Online Courses

ASTR 10 - The Solar System

Instructor: Eric Harpell
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Course Description

Introduction to history and physical principles of astronomy, focusing on our Solar System. Includes view of the heavens, historical development of scientific models of the sky, telescopes, formation and evolution of the solar system, and the possibilities for life in space. Designed for non-majors in mathematics or physical science. A companion science lab, Astronomy 30, is also available.

To take this class, you must have daily access to a computer with an Internet connection and experience using a web browser. You will also need to understand how your college email account works with Blackboard. Learn more about your college email account.

Check the college catalog for CSU/UC transferability and to see if this course meets AA/AS degree requirements.

The instructor may drop students who miss the first meeting of a course. The first meeting of online or hybrid Distance Education courses is the first day of the class as specified in the class schedule listing. For these courses, instructors may drop students who do not log into their Blackboard course and/or complete indicated activities by the third day of classes. DE instructors may drop students if they have not submitted work and/or accessed the class for two consecutive weeks.

There might be an instructional materials fee associated with this course. Learn more about instructional materials fees.

This class begins Jan 19 and ends May 27.

On-Campus Meetings

There are no required on-campus meetings for this class. You can attend an OPTIONAL, on-campus orientation to Online Learning on Jan 13 from 5:30 - 7 pm or Jan 14 from 1 - 2:30 pm in Room 2410. A virtual session will be offered on the Internet on Jan 20 from 5:30 - 7 pm. Learn more about these orientations, which are NOT course-specific.

How This Class Operates

In 17 weeks, you will read material from the textbook, work through tutorials, research and write brief reviews of contemporary research in astronomy, and take quizzes. To cap it off, a final exam awaits at the end.

In addition to working in Blackboard, the Mastering Astronomy web site is another portal to learning astronomy over the Internet. If you purchase your textbook new in the bookstore, a code for accessing the Mastering Astronomy will be included in an insert in your text. If you purchase your book used, or elsewhere, you will need to purchase an access code once you log on the Mastering Astronomy site. The cost is approximately $36.

Tutorials from the Mastering Astronomy site are particularly useful and are a required part of the class! You will be graded for completing 11 tutorial assignments.

To communicate in this course, you can send emails in Blackboard to your instructor and classmates. Reminders and information about assignments and quizzes will be posted in the "Announcements" area in Blackboard (you can't miss it) and will also be sent out via email from time to time.

Class Activities

Aside from completing tutorials and quizzes, you are expected to make frequent use of the Discussion area in Blackboard to post questions, provide feedback to your classmates, and simply to discuss topics of interest to you. This area constitutes your "attendance" in Astronomy 10.

More importantly, however, it will be a primary learning tool, allowing you to explore astronomy by interacting with others. You will find that as your knowledge of astronomy grows, your ability and desire to write about it will grow, as well. Many posts in concern the 10 quizzes…you will see that there is a Discussion area for each quiz where you can post questions and receive help.

Class Projects

There will be one survey and two research assignments. For the survey assignment, you will take an online survey, and then administer a different survey of basic astronomical knowledge to a few other people. The results will be reported in the Discussion area in Blackboard.

The two research assignments are reports on a print article of current interest in astronomy beyond the solar system, backed up by information that you find on the Web. The only criteria for choosing a topic for assignments two and three is that they be directly related to course material, and that you have access to three very recent references on the subject, both electronic and print (at least one of each--textbook not included), and that your material is current (for example, a report of Mars should include the results of the most recent spacecraft missions).

Once you have selected a topic, you will research, outline, and develop a small PowerPoint presentation, web page, or written paper--with text equivalent to three and four pages of double-spaced, 12-point type in length--and submit it on or before the due date listed in the class syllabus.

How Students are Graded

Grades in Astronomy 10 will be based on your performance on 11 Mastering Astronomy tutorial assignments, 10 Blackboard quizzes, three research assignments, a final exam, and participation in Blackboard class discussions.

For Discussion area posts, you will receive a set number of points toward your final grade. A larger number of points, however, will be given at the instructor’s discretion for your participation, i.e. the frequency and quality of your responses to the posted items from your classmates.

The idea of the Discussion area is simple. Check in frequently, and post items of interest to you, and respond when you can. It is hoped, and expected, that all students will receive full credit for this portion of the class. Your feedback will help the instructor make this area more interesting and useful for everyone. For an "A" grade in the discussion area, you are expected to post about one to three times a week (give or take a few weeks/posts--at least twenty posts per semester).

Blackboard Quizzes

There will be 10 Blackboard quizzes on dates given in the schedule. These quizzes will be based on textbook material, Mastering Astronomy tutorials, recommended sections of the PlanetTales CD-ROM, and to a lesser extent, on web sites linked to the class syllabus. Note that you will find two quizzes for each chapter listed in the Mastering Astronomy. These quizzes will not be graded, but they will definitely provide an "edge" on the Blackboard fact some questions in Blackboard come directly from the Mastering Astronomy quizzes!!

Quiz due dates are listed in the syllabus and in the Blackboard quiz area (so you can't miss hearing about them). Quizzes will generally be "open", meaning that you can take as long as you want to complete them (within the allotted period), and use whatever resources you find useful. Feel free to print them out and work on them off-line until it is time to submit them. In other words, the quizzes are not timed. If you fail to submit a quiz by the due date, you can still submit it late, but you will be subject to a penalty (see below). Quiz problems will be generally be multiple choice. Warning: If you try to take the quiz in one sitting you are not likely to do well!! Thinking of them as a type of homework is most likely to produce good results!

If you miss a deadline for submitting Blackboard quizzes 1-9, you can still turn in the quiz late! As soon as the deadline for a quiz passes, a "late submissions" quiz will become available. You can take these at any time up until the deadline for quiz 10. By taking a "late submissions" quiz, however, you will automatically receive a ten percent deduction in your score when your points are totaled at the end of the class. This will not hurt terribly for one or two quizzes! Most students take at least one quiz late. If you are late on most quizzes, however, expect your performance in the class to suffer!


There is one final exam, in essay format…in counterpoint to the quizzes which are multiple choice. You must take the final sometime during the dates listed in the schedule. The final cannot be taken late. These exams are vital for your final grade, so please mark the dates on your calendar. You will receive announcements in Blackboard ahead of time to help you prepare for the exam. For the final exam, you will have four-and-a-half hours to answer the essay questions. Your best approach for studying for the final exam are the quizzes you have already taken. Be sure to save the feedback from your quizzes so that you can use it for further study. The final exam cannot be taken late or early unless PRIOR arrangements have been AGREED UPON by the instructor and student. There will be no exceptions to this policy.

Grading for the class

A = 88.5%
B = 77.5%  
C = 65%  
D = 55% 

Succeeding in an Online Course

Students who succeed in online courses tend to be independent, self-motivated learners with good computer skills. If you are a procrastinator who relies heavily on the instructor for motivation, can't use a computer too well, have taken less than 21 units of college credit in your lifetime, and/or have a grade-point-average under 2.0, you should probably consider enrolling in a face-to-face course instead.

Also, don't enroll in this class if you believe the myth that learning online requires less effort than learning face-to-face. This course covers the same content and has similar activities as the face-to-face version of the course; only the method of delivery changes.

LPC offers a tutorial called "Succeeding in an online course" that will not only tell you if you are a good fit for online learning, but it also offers many strategies -- among other pertinent information -- that will help you succeed online. Please complete the tutorial.

Succeeding specifically in Astronomy 10

As mentioned above, you will read material from the textbook, work through tutorials, research and write brief reviews of contemporary research in astronomy, and take quizzes. To cap it off, a final exam awaits at the end of week seventeen. It is a not a race, nor a leisurely stroll. There is much to do in astronomy if you wish to succeed and sufficient time to learn and enjoy the material if you pace yourself properly.

Nevertheless, completing this class will take a serious commitment of time and concentration. To provide a point a reference, students taking astronomy online as a 17-week semester course are advised to set aside nine hours per week for the class. My best advice is to try to do something related to astronomy every day until you find a pace that works.

Although this course lacks regular meetings with an instructor or classmates, you are not alone here. Answers to your questions are an email to the instructor away. The Discussion area is also a valuable resource. Be sure to check out the Frequently Asked Questions page (FAQs), as well. Finally, In astronomy, perhaps more than any other topic, we are fortunate to have an incredible array of images, descriptions, data, simulations, and activities from astronomers around the world literally at our fingertips on the Internet.


This course will use the Blackboard course management system as its virtual classroom. To learn how to log in to Blackboard, go to the Blackboard Login Procedures page. Once you enroll, you will not be able to log in until the first day of class.

Register for this course

Page last modified: October 06, 2015