On-Line Astronomy Course Information
About the Course
This Astronomy course is offered through Hopkins High School ands its consortium
west suburban schools, and is for the sole purpose of educating people in the
science of Astronomy. The course has been concieved by Dr. Thomas G. Franke,
inspired by William B. Albrecht, reviewed by Terri Osland, and borrowed from
many outside public and private resources. It is a course which is continually
under construction for the purpose of improving content and delivery, as well
as to reflect the rapid changes in knowledge gained from ground and space-borne
satellites. Please bear with me at times when connecting links are no longer
working. They will be corrected as soon as possible.
When I was first given a job of teaching Astronomy at Hopkins High School,
the course had only 21 students. Hopkins Astronomy has ballooned to a fulltime
job for a teacher with almnost 400 students enrolled each year. By definition
in the course description book, Hopkins Astronomy is a * or ** level course.
I do not wish to dummy down Astronomy as if you students are incapable of quality
work. However, I do not wish to make this a math-based course with rigorous
exam expectations. This course is designed to be relatively easy, while providing
significant opportunity for thinking and doing. You will be given sufficient
information in as many branches of Astronomy as possible with links to more
detailed study. I am hopeful that every student I share Astronomy with will
gain a passion and awe for the night sky. Perhaps some of you will so love this
course that you wish to learn more, and thus enroll in a collegiate Astronomy
course someday. Perhaps a few of you will pursue a professional career in Astronomy.
Perhaps some of you will enter the astronaut corps. If you become an astronaut,
then please remember me and your inspiriation and take me along on a space mission
someday. Perhaps you will never be a professional astronomer or an astronaut,
but will love what you learn so much that you buy your own telescope and do
amateur astronomy as a hobby or with a local astronomy club. Perhaps you do
none of these things at all, but enter a terrific career with a wildly fantastic
income. Someday you think back to your youthful days with me as your teacher
and a desire to say thankyou in a meaningful way becomes overpowering. Then
get a Meade 14" LX200 Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope with Go-To computer
and GPS, field tripod, equatorial wedge, go-to hand controller, and a nice assortment
of eyepieces, and just give it to me. Now that would be really cool.
The course is divided into twelve units, and
students are expected to work through the course in sequential fashion. During
each unit, assignments will be clearly laid out and any relevant quizzes noted
with its corresponding link. We will work in this course from a historical perspective
first, then to a unit revealing the tools of the astronomer, and finally into
space. Our journey to space begins with the Earth so that we will have something
with which to compare other celestial objects. Then it is on to the moon, planets,
the sun, stars, galaxies, and beyond. We conclude with an exploration into the
origin of the Universe and lastly an exposure to the pseudosciences which always
get wonderful prime time television play but steer the public into many false
assumptions and fears. At all times, you are to refer to the syllabus for guidance
and for the purposes of staying on the recommended pace.
The course will require a fair amount of reading on your part. Some of the
reading will be directly from my lecture notes in class, and others borrowed
from other coursesites on the internet. A series of astronomical observations
will be performed by you and must be done during the week suggested or else
you will not learn some of the motions of the sky. Few computations are required,
but those which are can be performed with a simple calculator that has the ability
to do scientific notation and log calculations. One significant paper is expected
early in the course as well as a few minor writings on your part.
Chat sessions are a critical component of the on -line learning experience,
and we will meet on a weekly basis for 60 minutes at a time to be announced.
Students are expected to arrive at the chat room on time and prepared for the
material we will discuss together.
The course is divided into twelve units. You are to enter the Syllabus
and navigate from there to various subject areas as directed on a daily basis.
You are expected to do work for 87 total days. Clicking on the blue
high-lighted words in the syllabus will get you to the right learning
place each day. Clicking of some of the images will connect you to various internet
links which will enhance your learning. Please carefully follow the syllabus
with regard to the assignments as well. The are two different sites within some
of the "to do" column. One site will direct you to the assignment
folder version of the quiz which you may print out and work from during a unit.
The e-mail version will connect you to the same assignment, but in a form that
you can complete and automatically send to the instructor via e-mail or internet
link. These are in the far right column of the syllabus and are orgainzed to
take place concurrent with pertinent learning experiences.
Equally important is that you follow the sequence of the course properly.
At the end of each page will be instructions to move to the next page. These
instructions to the next page are printed with pink letters.
You are encouraged to follow the sequence, but can look anywhere within the
course whenever you please.
Purpose, Goals, and Expectations
The express purpose of this course is to develop an appreciation for the night
sky. Students are asked to look at the night sky during their observation runs,
and read the material in the course documents with a sense of wonderment over
all that is out there to see and learn about.
The goal of the course is to expose students to as many fields within the
science of Astronomy as possible. Entire careers are spent by professionals
on specific branches of Astronomy and we do not have the time to go into detail
in any of them. However, by exposing students to as many different areas as
possible, perhaps your interest might be piqued and you may choose to study
one of those areas in more detail in your future. I want every student to go
outside and actually observe the sky above them. I want every student to know
where we are in space, who are near neighbors are, and how far away truly distant
objects are. I want every student to gain a healthy fear of the destructive
powers at constant play in the Universe and marvel that life exists on this
planet at all. While your goal may be to get an "A" in the course,
my goal is still to teach you a few skills and lessons which will help you become
more aware of your surroundings and give you a few skills which might help you
solve problems better.
My expectations are few, but critical. You are expected to attend the chat
sessions, do the academic work as required to the best of your ability, and
demonstrate positive attitude over what you are learning. Comments like "Wow,
that's so cool," or "That is so interesting," or even a simple
"Ah, that's really beautiful," will go a long way to improving your
grade in this class.
Since this is an on-line course, students are given a great deal of freedom
as to when they can work their way through the material, but as with any right,
certain responsibilities and obligations are expected from you. As best as I
can do this, the Syllabus
clearly lays out daily work and what is to be accomplished for that day. The
students enrolled in the classroom appear daily for 85 minutes. You are expected
to spend at least that much time at home. While you may initially complain about
the unfairness of this computer course expectation, remember that you can have
food and drink with you, get up and go to the bathroom without a hallpass from
me or harassment from hall monitors, and can leave the work and return at your
own pace. Each course unit has an introductory site with clearly laid out goals
and assignments for the unit. For me to assess your progress and ensure that
you are doing the requisite work, you will take a few short quizzes, write a
few papers, complete a few lab exercises, and do some observations. If you fall
behind, it will honestly become impossible for you to catch up. Therefore, I
will be checking on your progress at the end of each week to see that you are
I do not wish for any of the assignments to be overly difficult, and as we
work through the first few years of this grand experiment, you can help me revise
the course so that it becomes as much a pleasure as I hope it to be a learning
Grades for the course will be A, B, C, or No Credit. If you complete the work
and show up for the chat sessions with the appropriate "oohs and aahs"
you will certainly get an "A." If you do all the coursework, but fail
to do the night observations, you can receive no better than an "B."
If you do the base minimum that you can in the hope of getting by, and show
up for the chat sessions, you will have earned a "C." If you do nothing
at all, you will receive NC. The decision is yours to make. Since I do not wish
to be a hard grader in this class, you will not be slave-driven to excessive
duties. However, I will not merely give every student an "A" simply
out of an act of grace on my part for that act would diminish the in-school
course. For more information on grading, click here,
and go to the bottom of the page.
About the Teacher
You final act for day #1 is to get to know a little about me, and for me to
get to know a little about you. Please enter the Teacher
folder to learn more about who I am and how I came to teach my hobby
for a job. Then please follow the instructions at the bottom of the teacher
page so I can get to know you a little better.
You can always find links to the beginning at the bottom of each page. You
are now ready to begin the course. I wish you a positive experience and the
development of an appreciation of the night sky. You should always to the Syllabus
anytime you get lost. Your next direction is to the Teacher
Bio to learn about your wonderful instructor.
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