Leading scientists team up to create an at-home Astronomy course

The online course offers college credits and has four world-renowned scientists as its instructors

Astronomer Jackie Faherty has teamed up with some of the world’s leading scientists to create a new Astronomy course that people can take from the safety of their own homes.

As the coronavirus pandemic persists in communities around the world, many are turning to virtual solutions for education. In keeping up with the demand for quality, remote learning options, Faherty, along with three other world-renowned scientists and educators, have teamed up to create a new, online astronomy course.

The class will take place on Outlier.org, an online learning platform developed by Aaron Rasmussen, the co-founder of MasterClass. The class, titled “Intro to Astronomy” will offer real college credits for all who complete it.
“Intro to Astronomy” features four instructors: Faherty, who is also a senior scientist and senior education manager at the American Museum of Natural History; astronomer Michelle Thaller, who is also the assistant director for science communication at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center; astrophysicist Hakeem Oluseyi, who is also an educator and science communicator; and astrobiologist David Grinspoon, who is also a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute.

Outlier.org’s “Intro to Astronomy,” online course “would be your basic like, you know, after a one on one course, like something that you would get as an entry level college course,” Faherty told Space.com. Faherty added that, with all four instructors having doctoral degrees and a lot of experience teaching, they were able to approach the course with an unbelievable tool belt of resources.

While each of the four instructors have their individual strategies, resources and visuals that they bring to the course, Faherty was able to share a bit about her approach. And, if you enjoy the stunning visuals of the AMNH planetarium show, you’ll like Faherty’s teaching format.

In her section of the course, Faherty used “the open source, open space data, or programs that we have that we use inside of the planetarium,” she said, further explaining that she uses these visuals to take students “on a spaceship and fly around the data as I explain it.”

Faherty aims to take students on “a visual tour using the three-dimensional data sets that we have, and a lot of its data,” she said.

Instead of saying “here’s an image of planetary nebula,” Faherty said, “it was, here’s the distribution of planetary nebula in three dimensions, here’s where you can see them across your sky. Now you can see where they are in the galaxy. Now you can see where they are away from each other.”

The course is suitable for anyone from upper level high school students to adults of all ages with a passion for astronomy. Apart from some basic knowledge, “If you walked in with a love of astronomy, and a desire for knowing more about the universe. You don’t need much background” to take the class.

“Intro to Astronomy” is currently sold out, but you can join the waitlist to take the course, which costs $400 to take. With completion of the course, you receive 3 transferable credits from a partner school. One thing that makes this course (and other Outlier.org courses) so unique is that, if you don’t pass the class, they send you a full refund. You can choose the length of your course, from a 14-week term or a more compact, 7-week intensive class.

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