Astronomy

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


Dr. Christe Ann McMenomy

Procedures, Methods, Goals, and Expectations

The heavens declare the glory of God;
  the skies procalim the work of His hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
  night after night they display knowledge.

Psalm 19: 1-2

This page contains information on

Class Meetings: One per week

You attend chat sessions by going to the Scholars Online Website, clicking on "Chat Login", and selecting from the chats listed for your courses meeting that day. If you are a new student, you should participate in a Moodle Orientation session during the last weeks of August to verify that you have chat access and know how to use it prior to the start of classes.

During our weekly meetings, we will base our discussion on the material in our textbook. We will also discuss demonstrations found on the web or in our Moodle, websites of related interest, homework problems, and any observations that you make during the week.

You may raise questions about the material from the text, my web lectures, your homework, your labs, and when we have time, from news media articles with an astronomy connection, such as the discovery of extra solar planets, space station development, discovery of black holes. I realize that there are diverging scientific, philosophical, and theological opinions on much of the material that we cover, particularly on the origin of the universe. You may challenge any statement made in class or in your text, as long as you do so politely.

I do consider your contributions to our discussion in determining your final grade and making comments, so don't just sit back and watch others type. If you have questions, ask them! When you are assigned a report topic or a homework problem to post, be sure that you have spent adequate time to prepare not only the formal content that you post to the class forum in the Moodle, but also to anticipate the questions of your fellow students about your topic.

The Astronomy Course Website

This website contain some of the basic materials for the class, including links to the publicly available course descriptions, procedures (this page), lab policy, and textbook information. It also contains the weblectures for the course and the lab assignments; you will receive a password to access it before chat sessions start.

The Scholars Online Chat and Moodle

The server at Scholars Online will host our chats. The Moodle (also on the server) contains the forums for your class assignements, the quizzes, and the schedule for our work. Access will be limited to class members. We also have the ability to create Wiki entries (good for learning terminology), take surveys, and work on group activities. Students performing labs for the lab option will have forums for their work in these areas. Since only members of the class will see your postings, you should feel free to use the class forum to ask questions and contact each other about class business, and to continue discussions for which we may not have time in class, but remember:

I reserve the right to pull any threads or entries which I feel are unsuitable, so keep it clean and charitable.


The following sections should help you, as a prospective student, to decide whether this class is for you. Once you've enrolled, you can get more detailed hints and techniques for studying science from the Astronomy Student Survival Guide.

Reading Assignments

All reading assignments for the semester will be posted in the Moodle course calendar at the beginning of the course. You are expected to read the material before attending the lecture session. Normally, we will cover one chapter of the text per week, usually about 20-30 pages. This material is targeted for freshman college students, but my experience is that most high school students can handle it if they pace themselves.

Reading assignments often include references to animations or exercises on the web. You are expected to view these unless they are listed as optional!

Homework

Homework assignments for the week will be posted by the end of the lecture session. You should check the web page for the assignment immediately after class and let me know if there are any discrepancies or problems.

Homework includes both essay-answer questions and computational questions. These exercises are for your benefit, and do not have to be turned in to me, although I will ask each of you to post at least one answer to the class forum for discussion during class. It is important that you do all the practice exercises regularly so that we can identify and resolve any problems before you work on the next assignment.

These exercises expose you to different ways of learning and using the concepts from the text and in class lectures. Do not simply work only your own "assigned" problem and check the work done by others. Working through the exercises will require you to think carefully about the details behind the major concepts, which will help you learn, understand, retain solution methods more successfully than simply going over the problems in class.

Labs

Labs are optional; see the labs page for more information. The labs for this course often involve nighttime or very early morning observation of planetary or stellar phenomena. You should be prepared to spend one to two hours of observing time, and one hour of lab write-up for each lab that you attempt.

Quizzes

Moodle Quizzes: Take the online quizzes after you have completed your homework, the chat discussion of that work, and any self-drill, but before the deadline listed at the website for the quiz. Quiz scores are recorded and considered in determination of your final grade.

Exams

Exams will be given at the end of each term. These must be taken under parental supervision and returned to the teacher by electronic mail for grading. In addition, a paper copy signed by the parent must be returned by regular United States mail to the teacher, verifying that the exam was taken under the specified conditions. These exams usually contain 50-60 multiple choice questions, similar to those on the online quizzes, 4-6 computation problems, similar to those that will be assigned for homework, and a formal research report which you complete prior to the exam date. Regular participation in chat discussions, completion of all homework assignments, drilling on vocabulary, and routine completion of the online quizzes are your best preparation for successful completion of the course.

Goals

Just so we are all headed in the same direction....

  • To learn the basic concepts of modern astronomy
  • To learn how to think like a scientist about our everyday observations and experiences
  • To understand the limits as well as the advantages of scientific methodology
  • To understand how scientific models and theories compete for acceptance

Expectations

You are expected to:

  • Attend class session each week.
  • Observe the general rules for chat classroom behavior.
  • Read all the assigned materials before class.
  • Complete homework exercises and reports on your own or in study groups.
  • Post completed homework assignments in time to discuss them for the assigned chat session.
  • Treat each other with respect. Some of the topics we discuss will be controversial ones. You may voice disagreement with the opinions of the text authors, each other, and even your teacher as long as you do so courteously.

You may expect me to:

  • Cover the material in the text and answer your questions; if I don't know the answer, I will try to find out and get back to you.
  • Return comments on your homework at regular intervals.
  • Provide your parents with a quarterly statement of your progress.
  • Respect your opinions, when they are substantiated with some serious thought, even if I disagree with your conclusions.