherently unethical activity because it entails the uncredited use of someone else's expression of ideas for another's personal advancement; that is, it entails the use of a person merely as a means to another person’s ends.


  • Should identify the title, author, page number/webpage address, and publication date of works when directly quoting small portions of texts, articles, interviews, or websites.
  • Students should not copy more than two paragraphs from any source as a major component of papers or projects.
  • Should appropriately identify the source of information when paraphrasing (restating) ideas from texts, interviews, articles, or websites.
  • Should follow the Holy Apostles College & Seminary Stylesheet (available on the Online Writing Lab’s website at

Consequences of Academic Dishonesty:

Because of the nature of this class, academic dishonesty is taken very seriously. Students participating in academic dishonesty may be removed from the course and from the program.


Even though you are not required to be logged in at any precise time or day, you are expected to login several times during each week. Because this class is being taught entirely in a technology-mediated forum, it is important to actively participate each week in the course. In a traditional classroom setting for a 3-credit course, students would be required, per the federal standards, to be in class three 50-minute sessions (or 2.5 hours a week) and prepare for class discussions six 50-minute sessions (or 5 hours) a week. Expect to devote at least nine 50-minute sessions (or 7.5 quality hours) a week to this course. A failure on the student’s part to actively participate in the life of the course may result in a reduction of the final grade.


An Incomplete is a temporary grade assigned at the discretion of the faculty member. It is typically allowed in situations in which the student has satisfactorily completed major components of the course and has the ability to finish the remaining work without re-enrolling, but has encountered extenuating circumstances, such as illness, that prevent his or her doing so prior to the last day of class.

To request an incomplete, distance-learning students must first download a copy of the Incomplete Request Form. This document is located within the Shared folder of the Files tab in Populi. Secondly, students must fill in any necessary information directly within the PDF document. Lastly, students must send their form to their professor via email for approval. “Approval” should be understood as the professor responding to the student’s email in favor of granting the “Incomplete” status of the student.

Students receiving an Incomplete must submit the missing course work by the end of the sixth week following the semester in which they were enrolled. An incomplete grade (I) automatically turns into the grade of “F” if the course work is not completed.

Students who have completed little or no work are ineligible for an incomplete and must receive the grade that they have earned. Students who feel they are in danger of failing the course due to an inability to complete course assignments should withdraw from the course.

A “W” (Withdrawal) will appear on the student’s permanent record for any course dropped after the end of the first week of a semester to the end of the third week. A “WF” (Withdrawal/Fail) will appear on the student’s permanent record for any course dropped after the end of the third week of a semester and on or before the Friday before the last week of the semester.


Deacon Dr. Donald W. Sparling (titles sometimes are confusing, I have a Ph.D. in biology and I am an ordained deacon in the Catholic Church – so is it Dr. Deacon? Deacon Dr.? Reverend Doctor? Don works fine if you’re comfortable with it).

Current professional address: Cooperative Wildlife Research Laboratory, MC6504, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL. 62901.

(860) 632-3010