Course Syllabus

Welcome to ASIA 100: What is Asia?


Credits 3
Prerequisites None
Delivery Web (Canvas,
Dates See the Calendar.
Instructor See the Orientation module under the Modules tab.


What is Asia? provides a brief overview of selected cultures and their history within the vast landmass that is the Asian continent. This course will set you on the path of a comprehensive idea of Asia. But because the time frame of a semester is limited, we will focus on China and India, two emerging economies with enormous populations and potentials — and two societies building on historical and cultural heritages going back thousands of years.

Observers of cultures and trends have frequently referred to the 21st century as belonging to Asia. What does that mean? Asia spans many cultures, nations, and communities: from China and Japan to Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Iran, and Turkey. Nations like Japan have comfortably straddled the world of modern industrialized economies and an ancient culture while other nations like China and India are relative newcomers to the global market, with huge domestic populations and ancient cultures that go back thousands of years. So, Asia is inherently diverse. At the same time, when outsiders discuss the current economic prosperity of many Asian nations, they often use the label "Asia", "Asian Values", etc., to refer to specific qualities, such as strong family ties, hard work, etc. In this course we will try to understand how the inherent cultural, linguistic, ethnic, and social diversity of Asia fits in with the world's perception of Asia as a cultural unit.

During the first half of the semester, we will focus on India. The India Unit begins with the history of ancient India — the early human settlements in the Indus valley region — followed by the rise of the Vedic and Upanishadic culture and the rise of Hindu social and philosophical systems of the 5th century BCE. In addition, this unit addresses the rise of Buddhism, Jainism, and other socio-religious movements of the era. The last few lessons of the India Unit explore the rise of social and religious reform movements of the 19th century and how these cultural ideals continue to influence the current literary, political discourse in this country.

During the second half of the semester, we will focus on China. The China unit follows the same pattern as the India Unit. It begins with the history of ancient China — the early human settlements in the Yellow River Valley — leading to the evolution of organized societies and kingdoms from Shang to Zhou to Qin and Han, and concluding with discussions of the various social philosophies that emerged in 5th century BCE China, including Confucianism and Daoism. The last few lessons of the China Unit focus on historical and cultural developments from the decline of the Manchu dynasty in the early 20th century, through the rise of the People's Republic of China under the leadership of Mao, and finally to the post-Mao era rise of China as a major player on the world stage.


At the end of this course, you will be able to:

  1. Illustrate the cultural geography of Asia in broad terms and develop working definitions of different Asian cultures.
  2. Explain how geographical and historical forces may have shaped Asian cultures and civilizations from the ancient to the modern times.
  3. Describe current cultural trends in politics, society, and economics within India, China, and the regions in Asia influenced by these cultures.
  4. Identify changes that are sweeping through the various Asian societies at present with specific focus on China and India.
  5. Appreciate and explain the complexity inherent in understanding of cultures and their relationship to geography and society.


This course is made up of 15 lessons divided into 4 units.

For a typical lesson, you will complete the following activities and assignments:

  • Explore online course content.
  • Read a few assigned readings.
  • Take a quiz.

In addition, you will participate in a few current events discussions, and you will complete a multi-step project about an Asian country and its connections with India or China.

Online Learning and Attendance

This course has been developed to promote asynchronous learning. The instructor and students do NOT meet on a designated day and time each week. For each lesson, there is a timeframe to complete all activities and assignments, and you may work at your own pace within that timeframe. However, you must adhere to the due dates outlined on the Calendar. (Due dates can also be viewed under the Syllabus tab.) You should log into the course daily to check for updates, review lessons, and participate in activities.



The following texts are required:

  • Murphey, R. (2013). A history of Asia (7th ed.). Routledge. [ISBN: 978-0205168552]

The following texts are optional:

  • Mitter, R. (2016). Modern China: A very short introduction (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. [ISBN: 978-0198753704]
  • *Tharoor, S. (2011). The elephant, the tiger, and the cell phone: India, the emerging 21st-century power. Arcade Publishing. [ISBN: 978-1611452914]

*E-Book Option: An online version of one or more of your texts is available at no cost as a Penn State Libraries E-Book, which is indicated by an asterisk (*). You can access the E-Book through the Library Resources tab in the course navigation menu. Some E-Books will only be available online, while others will be available to download in full or in part. You may choose to use the E-Book as an alternative to purchasing a physical copy of the text. For questions or issues, you can contact the University Libraries Reserve Help (UL-RESERVESHELP@LISTS.PSU.EDU).

Other Materials

For current events discussions, you should use the following online newspapers:

Library Services

Penn State Libraries provides a wide variety of services and resources. To learn how to take advantage, refer to the Online Student Library Guide at This guide serves as your starting point for access to all that Penn State Libraries can offer you as an online student. Use this guide if you have questions on library services offered to you, how the library can help you, how to use the library, or what resources you can access via the library! The guide will connect you to important pages and resources within Penn State Libraries and save time from you searching for the information you need.

Course Reserves

There are electronic resources on reserve for this course that can be accessed through the Penn State Libraries. To access your Course Reserves, please use the Library Resources tab in the course navigation menu. For any questions you may have about viewing or printing your Course Reserves, refer to the View and Print Electronic Course Reserves page at


Final letter grades will be assigned based on the scale below.


A 93 326
A- 90 315
B+ 87 305
B 83 291
B- 80 280
C+ 77 270
C 70 245
D 60 210
F 0 0

Due Dates

All assignments are due by 11:59 PM Eastern Time on the date indicated on the Calendar. (Due dates can be also be viewed under the Syllabus tab.) Please be aware that Canvas follows the Eastern Time (ET) time zone. Assignment due dates adhere to this time zone, and it is your responsibility to submit assignments accordingly. If you are outside of the ET time zone, you can set your Canvas account to sync to it. Refer to the Set a Time Zone article in the Canvas Guide at

As a general rule, you will NOT be able to go back and make up missed assignments. It is your responsibility to keep up with your assignments. Students with an excused absence (e.g. hospitalization, jury duty, family emergency, or military service) may be asked to produce proper documentation in order to make up graded work. All make-up work is at the discretion of the instructor.

Veterans and currently serving military personnel and/or spouses with unique circumstances (e.g. upcoming deployments, drill/duty requirements, disabilities, VA appointments, etc.) are welcome and encouraged to communicate these, in advance if possible, to the instructor in the case that special arrangements need to be made.


  • To Do List: Some assignments may not appear in the To Do list under the Home tab. Use the Calendar or Syllabus to ensure that you are fully aware of assignment due dates.
  • Late Assignments: Late assignments will lose the point equivalent of 5 percent per calendar day, and they will not be accepted later than 3 calendar days after the due date.


Basic information about each assignment group is provided below. For detailed directions about an individual assignment, see the assignment information under the Modules tab.

You can expect meaningful feedback on assignments within 7 days of their due date.

Quizzes 150
Current Events Discussions 100
VoiceThread Connections Project 100
Total 350


Value: 15 x 10 PTS, 150 PTS total

Each quiz is made up of 10-15 questions. Question types include true/false, multiple-choice, multiple-answers, and/or short-answer. Most quiz questions are based on the topics covered in the corresponding lesson.

Three quizzes contain review sections with questions from previous quizzes in the unit (or the entire course). See the list below for details. Important questions may reappear on subsequent quizzes. These questions have been put in place to encourage you to review.

  • L08 Quiz: This is the final quiz in the India Unit, and it contains questions from previous quizzes in the unit. In addition to the questions corresponding with Lesson 08, this quiz contains review questions corresponding with Lessons 03-07.
  • L13 Quiz: This is the final quiz in the China Unit, and it contains questions from previous quizzes in the unit. In addition to the questions corresponding with Lesson 13, this quiz contains review questions corresponding with Lessons 09-12.
  • L15 Quiz: This is the final quiz in the course, and it contains questions from previous quizzes in the entire course. In addition to the question corresponding with Lesson 15, this quiz contains review questions corresponding with Lessons 01-14.

Current Events Discussions

Value: 4 x 25 PTS, 100 PTS total

For each current events discussion, you will select a current event, write a summary, and identify and explain relationships to the discussion topic. See the discussion forums for detailed directions.

Your discussion contributions will be graded based on the following criteria: task completion, appropriateness of source, currency of article, organization of summary, and relevance of article. For more information, see the rubric in each discussion forum.

VoiceThread Connections Project

Value: 2 x 50 PTS, 100 PTS total

This project extends over the second half of the course. The goals of the project are to a) deepen your knowledge of India or China and b) broaden your knowledge of Asia by exploring the interconnected nature of Asian cultures. To that end, you will research one country that has been strongly influenced by India or China, explore its connections with India/China, and present and discuss your findings with VoiceThreads. Select and complete TWO out of THREE VoiceThread assignments (no more, no less).

VoiceThread assignments will be graded based on the following criteria: task completion, research, organization, connection with India/China, and replies. For more information, see the rubric in each assignment.

Note on Turnitin: At the beginning of each VoiceThread assignment, you will upload a script and annotated bibliography in Canvas, and Turnitin will produce an originality report. See the Academic Integrity section below for information about the potential consequences of plagiarism and other violations of academic integrity.

Final Exam


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Dishonesty of any kind will not be tolerated in this course. Dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, cheating, plagiarizing, fabricating information or citations, facilitating acts of academic dishonesty by others, having unauthorized possession of examinations, submitting work of another person or work previously used without informing the instructor, or tampering with the academic work of other students. Students who are found to be dishonest will receive academic sanctions and will be reported to the University's Judicial Affairs office for possible further disciplinary sanction. For further information, please read University Faculty Senate Policy 49-20 at

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Students may request assistance from CAPS regarding a variety of common mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, relationship difficulties, and stress. CAPS services are designed to enhance students' ability to fully benefit from the University environment and academic experience. Call CAPS at 814-863-0395 (8 am-5 pm, Monday-Friday EST) or submit an inquiry online at to schedule an appointment with a mental health advocate, who can help you address mental health concerns that may interfere with your academic progress or social development. This appointment will include a one-on-one session that can be conducted via telephone, teleconference (Skype, FaceTime, etc.), or locally at Penn State University Park. For more information on services provided through CAPS, please visit the Penn State CAPS website at Students enrolled at the World Campus are also encouraged to visit its Mental Health Services page at

Reminder: These services are for non-emergencies only. If you or someone you know is experiencing a crisis situation, please call your local crisis center or 911.


The materials on the course website are only for the use of students enrolled in this course for purposes associated with this course and may not be retained or further disseminated.

University Emergency Procedure

In the event of a University-wide emergency, the course may be subject to changes. Exigent circumstances may require alternative delivery methods, class materials, and interactions with the instructor and/or classmates. In addition, there may be revisions to grading policies and the Calendar, including assignments and their due dates.

In the event of a University-wide emergency, please refer to the Canvas website at for specific information related to the course. For more general information about the emergency situation, please refer to the Penn State website at or Penn State News website at

To register with PSUAlert, a service designed to alert the Penn State community when situations arise that affect the ability of a campus to function normally, please go to the PSU Alert website at Subscribers can receive alerts by text message to cell phones, and also can elect to have alerts sent to an email address.

Syllabus Subject to Change

The class will likely adhere to the information outlined in this Syllabus and the Calendar, but adjustments may be made based on what actually transpires during the semester. Remaining in the course after reading this Syllabus will signal that you accept the possibility of changes and responsibility for being aware of them.

Course Summary:

Date Details