AAS 201st Meeting, January, 2003
Session 88. Undergraduate Astronomy Instruction, Labs and Research
Poster, Wednesday, January 8, 2003, 9:20am-6:30pm, Exhibit Hall AB

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[88.02] Invisible Universe Online: Designing, Facilitating, and Evaluating an Online Course in Astronomy

A. Gauthier (University of Arizona Steward Observatory), J. Keller (LPL, University of Arizona), M. Bennett (ASP), S. Buxner (Fiske Planetarium, University of Colorado), E. DeVore (SETI Institute), T. Slater (University of Arizona Steward Observatory), M. Thaller (JPL)

How do online students learn best? Which methods of teaching can be adopted from physical classrooms? What are some strategies for building a collaborative learning community? How can instructors effectively integrate web activities, simulations, and applets into online science courses? What do the online students think?

Online course designers are sharing successful ideas, instructional strategies, and challenges related to the online learning environment. We present our evaluation summary of the first offering of Invisible Universe Online: The Search for Astronomical Origins for Teachers (Spring 2002), subsequent changes in course design for the second offering of the course (Fall 2002), and current experiences on how those changes are being implemented. Additionally, we provide samples of the interactive web activities, applets, and simulations used in the class to help promote student active learning. Challenges of computing technology, student adeptness with their computers, and user interface will also be discussed.

Invisible Universe Online is delivered via WebCT through the Montana State University National Teacher Enhancement Network (http://btc.montana.edu/). The 15-week course covers the chain of events from the birth of the universe through the formation of galaxies, stars, and planets. The course curriculum focuses on scientific questions, technological challenges, space missions pursuing the search for origins, and career guidance for classroom teaching of astronomy and related concepts. Course participants are in-service science teachers (middle school through high school) from the both the United States and abroad.

This course is being developed, evaluated, and offered through the support of SOFIA and SIRTF EPO Programs, two NASA infrared missions associated with the Origins Program. The course provides a platform for investigating distance learning approaches for future SOFIA and SIRTF education efforts.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: gauthier@virginia.edu

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 34, #4
© 2002. The American Astronomical Soceity.