Astronomy

Chat times for 2017-2018
Weds 4:30pm-6pm
ET/1:30pm-3pm PT


Dr. Christe Ann McMenomy

Frequently Asked Questions about this course

1. What should a student know before taking this course?

You should have completed a junior high school level course in physical science that covers the concepts of matter, energy, gravity, basic chemical and nuclear reactions, and light, and if possible, the composition of the solar system (although you may have picked up enough from media coverage of space exploration and Hubble Telescope events). We cover all of these topics in detail, and students have an easier time if they have been exposed to the basic concepts before starting my course. If you have taken the Scholars Online Natural Science course (both years), or a full year Physical Science component of a comprehensive junior high school science curriculum, you should be prepared to hand the astronomy concepts.

2. What level of mathematics is required?

    You should have completed a first year algebra course, know some geometry, and be taking geometry or advanced algebra. We will cover some simple trigonometry in the course.

    • You certainly should be able to solve a simple expression for one of its components. For example, you should be able to rearrange the equation y + 2x = 3y to solve for y in terms of x.
    • It helps if you can understand how sine, cosine, and hypotenuse relate to the adjacent, opposite, and long sides of a right triangle.
    • You should understand how to convert units, for example, from meters to miles, if you know that 1 meter = .62 miles.

    You should understand how to read a graph and a table of numerical data.

3. How much preparation time is necessary?

This is hard to answer without knowing how fast you read. For each chat meeting, you will need to prepare

  • 25-30 pages of text (which may include a lot of graphics which will require study)
  • 8-10 homework exercises
  • Starry Night or online media exercises
  • a 10-20 question on-line quiz at the website (15-20 minutes) upon completion of each chapter.

My experience is that this will take you 3-4 hours to finish properly. In addition, for each chapter (usually 1 every week), you will need to finish

  • a 10 question on-line quiz at the website (15-20 minutes)

You may also opt to take do labs, which will involve another 2-3 hours per week of your time, depending on what equipment you need to build or collect.

So each week, you should plan to spend 1.5 hours in class, 4-6 hours in preparation, and 1 hour in testing, or a total of 8 hours a week. A normal high school course requires a minimum of 4 hours of class time and 4 hours of homework. This course is somewhat less intense than a normal high school chemistry or physics course, so it requires somewhat less effort on your part.

4. What is a passing score?

My examinations tend to be very thorough, since I am interested in assessing what you have actually learned and understand. The tests are written as though you were a college student (because that is the level of the material we cover), and so are more challenging that a high school science test would be. Because of this, I will "normalize" your grade so that it maps to high-school level course expectations for a science taken by someone at your current grade level. Normalized scores follow standard interpretations: above 90% = A, 80-89% = B, 70-79% = C, 60-69% D (passing). A passing score is 65% or better.

5. What kind of grade will I get?

I send email evaluations at the end of each semester that describe your performance on quizzes, homework, class participation, and the final examination. A short summary of this report is included in your formal transcript "comments" section.

Your overall grade is generally a composite. The exact percentages vary from year to year depending but in general:

  • Exams are averaged and weighted to contribute 50% to your grade.
  • Semester reports are is 20% of your grade.
  • Homework is weighted as 10% of your grade.
  • Quiz averages are 10% of your grade.
  • Class participation is 10% of your grade.

Lab work is graded separately and determines whether you get lab credit for the course or not.

Because some government agencies, accrediting institutions, and scholarship committees require more standardized grades, I also issue a numerical score for your work, which is normalized so that it fits the grading scale used by most high schools in evaluating passing, above average, and exceptional work at the freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior levels. Your transcript will include instructions on translating a numerical grade to a letter grade.

As there is no current SAT or AP examination in astronomy, the best way to establish your credentials (besides your formal numerical grade in this course) is to keep a detailed copy of your lab work and your semester reports for review, if required by a scholarship committee or the science faculty of a college.

6. Will you be able to write me a letter of recommendation for my college (or secondary school) application?

    Yes, I do write letters of recommendation for students on occasion. However, I cannot write such a letter on the basis of a few months' work. I require that you finish a complete year of instruction with me first, so that I have a basis for making an evaluation that reflects your true strengths and weaknesses. If this is your first Scholars Online class and your senior year, I will not be able to write your letter. Please see my policy on letters of recommendation for further information.