Astronomy

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

Dr. Christe Ann McMenomy


Course Materials Under Revision for 2017-2018

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


PARENTS: PLEASE READ THROUGH THIS GUIDE!

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 develop the study skills and self-discipline needed to survive the class.

Course Website

Layout: The Site Map for the course describes the web-based content 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. Links to most parts of the course appear in the Header table (there is one at the top of this page).

Students log into to the Moodle, use the link on their personal homepage to go to the Astronomy course, and there check the notes for the week. There will be links for the web lecture, homework, labs, and quizzes, and the chat for that week's online session. After our meeting, the chat link will become a link to the log for that day. Please note that not all materials will be posted prior to the start of the course in September, since I am currently revising some of them. Links for the next week will be active at least one week in advance.

Expectations of Student Performance

We use a college textbook, and I will try to discuss the material in as much depth as possible. Quizzes and examinations are thorough, to prepare students further study in the physical sciences, and examinations are similar to those your student would take in a college course. However, since this is still a high school course, I do not require college-level performance to pass the course. Students who maintain a 50% average on the quizzes and achieve at least 50% on each of the two semester exams will pass the course. Students who achieve 75% or above can expect to do well in college-level course material in the same subject.

Evaluations sent to students reflect these raw scores. Scores sent as part of official transcripts from Scholars Online are scaled to provide a more accurate comparison for students taking astronomy at the high school level.

Helping your Student Study

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 Astronomy page gives the text assignments, homework problems, online textbook companion website activities, web lectures, and lab topics for each chat session. The companion website and planetarium activities take time, but they are well worth the investment, because they present processes in a fashion no textbook or discussion can imitate.

Students sometimes find the homework a bore, 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 all problems in the homework assignments. Go over the answers with the student, or at least perform spot checks each week. All homework problems will have solutions posted to the course conference center

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.

E-MAIL, WEB, and Chat Class Sessions

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

  • Use plain text. Avoid using text formatted in an external wordprocessor like Word: use an email program itself, one that sends formatting by using HTML.
  • Do not send attachments. Microsoft Word files for a simple homework assignment can contain formatting that creates files in excess of a megabyte. These files take a long time to download and clog the teacher's mailbox so that other students cannot send mail. It is more useful to post attachments to the Moodle where everyone can see them through the browser.
  • Use the specified heading for the assignment. I depend on my mail program's filtering capabilities to download and organize the 100 or so messages that I get each day. If you fail to use the right heading for a given assignment, you stand a good chance that your e-mail will go unanswered or even get lost.

Web readings: I often post optional website readings; I may request students to use the companion textbook site for Universe, NASA sites or other astronomy sites. I check the sites to determine their suitability for Scholars Online students prior to posting my web pages, but 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.

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, 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 re-admitting 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 raise his hand in 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 that any homework assignments due for the class discussion are completed and posted to the class forums.
  • Go over the chat logs with the student. Make notes of areas where you or he have questions, and either post the questions to the conference center for the class or raise them in the next session.

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. Each chat session requires the student to complete items 1-7. Only students taking the lab credit option are required to complete the lab steps 8-10.

  1. read my astronomy web lecture
  2. read a section of Universe
  3. view animations and complete drill work on the companion website
  4. perform the Starry Night exercises
  5. complete homework essay and math problem exercises
  6. take the Companion Website Quiz
  7. take the online quiz
  8. complete lab observations
  9. perform lab data analysis
  10. write up lab report

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.

You should also 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 or homework key errors).

I will also schedule at least one evening session per month when I will be "in my office", that is, online in my IRC classroom, and available to parents for questions and help. Please watch your mail for announcements of these times.