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

Dr. Christe Ann McMenomy

The Parents' Guide:
How help your student survive an online science course

Parents Guide

Many common concerns are also addressed on the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page for this course, so be sure to read it also!


Scholars Online courses are a cooperative effort between the teachers, the students, and their parents. Like the proverbial three-legged stool, if one leg is broken or missing, the stool will topple over. You are a necessary and important part of this course, and your student will need your guidance to apply the study skills and self-discipline needed to survive the class.

Astronomy Website Organization

There are three websites for this course; however, most pages in all three sites will be organized by links in the Moodle to course homework pages, and links from the homework assignment pages to all other website pages required for a given assignment.

  • The Scholars Online Moodle contains the primary links for student work: students will upload assignments and lab reports to the Moodle and take quizzes on the Moodle. Grades are reported to your student in the Moodle environment. Your student will receive instructions from Scholars Online to log in and verify access to the Moodle pages for all courses as part of the enrollment process.
  • This site (where you are now) is the Astronomy Course Site, containing Web lectures ("content"), lab instructions, and homework assignment webpages are actually located in a separate "astronomy course content" site external to the Moodle. The Site Map for this course (click on the This Site link on each page) describes the web-based materials of the course. Be sure to familiarize yourself with all the parts of the course, especially if you have a student who is new to this kind of instruction. There will be links in the Moodle back to this site; when in doubt, log into the Moodle and follow the Moodle course links to the Astronomy Weblecture, Homework, and Lab materials in the Astronomy course site. There will also be a summary page of all important links to homework and online reading in the Master Schedule, which you should bookmark and refer to whenever you have questions about holiday or exam dates.

    Page Layout: Most Astronomy site pages have a logo at the top that identifies the course, meeting times, and the page topic. Links on the left allow students to navigate to different parts of the course site. Links at the bottom of the page helpt the student navigate to the Scholars Online site and Moodle/Chat login pages.

  • The Scholars Online Chat pages, where our live text chat sessions take place. Students use the Scholars Online Chat Login page to list chats for each day and select the chat they wish to attend shortly before it is scheduled to start.

Expectations of Student Performance

While this is not structured as an AP course (since there is no AP exam in astronomy), it is an honors course, which means the textbook we use, our approach, and our expectations of performance are college-level expectations. Students can still pass the course with less-than-honors level performance; their transcript will reflect whether lab credit or honors credit.

Please do not equate exam percentages with the standard 70% = C, 80% = B, 90% = A performance ratings used by many high schools; in particular, exams are only one part of the student work I use to assess overall performance. Exam performance is, however, something of an indicator for successful college-level performance in the physical sciences.

Evaluations sent to students at midyear and at the end of the course contain the raw scores for each area used to determine overall performance (homework, quizzes, class participation, and examinations). These scores are weighted — exams count more than quizzes — and then normed against the student's grade level to determine a final numerical score that allows the student's performance to be fairly compared to students in other institutions. A letter grade is assigned on the basis of this final numerical score.

Helping your Student Meet Expectations

Assignments: To get to the assignment for a given day,

  • go to the student's own Moodle home page and check the Astronomy Course page for the session that meets on that date. If I've posted the materials, the links for student assignments will be visible.
  • OR go to the Master Schedule (Lecture, Holiday, and Exam Schedule) for the school year, and check the homework link for the chat date.

    Please note that not all materials will be posted prior to the start of the course in September, since I am currently revising many of them, based on experiences over the last two years with our new format. Links for each set of assignments will generally be active at least one week in advance.

Chats: To get to the chat for the day, use the Scholars Online chat login (available from any page at

The Procedures page has some specific guidelines for how students might schedule completing all the tasks for each week's work. You should go over these suggestions and modify them to suit your student's learning style and outside commitments. Most astronomy students are at least freshman or sophomores who have some self-discipline, but they still need help setting their goals and disciplining themselves to get work done in a timely fashion. You will have to decide how much help your student needs, but at the very least, you should meet with him once a week to go over the checklist and make sure that he is completing the assigned reading and homework on time.

The Moodle gives the text assignments (which may assume online exercises), homework problems, web lectures, and lab topics for each chat session. Weblectures may refer students to other websites with interactive demonstrations. These take time but allow the student to experience and experiment with different concepts in a way no text medium can provide. Encourage the student to spend the extra time at these exercises, especially during the beginning of the course.

Students often run into problems with individual homework problems, and since I do not collect homework for these (copying them into email is more an exercise in typing than fruitful study of astronomy), they may lack motivation to actually do the work involved. However, you should encourage your student to complete as many of the exercises as possible, especially during the early units, which establish basic applications of mathematics to physical situations.

Help your student identify the particular areas where he has difficulties. Does he have problems with identifying which formula represents relations between the quantities in a problem? Then review of the chapter formulae with an emphasics on comprehension is in order: have your student work through the examples given in the text and explain them to you. This will force him to focus on the concepts and their applications. Much of the study of astronomy involves manipulating mathematical discriptions of physical situations: students need go beyond imaging abstract mathematical problem and see the physical reality the mathematics are describing..

All assigned exercises either have answers listed in the back of the book or will have the answers posted on the Moodle forums, so the student will know when he has succeeded. Check periodically to make sure that the work is being done in time for class and verify that work assigned for posting is posted prior to the start of each class session. After class, these postings (and any annotations mycroft makes, in case the student gets the problem wrong) will provide completely-worked answers for all assigned problems, so you can go over the work with your student.

Encourage your student to make notes while reading or attempting homework of any issues or conceptual "fuzziness" that arises, particular when working through diagrams or experimental data presented in the text. He should bring these issues to chat so we can help figure out where he runs into difficulty. Some students have trouble with verbal descriptions, others with interpreting graphs, and others with seeing trends in numerical data. Have him ask questions! we can use different approaches to demonstrating the concepts once we understand each student's background and learning styles better.

There is no SAT II Astronomy examination. However, the basic skills we learn in the class for approaching math-based analysis of astronomical events and situations will help prepare your student to continue scientific education in the physical sciences, especially chemistry and physics. Monitoring your student's ability to complete the homework is essential! If your student has problems applying concepts to real situations, then he should be asking more questions in class and looking at the exercise and essay questions that present experimental methods or data and require their evaluation. You should check the logs occasionally (these will also be posted at the website) to monitor how much your student is contributing to class.

Web readings

I often post optional website readings; I may request students to view other web resources as well. While I check the sites to determine their suitability for Scholars Online students prior to posting my web pages, I do not follow all the links from every outside site, nor can I guarantee that such a site will remain unchanged between the time I select it and the time that you view it. If you have questions about the suitability of these sites, I encourage you to check them before letting your student view them, and to let me know if you have concerns about specific sites.

Written work: Moodle Uploads

Most work is uploaded or entered into the Moodle. Please note when uploading assignments to the Moodle:

  • Attachments or uploads to forum or assignments should be in PDF format. This common format can be used if we need to share information among students, and all word process can produce PDF output. Be sure that your student knows how to "reduce the size" of the document in the word processor he or she is using to save space on the server, especially if the document includes pictures. You will not be able to upload large graphics (over 1MB).

Chat Sessions

Class sessions: Our class sessions are discussion sessions. I try to present all lecture material ahead of time on my web pages, so that we can use the chat periods for student input and homework review. As a result, chats can seem somewhat chaotic, and "start and stop" as students try to type in their questions, answers, and comments. To make chats as useful as possible, students should follow these guidelines:

  • Go over the rules of behavior in chat sessions with your student and be sure that he understands them. We will reemphasize particular rules as necessary from time to time.
  • Unacceptable behavior (inappropriate language, rudeness, and constant digression from the material) will not be tolerated; I can and will kick a student out of class for such behavior and require parents to call and discuss the situation before readmitting the student to class.
  • I often "poll students" for answers to a question, so that each student who raises his hand can contribute. Teach your student to "raise his hand" by typing an exclamation mark "!" into the chat window, then to start typing an answer into a simple text editor window if he is not the first one called. When called on, he can cut and paste his answer into the chat window.
  • Make sure the student has read the assigned material and made notes of any questions, before chat starts. Also, check that any homework assignments due for the class discussion are completed and posted to the Moodle forums.
  • Scholars Online automatically logs all chat sessions: these are available after the chat has met from the same window you use to log into chat. If your student misses a chat, please have him review the log as soon as possible. Have your student make notes on any questions the chat discussion raises and encourage him to raise questions at the beginning of the next session. I almost always start sessions by making sure there are no outstanding issues with previous work before tackling a new topic.

Weekly Work Checklist

In order for you to keep track of whether your student is completing the work, you might want to set up your own checklist: ol>

  • BEFORE EACH CHAT: read the assigned web lecture
  • BEFORE EACH CHAT: read the assigned section of the textbook
  • BEFORE EACH CHAT: complete assigned homework problems and post assigned solutions
  • WEEKLY: complete a "Lesson" or planetarium program assignment (varies)
  • WEEKLY: do assigned lab work (preparation, carrying out the lab, analyzing data, writing the report).
  • WEEKLY: do assigned AP example problem
  • At the end of the chapter: review the multiple choice questions in the textbook
  • At the end of the chapter: take the online quiz

    Students are assinged a set of homework problems for each chat session. They are expected to complete all assigned problems. Each chat session has an accompanying Moodle forum or bulletin board link on the Moodle Astronomy homepage. Students are assigned one or two problems from the set and are expected to "post" complete solutions for the problem that show not only all of the mathematical calculations, but also explain the assumptions and solution method. When all students meet their posting responsibilities, the Moodle pages contain a complete solution set for student review.

    Moodle quizzes are open during the week following completion of the unit they cover, then closed except for a brief grace period prior to the semester exam. During the grace period, students may make up a missed quiz or retake an earlier quiz for a maximum of two attempts; high score counts. Encourage your student to take the quiz during the period following completion of a chapter to identify areas that will need review before the exam, then use the grace period to identify any remaining issues prior to our final review session. Students are able to review answers for each Moodle online quiz once they submit it. My questions may differe somewhat from the study guide terminology to give the students some experience with typical SAT and AP types of questions. If either you or they are still confused about the answers, please e-mail me.

    OnLine Parent Help

    You should refer to this guide, to the FAQs page, and to the Procedures page frequently. These pages contain material that was developed in answer to questions other parents have asked me, so many of your questions may be answered already in one of these pages.

    Contacting the Teacher

    E-mail: You should feel free to e-mail me with specific questions at any time, and especially with corrections to the web materials (misspellings, missing links, possible quiz key errors).

    It should go without saying that you also have set the appropriate spam filter designations set so that your student can receive email directly from your teachers and the domain, which the Moodle uses for public and class messages, but every year we have frustrated parents who don't get our answers to their questions, although we have responded, often multiple times, because our emails wind up in junk mail buckets.

    Here are a couple of other guidelines for e-mail:

    • Use plain text or HTML. Avoid formatted text, since not all fonts or special characters may exist on your recipient's machine.
    • In general, do not send attachments. These can easily contain viruses; even if they are safe, attachments of MS Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, or photos can take up inordinate amounts of space.
    • Identify the course and yourself in your email. If you have a specific question, identify the homework assignment by name, chapter, or date, and the quiz by unit names. If you run into a problem with a website page (missing link, conflicting information, misspellings or confusing instructions), please include the URL of our webpage. The more specific and detailed you are, the faster we can locate and resolve any issues in website instructions or operations.