• Course Introduction

        • Time: 45 hours
        • Free Certificate
        In this course, we explore the physical and human landscapes of the world by dividing them into ten regions. We explore physical characteristics, such as location, climate, terrain, and natural hazards, and human characteristics, such as culture, ethnicity, language, economics, and politics.

        Our goal is to begin understanding each region's physical and human attributes from a spatial perspective and place them within a global framework. We will use maps to locate places and features within regions to help us understand global issues, such as international conflict, cooperation, environmental degradation, population growth, and globalization.

        We will respond to the following questions, among many others.

        • How does a regional approach to studying the world help us understand it?
        • What tools and methods do geographers use to study the world?
        • Who lives in each region?
        • What languages do they speak there, and why?
        • What explains the locations of their cities?
        • How does geography help explain conflicts in some regions?
        • Why do so many earthquakes occur in some places?
        • Why does the landscape look different from region to region?

        Keep in mind that this course is designed to look at the world from a geographical perspective. We only touch on many aspects of local and regional history and political situations that are more appropriate as topics for another type of course.

        In addition, the world is constantly changing. Inevitably, the issues we frame as current will become part of history. Of course, it is impossible to thoroughly explore the world in one course. One of our goals is to help you learn how to ask informed questions you can put into a world regional geography framework. We hope to provide a spatial perspective you can use to seek data and information. We challenge you to explore on your own. Now, let's get started on our journey around the world, region by region.
      • Course Syllabus

        First, read the course syllabus. Then, enroll in the course by clicking "Enroll me". 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 words geo (Earth) and graphia (to write). It examines the physical features of the Earth, its atmosphere, the human landscape, and the spatial relationships between them. Geographers seek to identify, explain, and predict human and physical patterns across space to understand how the spaces in between are connected. In this unit, we introduce the discipline of geography and the importance of the spatial perspective. We investigate the different types of locations and regions, the use of maps, and the role of technology. We also introduce the components of physical and human geography that we will examine across the world's regions.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 3 hours.

      • Unit 2: Europe

        Let's begin our study of the world's regions in Europe. While humans did not originate in Europe, and we do not consider it the "cradle of civilization", this region has profoundly affected the world's other regions, primarily due to colonization. Europe's geography has been an essential component of its economic history. Its geography influenced the movement of its people, and its natural resources facilitated its economic development during the Agrarian and Industrial Revolutions.

        However, Europe's socioeconomic success has contributed to the challenges it now faces. The influx of immigrants from places it once colonized has led to a rise in nationalism. Globalization has also contributed to forces that divide rather than unify many Europeans. In this unit, we also investigate themes we introduced in Unit 1 as part of the European context.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 3 hours.

      • Unit 3: Russia

        Russia is the largest country in the world in terms of physical area. It is nearly twice the size of the United States. Russia's extensive landscapes include major metropolitan areas such as Moscow, vast territories in the Arctic north, the immense forests of Siberia, the deepest lake in the world, massive grain farms, volcanoes on the Kamchatka Peninsula, and mountain communities in the Caucasus.

        Russia is rich in natural resources, but its population is slowly declining and sees extremes of wealth and poverty. Russia recently invaded Ukraine to expand its territory, creating a war that is draining its resources and prompting other countries to boycott Russian goods. Russia is becoming increasingly isolated.

        This unit explores Russia's physical characteristics, cultural diversity, and environmental challenges. We examine the historical development patterns of Russia and its economy and the human landscape of Russia today in the early 2020s.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 3 hours.

      • Unit 4: North America

        The region of North America includes the United States and Canada, which have similar physical characteristics and a history of colonialism. These two countries comprise 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.

        The population in North America has 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 – Canada and the United States enjoy relatively high standards of living.

        We begin this unit by exploring North America's physical geography, paying particular attention to its seismically active west coast, its water resources, the potential for sustainable agriculture, and the impact of fossil fuels on the landscape. Next, we explore the pattern of human settlement, the influence of European colonialism, and the institution of slavery. Then, we take a close look at industrial development, urban and suburban growth, patterns of inequality, and globalization.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 4 hours.

      • Unit 5: Middle and South America

        Middle America is the geographic realm between the United States and South America. It consists of three main regions: the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America. The Caribbean, the most culturally diverse of the three regions, includes 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 comprised 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 the 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, while the Caribbean Sea is on the east coast. Most of these countries straddle the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. However, Belize only has a shoreline on the Caribbean, and El Salvador is only on the Pacific.

        The continent of South America has diverse physical landscapes, from the Andes mountains to the tropical forests of the Amazon basin. Venezuela and Columbia have abundant precious metals and fossil fuels, 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.

        In this Unit, we investigate the physical characteristics of Middle and South America. Then, we will explore the human landscape before colonization, including the Mayan, Aztec, and Incan Empires. We identify the effects of European colonialism, especially how Spanish colonizers influenced patterns of land-holding and urban development. This region is highly urbanized, so we learn about the phenomena of primate cities and megacities. Finally, we return to the themes of inequality and globalization within the context of Middle and South America.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 5 hours.

      • Unit 6: Sub-Saharan Africa

        Sub-Saharan Africa includes the countries south of the Sahara Desert and many of the countries in the Sahel, or African Transition Zone. This swath of land marks a climatic shift from the desert in the north to the savannas and tropics of the south. The geography and climate of this region play a critical role in the social and political life of its residents.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 5 hours.

      • Unit 7: North Africa and Southwest Asia

        The region of North Africa and Southwest Asia is incredibly wide and spans more than 100° degrees of longitude. Although its east-west extent is not as wide as Russia's, this vast area has connected Eastern Europe and Western Asia since 100 BCE. Consequently, this region has an extraordinary level of ethnolinguistic diversity.

        The region of North Africa and Southwest Asia includes countries in the sub-region of North Africa, with countries on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea: Western Sahara, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt. It also borders the Atlantic Ocean, the Sahara Desert, and African Transition Zone (the Sahel). Egypt's Sinai Peninsula includes territory in Africa and Asia. Southwest Asia also includes sub-regions.

        Because there are so many variations within this region, we occasionally focus on one sub-region to highlight some key concepts. Depending on the map you are studying, different countries are often categorized into different sub-regions.

        Here is a list of countries that comprise these sub-regions. Note that geographers may include different countries in these lists.

        • Caucasus: Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan
        • Central Asia (also called Turkestan): Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Afghanistan
        • Middle East: Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, and Iran
        • Arabian Peninsula: Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Qatar, UAE (United Arab Emirates), and Kuwait

        This region is also the hearth of the three largest monotheistic religions in the world and is home to sacred places for Christians, Jews, and Muslims. This proximity has caused centuries of conflict among religious and ethnic groups throughout a region that has its own history of conquest. Finally, we will apply the themes of urbanization and inequality, which we have studied throughout this course.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 5 hours.

      • Unit 8: South Asia

        South Asia is the birthplace of two of the world's largest religions: Hinduism and Buddhism. Today, South Asia also includes a large Muslim population and many followers of other religions. South Asia is an active region tectonically and home to Earth's highest mountains. It is also known for its monsoon winds. Like the other regions we have explored, South Asia has its own history of colonization that is still evident today. Religious and ethnic conflicts also characterize this region.

        In this unit, we explore and analyze the diverse physical, cultural, political, and economic characteristics of South Asia. First, we look at the physical geography of the region, paying special attention to its climate and the monsoon weather pattern. Then, we explore the region's population growth, including the pattern of urbanization and the impact of megacities.

        Balancing natural capital and population growth remains a major issue in the region. South Asia is highly populated, with about 1.8 billion people across a wide range of ethnic and cultural groups. We close out this unit by analyzing its globalizing forces.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 5 hours.

      • Unit 9: East and Southeast Asia

        The region of East and Southeast Asia is home to nearly one-third of the world's population. China is its largest country in terms of area and population. The region is highly urbanized because many of the countries are small islands – it includes some of the largest, most densely populated cities in the world. The physical geography is diverse, although much of the region has a tropical climate. The region is tectonically active due to its proximity to the Ring of Fire, with earthquake, volcano, and tsunami hazards.

        A history of colonialism within and beyond the region continues to influence its human geography. Like other regions, it is culturally diverse and sees conflicts among its ethnic and religious groups. Territorial disputes continue to this day, especially with respect to China. East and Southeast Asia is a critical player in the global economy because it is home to several global financial and electronics manufacturing centers. Generally, the region has a moderate level of income inequality. It includes the communist countries of China, Vietnam, and Laos.

        Because several countries are in various stages of industrialization, the associated environmental issues are particularly acute. Like the region of South Asia, the region of East and South East has incurred further environmental damage due to outsourcing. Overseas companies locate their production facilities in places like Vietnam, which results in air, water, and soil contamination.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 7 hours.

      • Unit 10: Oceania

        The region of Oceania includes Australia, New Zealand, the islands of the South Pacific, Antarctica, and the world's oceans. This vast area has few human settlements compared to the other regions, but its physical geography is affected by human activities all over the world.

        Oceania shares several themes with the other regions, including colonialism, urbanization, globalization, and human-environmental interaction. Since the region is dominated by water, it includes issues of territorial claims over the world's oceans. Antarctica is also the subject of international claims. Australia and New Zealand have flora and fauna found nowhere else on Earth.

        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, and the United States. They 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.

        Oceania is uniquely affected by climate change. Rising temperatures melt the polar caps, which in turn contribute to rising 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 explore the physical geography of this region by introducing its sub-regions before you read about them in the text: Australia and New Zealand, Micronesia, Melanesia, Polynesia, and Antarctica.

        This is a particularly difficult region to characterize due to its vast extent and the diversity of its physical geography. We begin with Australia and New Zealand because they dominate the region in terms of population. We move to the Pacific Islands and consider them as a group even though they are separated by great ocean distances. In spite of this separation, they have many characteristics in common and share many of the same challenges. Finally, we explore Antarctica separately because it is a continent like no other. As the coldest continent on Earth, with no permanent human habitation, Antarctica is one of the world's remaining frontiers.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 5 hours.

      • Study Guide

        This study guide will help you get ready for the final exam. It discusses the key topics in each unit, walks through the learning outcomes, and lists important vocabulary. 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.

      • 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.

        The Saylor Direct Credit Final Exam requires a proctoring fee of $5. To pass this course and earn a Credly Badge and official transcript, you will need to earn a grade of 70% or higher on the Saylor Direct Credit Final Exam. Your grade for this 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 a maximum of 3 times, with a 14-day waiting period between each attempt.

        We are partnering with SmarterProctoring to help make the proctoring fee more affordable. We will be recording you, your screen, and the audio in your room during the exam. This is an automated proctoring service, but no decisions are automated; recordings are only viewed by our staff with the purpose of making sure it is you taking the exam and verifying any questions about exam integrity. We understand that there are challenges with learning at home - we won't invalidate your exam just because your child ran into the room!


        1. Desktop Computer
        2. Chrome (v74+)
        3. Webcam + Microphone
        4. 1mbps+ Internet Connection

        Once you pass this final exam, you will be awarded a Credly Badge and can request an official transcript.