Free Astronomy Course Taught Online by an APOD Editor

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RJN
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Free Astronomy Course Taught Online by an APOD Editor

Post by RJN » Fri Sep 12, 2008 3:13 pm

I am teaching an astronomy course available freely online through iTunes or learnoutloud.com . More specifically, the lectures are freely available from

http://www.learnoutloud.com/Catalog/Sci ... nomy/23871
under
http://www.learnoutloud.com/Catalog/Science/Astronomy
under
http://www.learnoutloud.com/ .

Currently, learnoutloud.com lists this course is the most popular astronomy download!

The course originates at Michigan Technological University where I am a Professor. Many MTU students are taking this exact class for credit, but anyone with a browser can take it for free. Not only are the lectures free, but this semester no textbook is needed for the course since I am exclusively using the web: mostly APOD and Wikipedia. The idea of teaching without a formal textbook is to make the course as inexpensive to students and un-registered web-viewers as possible. APOD is used because I am so familiar with it, and because the liberal use of APOD images makes the course really beautiful, in my (biased) opinion. The lectures occur live at Michigan Tech on Mondays and Wednesdays, and are released to iTunes and learnoutloud.com shortly after.

Every Wednesday, at the end of class, I can be seen reviewing the previous week's APODs. Polite criticisms and general feedback are welcome!

- RJN

neonsox
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Good Stuff

Post by neonsox » Sat Sep 13, 2008 2:26 am

I just watched the introductory lecture and wanted to thank you for the opportunity to learn a little something about a lifelong interest. I've even put these on my iPhone and will be watching them when I get a free minute.

Although my days of college are long gone, it's still nice to go back into a lecture environment and learn something. I had a great Astronomy teacher when I was in college but my mind was elsewhere and I never took the course seriously. So I just want to thank you for offering this free and online.

vmizner
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Our Milky Way

Post by vmizner » Sun Sep 14, 2008 5:51 pm

I wanted to say thank you to you for the lectures on iTunes! I am a high school teacher (Hanford CA) and have selected parts of your lectures (PH1600 - 2006) to show in class. I really like that they are helping me meet the state science standards! Your graphics are great and the Milky Way lecture with the pictures made from different wave lengths is amazing! Although I have to burn CDs for some students, I have been able to excite some students into watching more on their own iPods!!!

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Post by emc » Sun Sep 14, 2008 6:44 pm

Hi Professor Nemiroff,

I just finished watching your introductory lecture Grand Tour of the Heavens and wanted to thank you for making it available through the web. I look forward to viewing your series. 8)

I noticed your comment in the lecture indicating your concern for the general public’s lack of knowledge regarding the night sky. I am one of those folks and wanted you to know that discovering APOD, Asterisk and now your internet lectures is helping change that for me.

Thank you very much,
Ed
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Post by speed3b » Sun Sep 14, 2008 8:26 pm

Hi,

As a former student of yours from this past summers Dist Learning online class, i wanted to thank you for having such a great class. I enjoyed watching the lectures and learning the material. Although you don't require the book for the class anymore it was and still is a great source of information for me. I would still recommend it to your students. I have been a daily APOD viewer for the past 2+ years and was exited to take a course taught by someone who was actually interested in the subject they teach in (which unfortunately, doesn't happen to often anymore). Astronomy, the sky, stars, aerospace, etc have always interested me. Unfortunately, my current degree in progress is Surveying Engineering. I was barely able to fit PH1600 into my schedule and was so happy i took the class. Surveying doesn't allow me to further my learning's in my interest of astronomy, but i always think of Astronomers as the surveyors of the sky's. Maybe one day Surveyors will be more involved in astronomy and the nighttime skies.

Thanks!

-Brett

precrown
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Free Online Astronomy Course

Post by precrown » Mon Sep 15, 2008 11:51 am

I have been a regular visitor to the APOD site for many years, initially because of the outstanding images used. I probably have more interest than the average person in astronomy and regularly watch programmes on the subject and I find it fascinating. However I had reached a point where my understanding of the subject had stalled and going further by purely exploring the terms which were new to me was not the way forward.

I am delighted therefore that I recently found the link on the APOD site to your series of lectures. Already in the first three lectures the connections between the various pieces of information I had already accumulated have become clearer.

Thank you for providing your excellent lectures in such a readily accessible way.
Last edited by precrown on Tue Sep 16, 2008 2:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by owlice » Tue Sep 16, 2008 12:38 pm

You rock the universe!! Thank you!!

plhorem
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Free Astronomy Course Online

Post by plhorem » Wed Sep 17, 2008 12:05 am

I have been addicted to the APOD for a great long while--ever since I took my first astronomy class while living in Albuquerque. Thank you for posting these lectures online--a nice review for me and a nice introduction to astronomy for my children and grandchildren.

In your first lecture, I heard you say that the Very Large Array is in Arizona. I am sure you thought you were saying New Mexico, and just misspoke. Perhaps the tape / video can be edited to give the correct location.

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Post by The Meal » Wed Sep 17, 2008 4:50 pm

Thanks for the heads-up, Dr. Nemiroff! I think I shall try to audit this course in my free time. Will I have troubles accessing lectures if I don't keep relatively close to your schedule of new releases?
BSME, Michigan Tech 1995
MSME, Michigan Tech 2000

Tatiana
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Enjoying the course

Post by Tatiana » Thu Sep 18, 2008 11:35 am

I'm enjoying the course a lot! Thanks for making it free and online. I think all courses should be like this, to the extent possible. I'd expect all humans to be interested in this course just to understand a little more about the neighborhood we live in, the universe in which we find ourselves.

Is there any way for us who are just auditing to get copies of the quiz questions for fun and practice? Might that help people get the most out of the course?

I got all excited yesterday about the way dark matter behaves. :idea:

Oh, and APOD is awesome. I've been checking it every day for a long time, and sharing with my friends the ones that are particularly intriguing or beautiful.

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RJN
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Post by RJN » Thu Sep 18, 2008 2:02 pm

Thanks for the positive feedback everyone! Here are some answers to questions:
Will I have troubles accessing lectures if I don't keep relatively close to your schedule of new releases?
Last year the lectures on learnoutloud.com disappeared a few weeks after the course ended. They remained available on iTunes for months, but were harder to find.
Is there any way for us who are just auditing to get copies of the quiz questions for fun and practice?
I don't know of any easy way to release quiz questions. Michigan Tech uses on internal online system named Blackboard and one needs a university ID to get in. The questions are not simple text, are computer randomized, and are automatically graded.

- RJN

plhorem
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Lecture 5

Post by plhorem » Fri Sep 19, 2008 1:34 am

During lecture 5, you apparently misspoke when you said, speaking about zenith and horizon, that "if you go up on a hill, it [the horizon] can actually be less than 90 degrees" [from the zenith]. I believe you meant more than 90 degrees.

Also, with that triple photo of the position of the sun at summer solstice (at left), equinox (in middle), and winter solstice (at right), you said that the photos were of sunsets. However, they could not be sunsets, you must have meant sunrises.

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Post by rigelan » Fri Sep 19, 2008 3:24 am

If you want to get technical, you switched longitude and latitude in #5 as well (when referring to declination and ascension). Every teacher misspeaks though, so it's not that big of deal. It doesn't stop me from listening in to the interesting topics.

plhorem
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slips of the tongue

Post by plhorem » Fri Sep 19, 2008 7:44 pm

I agree: All of us misspeak from time to time. If we misspeak as teachers, then we hope that our students will ask clarifying questions, and not merely suffer in confusion and become discouraged. Fortunately, as in the case of the slip of the tongue on right ascension and declination, the assigned Wikipedia entries included RA and dec to aid in clarification.

Ostensibly, because this is an Introduction to Astronomy class, the target student is the novice who has little or no previous astronomy experience. What is obvious to those of us with more astronomy experience, is not so obvious to the beginning student. I think we all want to encourage more people to become familiar with the night sky, and love it like we do. Quickly clearing up any potential confusion is important in that process.

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Re: slips of the tongue

Post by apodman » Fri Sep 19, 2008 8:55 pm

plhorem wrote:... suffer in confusion and become discouraged
Sounds awful. Reminds me of Mozart dictating his Requiem from his deathbed: "Con-fu-ta-tis ... Ma-le-dic-tus". (Consigned to Flames of Woe.)
plhorem wrote:... the target student is the novice who has little or no previous astronomy experience. What is obvious to those of us with more astronomy experience, is not so obvious to the beginning student.
Agreed. I took a classroom introductory astronomy course where the professor taught from this year's book but still used the quizzes that went with last year's book - very confusing. I took a classroom gravitation course where the professor wrote the book as he taught the material, but not until after he gave the quizzes - made it hard to study, as all we had were class notes and handouts full of errors. In both cases I was an unwitting member of a beta test class that could give no constructive corrective feedback because we didn't know any better yet. At least some online students are witting members of a beta test class who can and do give constructive corrective feedback.

If this course were a creation of government or industry, someone would pay for a technical editor and/or a peer/expert reviewer to spend a lot of time checking the details before the course hit the street. In academia, I'm guessing RJN gets to be his own chief cook and bottle washer. The 12th time I proofread my own material, it's all a blur; it is so familiar by then that I read it automatically at hyperspeed, and to read it slowly enough to truly judge the correctness of each detail requires turning myself into a regulated mechanical idiot for the duration, and who has time for that? One side of your brain using all its intellect to make correct judgments while the other side reads like a beginner, it's like having your feet on conveyor belts moving different speeds - you trip a lot. Contrariwise, the reader who is an expert in the subject and new to the text in question can read casually and spot trouble as easily as finding the wrong note in a familiar symphony or the scratch in the record.

M@
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Comments/Corrections on course?

Post by M@ » Sat Sep 20, 2008 1:19 pm

Watching the first lecture - and whenever you bring up an APOD, I bring it up on my other monitor. At 40:45 you're looking at http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap060819.html and you circle what you refer to as a "meteor" - though the APOD description details it as an Iridium flair.

Emjoying the lectures!

M@

v13
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Post by v13 » Mon Sep 22, 2008 8:06 pm

Frist of all, congratulations and thank you for your on-line videos! I'm just trying to catch up and I'm really sad that at the end, there will be just a finite number of them (i.e. not more that we can ever watch). Thanks !!!!
RJN wrote:Thanks for the positive feedback everyone! Here are some answers to questions:
Will I have troubles accessing lectures if I don't keep relatively close to your schedule of new releases?
Last year the lectures on learnoutloud.com disappeared a few weeks after the course ended. They remained available on iTunes for months, but were harder to find.
I can store your last year and your current year vides on a server at a university in Greece (where I work) if you like. Currently there is plenty of unused bandwidth and I'm sure that there will be no problem at all.

p.s. Until now I spotted one mistake and one mistakenly believed mistake (!) in your lectures. In PH1600_2.mp4, at 34:39 the presentation is actually correct :-). Of course we all make mistakes during lectures, but I was amazed that none of the students corrected you. Anyway, maybe someday we will make an errata page :-)

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The availability of the lectures

Post by bbcbarry » Thu Sep 25, 2008 3:41 pm

Robert, thanks for a great free on-line course. I have watched the first four lectures and have found them to be both very interesting and very informative. The lectures are very helpful in organizing lots of the important ideas and I like your extensive use of APOD. However, . . .
Today when I went to the Learn Out Loud site at [http://www.learnoutloud.com/Catalog/Sci ... nomy/23871] I found that the lectures have all disappeared! I tried all the links on the page and nothing seems to get me to them. How can they be found?
Thanks
Barry[/url]
Barry

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Post by adrianxw » Thu Sep 25, 2008 4:06 pm

I came here with the same question as bbcbarry above, only difference is I have only watched the first 2!

I've also e-mailed learnoutloud and will post again if I hear anything.
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Post by Case » Thu Sep 25, 2008 7:40 pm

The other link (Get this free title from: Video download (iTunes U)) still works.
I know not everybody has iTunes installed, but it does give you access to the videos, if you really want them right now.

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Post by bystander » Thu Sep 25, 2008 7:56 pm

I downloaded from I-tunes, got the audio, but the video doesn't work.

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Post by Tatiana » Fri Sep 26, 2008 2:54 am

I watched the first five, and was looking forward to the sixth tonight. What happened? I can't find how to download except through itunes. Did learnoutloud renege on the deal? What's going on?

If they took it down, at least they should have noted on the page what happened. =( I'm very upset with them now.

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Post by emc » Fri Sep 26, 2008 2:14 pm

Please put your lectures back online. :(

I enjoy your lectures and I am learning from your teaching.
Ed
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Post by adrianxw » Fri Sep 26, 2008 3:06 pm

not everybody has iTunes installed
A lot of people are a bit wary of installing iTunes. Conceptually, it should be safe and fine, but there have been many, (probably anecdotal), reports of it installing various hidden shims etc., probably to do with DRM, ( :roll: ), which have had performance effects on peoples machines. With all the necessary codecs and other junk you need these days, who needs another really heavy piece of software.
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RJN
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Post by RJN » Fri Sep 26, 2008 6:44 pm

Yes, for some reason starting last week, the people at learnoutloud.com are no longer posting the lectures in a format playable with only a web browser. I am not sure why this is. We had no formal arrangement with them -- we were just happy that they made the lectures available in this way.

I have emailed learnoutloud.com and asked them why they took down the astronomy lectures. Astronomy lectures from other universities in audio podcast format seem to still be online. The learnoutloud.com people have yet to respond. I do not have the software myself to put these lectures in a format playable only through a web browser. If someone out there has this ability, please post a note on this thread.

Unfortunately, the only solution I know of is to use iTunes. I realize that this means installing proprietary software on your computer, but just now I know of no other way.

I apologize for the inconvenience. Last year, all of my lectures were posted to learnoutloud.com straight through the course without problems. This makes me wonder if advertising them on APOD made them somehow vulnerable. I don't know.

- RJN