• Course Introduction

      • Time: 49 hours
      • Free Certificate
      This course studies world regions by comparing their physical and cultural landscapes. Who lives in the region? What are their lives like? What do they do for a living? It looks at physical factors like location, climate, and terrain, and human factors like traditions, ethnicity, language, religion, economics, and politics. Ultimately, we aspire to understand each region's unique natural and cultural characteristics.

      As we progress through the course, we will discuss each major world region in detail, emphasizing their cultural and societal structures. We will place them within a global framework, and look at how we define and redefine our map of the world. We will study global issues like international conflict, cooperation, environmental degradation, population growth, and globalization.

      First, read the course syllabus. Then, enroll in the course by clicking "Enroll me in this course". Click Unit 1 to read its introduction and learning outcomes. You will then see the learning materials and instructions on how to use them.

    • Unit 1: Introduction to Geography

      Geography comes from the Greek word geo (earth) and graph (to write). It examines the physical and human worlds and the spatial relationships between them. Geographers look at how the earth is changing due to the way humans interact with the environment. This unit will examine the scientific foundations of geography, and explore the relationships between places, human populations and cultures, and globalization.

      Completing this unit should take you approximately 8 hours.

    • Unit 2: Europe

      Understanding the concept of Europe, from the the Roman Empire through the European Union (EU), is essential to understanding geography. The affects of European colonialism are still felt today, and the continent still struggles with cultural forces that unite and divide it. The rural-to-urban shift prompted by the Industrial Revolution first arose in Europe and continues to affect developing countries.

      This unit begins by exploring of the physical characteristics and natural resources of Europe. Then, it looks at Europe's division until the 20th century, its efforts toward unification, and how the European Union has increased the rate of globalization. Europe is large and rich in history – let's spend some time exploring it.

      Completing this unit should take you approximately 4 hours.

    • Unit 3: Russia

      Russia is the largest country in the world in terms of physical area, and is almost twice the size of the United States. A coast-to-coast train journey from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok would take an entire week of travel, and you would travel through eight time zones! Russia extends from its European core across the Ural Mountains into Siberia, further to the Pacific Ocean in the east. Its extensive landscapes include major metropolitan areas like Moscow, vast territories in the Arctic north, the immense forests of Siberia, massive grain farms, and mountain communities in the Caucasus. Russia is rich natural resources, and has a slowly declining population with extremes of wealth and poverty.

      In this unit, we will explore Russia's physical characteristics, its cultural diversity, and its environmental challenges. We will look at the historical development patterns of Russia and its economy, starting with its Revolution in the early 1900s. Next, we will examine collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the political and economic realities of post-Soviet Russia. Finally, we will end the unit by exploring specific regions within Russia.

      Completing this unit should take you approximately 2 hours.

    • Unit 4: North America

      We define North America as the United States and Canada, both of which similar physical characteristics and a history of colonialism. These two countries make up more than 13 percent of the world's total landmass. North America is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the east, the Pacific Ocean on the west, and the Arctic Ocean to the north. North America is highly urbanized: approximately 80 percent of the population lives in cities. Most of North America's diverse population consists of immigrants or descendants of immigrants. The United States is the world's largest economy, and both Canada and the United States enjoy relatively high standards of living.

      We begin this unit by exploring of the physical characteristics of North America, paying particular attention to its physiographic regions. Next, we explore the influence of European colonialism. Then, we take a close look at immigration patterns, urban growth, economic development, the globalization of the "American Dream", shifts in demographics, and the distribution of religious affiliations.

      Completing this unit should take you approximately 4 hours.

    • Unit 5: Middle America

      Middle America is the geographic realm between the United States and the South America. It consists of three main regions: the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America. The Caribbean, which is the most culturally diverse of the three regions, consists of more than 7,000 islands that stretch from the Bahamas to Barbados.

      The four largest islands of the Caribbean are the Greater Antilles: Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico. Hispaniola is made up of two halves: Haiti in the west and the Dominican Republic in the east. The smaller islands, extending all the way to South America, make up the Lesser Antilles. Trinidad is farthest south, just off the coast of Venezuela. The Bahamas are closest to the mainland United States.

      Central America refers to the seven states south of Mexico: Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. The Pacific Ocean borders Central America to the west, and the Caribbean Sea to the east. While most of these countries have a Caribbean and a Pacific coastline, Belize has only a Caribbean coast and El Salvador has only a Pacific coast.

      In this unit, we will begin with the exploration of the physical characteristics of Middle America. We will distinguish between the Mayan and Aztec Empires, and identify the effects of European colonialism, particularly the way that Spanish colonizers influenced urban development. We will also explore the physical and cultural characteristics of each region within Middle America. Finally, we will look at regional climatology, and focus on the development and movement of tropical cyclones.

      Completing this unit should take you approximately 4 hours.

    • Unit 6: South America

      The continent of South America has diverse physical landscapes, from the Andes mountains to the tropical forests of the Amazon basin. It has an abundance of precious metals and fossil fuels in Venezuela and Columbia, while the Amazon basin is a source of lumber and, more recently, some of the largest iron-ore mines in the world. The massive plains of Brazil and the rich soils of the Pampas allow for enormous agricultural operations. Even the inhospitable Atacama region in northern Chile holds some of the world's largest copper reserves. The wide variety of climate zones allows for a diverse ecosystem, and the extremes of physical geography have created both barriers and opportunities for those who live there.

      We begin this unit by exploring the diverse physical characteristics of South America. We will discover how South America's colonial legacy shaped its early cultural landscape, and how European colonialism dominated and divided the continent. Then, we will take a look at South America's unique cultural regions, and they influence globalization and trade.

      Completing this unit should take you approximately 3 hours.

    • Unit 7: Sub-Saharan Africa

      Sub-Saharan Africa includes the countries south of the Sahara Desert, and many of the countries in the African Transition Zone. This area is further broken down into the regions of Central, East, West, and Southern Africa. The Horn of Africa is at the eastern end of the African Transition Zone, which we include in the region of East Africa. Maps vary in terms of which countries are included in each region, but this geographic breakdown will help us identify the locations and characteristics of the countries in this region. Madagascar is a large island off the southeastern coast of Africa, and is usually not included with the other regions since its geographic qualities and biodiversity are very different from the mainland.

      We will begin our look at Sub-Saharan Africa with an analysis of its physical characteristics. We will then see which kingdoms and empires shaped its culture and people, and review look at how colonialism affected the region. As our journey through the regions of the world has shown, we cannot escape the cultural, political, and economic impact of European colonialism, no matter where we go.

      Completing this unit should take you approximately 5 hours.

    • Unit 8: North Africa and Southwest Asia

      The area of North Africa and Southwest Asia is vast, but its three regions of North Africa, Southwest Asia, and the Turkestan region of Central Asia share many traits. The countries in the North African region include those bordering the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, from Morocco to Sudan. It borders the Atlantic Ocean, the Sahara Desert, and the African Transition Zone. Egypt has territory in both Africa and Asia by way of the Sinai Peninsula. The region of Southwest Asia includes Turkey, Iran, the Middle East, and the Arabian Peninsula. The land on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea is frequently referred to as the Levant, and is often considered to be part of the Middle East. Central Asia, also referred to as Turkestan, includes the "-stan" countries from Kazakhstan to Afghanistan. The suffix "-stan" means "land of". Afghanistan is the only country of Central Asia that was not officially a part of the former Soviet Union.

      We begin this unit by looking at the three physical and cultural traits the countries of the realm have in common: climate, natural resources, and Islam. We will also look at the availability and control of fresh water, which is one of the cornerstones of the region. We will then analyze the differences and similarities between the three most prevalent monotheistic religions in the region. Finally, we will study the at major conflicts in the region throughout history.

      Completing this unit should take you approximately 5 hours.

    • Unit 9: South Asia

      South Asia was the birthplace of two of the world's great religions: Hinduism and Buddhism. Today, South Asia also includes a large Muslim population, and many followers of other religions. While Pakistan and Iran are both Islamic republics, each represents a significant branch of that faith; Iran is predominantly Shia, and Pakistan is mostly Sunni. In the east, Bangladesh and India share a border with Myanmar. Bangladesh is mainly a Muslim country, while most Indians are Hindu. Most people in Myanmar are Buddhist. Sikhism is a major religion in the Punjab region on India's northern border with Pakistan.

      In this unit, we explore and analyze the diverse physical, cultural, political, and economic characteristics of South Asia. First, we will look at the physical geography of the region, paying special attention to its climate, and the Indian monsoon in particular. Then, we will explore the region's population growth. Balancing natural capital and population growth remains a major issue in the region. South Asia is highly populated, with about 1.5 billion people across a wide range of ethnic and cultural groups. We will close out this unit by analyzing its globalizing forces, and then taking an in-depth look at the countries in the region.

      Completing this unit should take you approximately 4 hours.

    • Unit 10: East Asia

      East Asia is home to one fifth of the entire world population. China is the largest country in the region, and is bordered by Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, and Japan. East Asia's location on the Pacific Rim has given it easy access to the global economy. Manufacturing industry has fueled the high-tech engines of the Pacific Rim economies, which have taken advantage of the massive labor pool of the Chinese heartland.

      The island of Taiwan, off the eastern coast of China, has an independent government that has been separated from mainland China since the end of the second World War. Hong Kong, a former British possession with one of the best ports in Asia, is on the southern coast of China. The former Portuguese colony of Macau, which has also been returned to Chinese control, is just west of Hong Kong. The autonomous region of Tibet, referred to by its Chinese name Xizang, is in western China. Tibet has been controlled by China since 1949, shortly after the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was declared a country.

      In this unit, we will first study the wonderfully diverse physical geography of East Asia. East Asia is surrounded by a series of mountain ranges in the west, Mongolia and Russia to the north, and Southeast Asia to the south. The Himalayan Mountains are among the highest mountain ranges in the world, and Mt. Everest is the planet's tallest peak at over 29,000 feet. These high ranges create a rain-shadow effect that dominates western China. Next, we will analyze the impact of colonialism in China, and identify how some of its regions were controlled by colonial interests. We will also explore the physical, political, economic, and cultural characteristics of China, including its population dynamics and the "One Child Only" policy. We will end the unit by looking at the physical and cultural characteristics of Japan, North Korea, and South Korea.

      Completing this unit should take you approximately 4 hours.

    • Unit 11: Southeast Asia

      Southeast Asia is the region between China, India, Australia, and the Pacific Ocean. It is a region of peninsulas and islands, and the rural country of Laos is its only landlocked country. The physical geography of Southeast Asia includes beaches, bays, inlets, and gulfs, and thousands of islands. The island of New Guinea has hundreds of local groups with their own languages and traditions. Indonesians, Malays, and Filipinos have many subgroups with their own heritage. The many islands of Indonesia and the Philippines create the opportunity for diversity to thrive in spite of globalization.

      Political borders in Southeast Asia were created by natural features, traditional tribal distinctions, colonial claims, and political agreements. Notably, Indonesia is the fourth-most populous country in the world. We begin this unit by exploring the physical geography of Southeast Asia. Then, we will take a look at the effects of colonialism on the region, and close out by reviewing the many ethnic groups that live within it.

      Completing this unit should take you approximately 2 hours.

    • Unit 12: Australia and New Zealand

      Australia and New Zealand have flora and fauna found nowhere else on Earth. Australia is an island, a country, and a continent – the smallest and only "Island Continent". Australia consists of a large mainland and the island of Tasmania to the south. New Zealand has two main islands that are separated from Australia's southeastern region by the Tasman Sea. The Indian Ocean surrounds Australia's western and southern coasts. Indonesia and Papua New Guinea lie to the north, separated by the Timor Sea and the Arafura Sea.

      The Gulf of Carpentaria extends to the north along Australia's eastern coast, almost reaching Papua New Guinea. The Great Barrier Reef runs for more than 1,600 miles off the continent's northeastern shores, with the Coral Sea, which separates the Great Barrier Reef from the South Pacific. The southern side of Australia is the Great Australian Bight, and the island of Tasmania. We begin this unit by looking at the region's physical geography, and the effects of colonialism on the environment and the region's Aboriginal peoples. Then, we will explore the region's physical, cultural, political, and economic characteristics.

      Completing this unit should take you approximately 1 hour.

    • Unit 13: The Pacific and Antarctica

      Almost all of Antarctica rests south of the Antarctic Circle. The closest continent to Antarctica is South America. Many countries have laid claim to sections of Antarctica, but the continent lacks industrial development. In the early 20th century, Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, Great Britain, New Zealand, and Norway claimed parts of Antarctica. In 1961, these nations and others signed the Antarctic Treaty, which put aside territorial claims in the interests of international cooperation in scientific research. In 1991, 24 nations approved an addition to the treaty that banned oil and other mineral exploration for 50 years.

      Hundreds of islands are surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and make up the largest geographic area in the world. There has been little industrial development in the South Pacific. Most of the islands in the South Pacific were claimed or colonized by the imperial powers of Europe, Japan, or the United States. Both areas are considered peripheral to the overall global economy. Tourism is the major activity in the South Pacific, and research is the major activity in Antarctica. Both areas have opportunities for greater economic development in the future. Both the Pacific realm and Antarctica are impacted by climate change. Rising temperatures melt the polar caps, which in turn raise sea levels. Changes in precipitation patterns seriously affect the biodiversity of tropical islands in the Pacific, and changes in temperature affect agricultural activity and tourism.

      We begin this unit by exploring the physical and cultural characteristics of the three groups of islands of the South Pacific: Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. Then, we will analyze the geographic characteristics (physical, cultural, and political) of specific islands within these three groups. Then, we will take a look at the Southern Ocean and Antarctica, paying special attention to environmental concerns such as climate change and ozone depletion.

      Completing this unit should take you approximately 3 hours.

    • Study Guide

      This study guide will help you get ready for the final exam. It discusses the key topics in each unit, walk through the learning outcomes, and list important vocabulary terms. It is not meant to replace the course materials!

    • Course Feedback Survey

      Please take a few minutes to give us feedback about this course. We appreciate your feedback, whether you completed the whole course or even just a few resources. Your feedback will help us make our courses better, and we use your feedback each time we make updates to our courses.

      If you come across any urgent problems, email contact@saylor.org or post in our discussion forum.

    • Certificate Final Exam

      Take this exam if you want to earn a free Course Completion Certificate.

      To receive a free Course Completion Certificate, you will need to earn a grade of 70% or higher on this final exam. Your grade for the exam will be calculated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam on your first try, you can take it again as many times as you want, with a 7-day waiting period between each attempt.

      Once you pass this final exam, you will be awarded a free Course Completion Certificate.

    • Saylor Direct Credit

      Take this exam if you want to earn college credit for this course. This course is eligible for college credit through Saylor Academy's Saylor Direct Credit Program.

      There is a new version of this course as of June 2023.

      The current Saylor Direct Credit Final Exam for this course can be found in the updated version, here: GEOG101: World Regional Geography.

      Please enroll in the new version of the course to access the exam.