Astronomy 120 Sample Syllabus

Links to material inside a Canvas course shell have been removed. A few links to external resources have been left in. Remember that this is only a sample from a previous term. Current syllabi may vary.


Vitals

INSTRUCTOR: William Koch

OFFICE: CLB 421

PHONE: (913) 469-8500 Ext. 3725

EMAIL: Please email me through Canvas (the preferred way) or from your JCCC student email account. For security reasons, I will not respond to emails sent from other accounts, such as Gmail or Yahoo.  Please make sure the subject line contains information about THAT email. DO NOT simply reply to an old irrelevant message.

Discussion forums are set up in Canvas for students to post general questions and possible errors. Please make use of those forums so that others might benefit from any ensuing discussion. Questions of a personal nature, such as a student’s grades, should be sent by email for privacy.

DIVISION: Science

COURSE TITLE: Fundamentals of Astronomy

COURSE NUMBER: ASTR 120

CREDIT: 3

TRANSFER: This class is an approved lecture course that is guaranteed to transfer among all Kansas public postsecondary institutions as part of the Kansas Board of Regents Transfer and Articulation agreement. Check for transfers to other institutions or programs. For more information go here.

COURSE DESCRIPTION: This course is a study of the universe from the Earth to the most distant galaxies. Topics include, but are not limited to:

  • backyard astronomy
  • history of astronomy as a science
  • light and telescopes
  • formation and properties of planets
  • Einstein’s theories
  • Sun and lives of stars
  • black holes
  • structure and evolution of galaxies
  • dark matter and dark energy
  • behavior and structure and origin of the Universe
  • new discoveries or announcements as they occur

COURSE DELIVERY:

The material for this course, as well as student interaction, is delivered entirely online using Canvas. No on-campus meetings are required.

This is NOT a self-paced course and some materials will be due or made available at the appropriate time in order to keep the class in sync.

PREREQUISITE(S)/COREQUISITE(S): None

ASSUMPTIONS: Below is a list of basic skills that will be assumed.

  1. You are comfortable with basic computer use and will have no problem accessing and using the LMS. You have some familiarity with office software, such as presentation software and word processors.
  2. You can perform simple calculations on a calculator and can substitute (“plug”) numbers into equations.
  3. You can read basic textbooks and can follow written instructions on assignments and tests. You can, with guidance, identify and take notes on important points in readings and in lectures.
  4. I will assume that you likely have a very limited background in science and that you likely find it hard to understand technical language and relevant mathematical concepts.
  5. Though you may have some trouble with punctuation and grammar, you can write well enough to be understood.

REQUIRED TEXTBOOKS:

The official textbook for the course is OpenStax Astronomy. It’s free and can be viewed online, from a downloaded pdf, or by purchasing the ebook (through Apple Books it was about 6 or 7 dollars). Although the homework and exams are consistent with this text, students should not feel like they are locked into using only this text for information. The Internet is full of useful astronomy information, tutorials, and videos. Feel free to make use of those resources! Try to use only sources that seem reputable.

SUPPLIES & SOFTWARE: Access to a computer with Internet service is required. (Broadband is desirable, but not necessary.) Phones, tablets, and Chromebooks can have issues and aren’t recommended, especially for exams.

WEB BROWSER:

Firefox and Chrome seem to work best with Canvas. Students should use the most updated version and ensure that it has the required settings (e.g. allow pop-ups, allow cookies, enable JavaScript). Safari, while a popular browser, can have issues showing images on homework, exams, and elsewhere in Canvas and is NOT recommended.

TIME & PERSONAL COMMITMENT:

It is a myth that online courses are easier and require less time. While online classes offer more flexibility, the fact is that they require at least as much time as an on-campus class. Students should spend as much time doing work for this class each week as one would for an on-campus class, which includes driving to and from campus, sitting in class, and doing reading, homework, and exams.

Students need to be:

  1. self-motivated so that assignments are submitted on time.
  2. self-sufficient and be able to explore, read and follow written instructions
  3. organized so that due dates aren’t missed and adequate time is spent on assignments.

ADD/DROP/AUDIT DEADLINES: Check these here.

TECHNICAL SUPPORT: (913) 469-8500 extension 4357

Tutorials on how to use Canvas can be found here.


Quick Overview and Grading Scale

Course Components

Assignments and assessments consist of:

  • required discussion posts
  • homework assignments
  • 4 unit exams (drop lowest score)
  • cumulative final exam

Grade Weighting

The table below indicates the weighting for the above course components.

Grade Item Percent Weighting
Homework 20%
Discussion 5%
Unit Exams 60%
Final Exam 15%

Grading Scale

90 – 100% A
80 – 89% B
70 – 79% C
60 – 69% D
Below 60% F

Class Policies

Course Objectives & Outline

Students are strongly encouraged to go here to view these items.

Attendance

Students are not required to come to campus. All work is online.

Students are expected to log in and start doing work on the first day of the term. There are assignments in the Getting Started module that need to be submitted before the attendance reporting date or you risk being dropped from the course. Simply logging in is not considered as attendance in this course. This is done at the end of the:

  • 1st week for 15-week, 12-week and 8-week classes (which includes summer classes)
  • 2nd days for 4-week winter sessions

Students will not be reinstated if dropped for non-attendance. 

After the initial attendance reporting, I do not drop students from the course. Any student deciding to discontinue the course after that date must properly withdraw from the course to avoid possibly receiving an “F”. For information about dropping a course and drop deadlines, follow this link.

Schedule and Late Work

The schedule, with due dates, is on the course homepage. All items in a module are due when that module is due. Except for exams, all assignments are available for submission from the very beginning of the term.

Note the following policy regarding due dates:

  • Exams and written work lock at 11:59 pm on the due dates and will not be reopened.
  • Exercises and concept questions stay open past the due date and can be submitted, without penalty, until the due date for the final exam. (That way, you can use them for practice and for study.)

Late work will not be accepted unless there is an extreme and verifiable circumstance, such as a death in the immediate family, sudden military deployment, large-scale disaster, or a medical emergency requiring extended hospitalization or rehabilitation. Once appropriate documentation has been provided, a possible extension can then be discussed. Late work, because of technical issues will not be accepted. If there is a lengthy Canvas outage, more time may be given to the entire class.

Canvas won’t accept a late assignment, even if it’s only 1 second late, so be careful! The assignment won’t be reopened in Canvas so that you can submit it. Please do not email assignments to me for credit. It won’t be accepted

Check the schedule frequently and avoid procrastination! Missed due dates are the fastest and most common way student grades drop.

Technical Issues and Support

It’s up to you to use a reliable computer and internet connection. In general, it’s best to attempt assignments well before the due dates in case technical problems need to be solved. A link to Technical Support and the Help Desk is on the Canvas JCCC homepage when you log into Canvas. Help Desk phone support for students is available at (913) 469-8500 ext. 4357.

Additional Course Resources

PowerPoint slide decks that I use in face-to-face classes are also available. These slides provide a quick once-over on material along with some extra pictures and interesting additional information to help students get started. 

There are lecture videos that go along with the course. You will be provided links to them in the modules. All videos provided in this course are captioned for the hearing impaired.

Study Guides and Homework

There are study guides that tell you what you need to know, from each chapter, for each unit exam. Each module has assignments in it. There are exercises over specific topics and concept questions that address the more challenging concepts in the study guide. These assignments are multiple-choice, multiple-select, matching, etc.

Both exercises and concept questions…

  1. give unlimited time per attempt. (Make sure the system doesn’t time out on you!)
  2. give you unlimited attempts.
  3. records only your highest score in the grade book.
  4. are available at the start of the term.
  5. allow you to submit them after the due dates, without penalty, until the due date for the final exam.

Even though you may submit exercises and concept questions past the due dates, it is advisable to do it prior to taking the exam for that unit. The purpose of those assignments is to get you thinking more carefully about the material and hopefully enhancing learning.

Because you are allowed unlimited attempts, it might be tempting to simply focus only on getting the points, even selecting randomly until the correct answer is chosen, but you likely won’t learn much by doing so. Quick and easy points on homework may result in lost points on exams. Treat homework as a tool to help you understand the concepts. If you have any questions about them, post your questions to the relevant unit discussion forum. Use these homework assignments to learn.

In addition to multiple-choice type homework, you will have 1 to 3 written assignments. Make sure you read, understand, and follow the instructions for each of these assignments. If the instructions aren’t clear, ask for clarification prior to completing the assignment. Because of their nature, you will not have an unlimited number of attempts at these and they will lock on the due date.

Discussion Participation

Discussions are another way to check whether a student is understanding the material. Discussions offer some flexibility and a little room for creative expression, but you will be assessed on your demonstration of astronomy knowledge and critical thinking.

In some modules, there are discussion assignments. Each discussion gives you an option of two or more topics to choose from. Pick only one topic and read the instructions thoroughly. Discussions lock when the module comes due.

Simply posting something to a discussion does not guarantee your points. In every graded discussion you participate in, you need to demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the relevant astronomy concepts, and that you have given your post a reasonable amount of careful thought.

The following guidelines also apply:

  1. Read the instructions carefully and address what is being asked. If you are unclear about what is being asked, post a question or email the instructor.
  2. As with any written assignment in this course, discussion posts should consist of your own work, not copied and pasted from other sources. This includes copying someone else’s work and changing, adding, removing, or rearranging a few words or phrases (rewriters). If there is a word-length requirement, quoted material will not count toward that requirement.
  3. Don’t pad your submissions with fluff to increase the word count. Get to the point and stay with it. While creativity is encouraged, creative writing is not.
  4. You need to demonstrate knowledge that exceeds the common knowledge of the general population. It should at a higher level.
  5. Use grammar that is appropriate for a college-level class (complete sentences, spelling, punctuation, capital letters, etc.). If I cannot make out what you are trying to say, you will likely lose points.
  6. You can only receive full credit for only 1 post per unit discussion, but feel free to post and reply as often as you like.

If you get less than a perfect score on a discussion, you can submit another discussion, but it has to be on one of the other optional topics, and it has to be submitted before the deadline.

You will find other discussion boards available for you to get help with homework, exams, quizzes, and ask general questions related to course requirements, course layout, and possible errors. Discussions on these topics are not eligible for points.

FERPA Privacy

All required discussions are only visible to students in your particular course section for privacy reasons (FERPA). However, all other discussions in the course can be seen by all students in all the other course sections. If you are in a situation where student privacy is an issue, feel free to email me. If I think it will help, I may then put part of our conversation onto a discussion board for the benefit of others. If I do, there will be no reference to your name.

Exams and Final

Unit Exams

There are 4 open-book, open-notes unit exams. There are study guides for each exam.

Exams consist of multiple-choice, matching, multiple-answer-type questions. Check the schedule on the course homepage to see when exams become available and when they are due. Exam grades are often curved, based on the highest scores and the class average.

Each unit exam…

  1. is 90-minutes long.
  2. must be completed once started, whether you started it intentionally or “accidentally”. The clock keeps running regardless of whether you have the exam open. (You cannot save and come back hours later.)
  3. consists of 50 questions.
  4. must be completed before the deadline (not simply started by then).
  5. allows only 1 attempt.
  6. is available only for a limited window of time (see the schedule).
  7. will allow you to view your detailed exam results only one time. (It will not show you correct answers, but it will show each question and whether or not you got it correct.)

Dropped Unit Exam Score

There are no make-up exams. Missed exams, for any reason, will result in a zero for that exam. To address unforeseen illnesses, personal emergencies, and technical failures, your lowest unit exam score is dropped. However, if you miss a unit exam, you are still responsible for learning the material in that unit. (The final exam contains questions from each unit.) Exams should be taken using computers and internet connections that are reliable. Concessions are not given due to computer or internet failure during an exam.

Caution: If you simply decide not to take an exam, that decision may come back to haunt you later if you have a real unforeseen emergency that causes you to miss another exam. You won’t be allowed to take that second missed exam unless you can provide documents (medical, court, military, etc.) to show that you were unable to take either exam during the times those exams were open. In other words, you need to provide a valid and verifiable excuse for each missed exam. If that documentation can be provided, we can discuss you taking that second missed exam. Otherwise, you may want to reevaluate whether you wish to continue in the class or make a fresh start later.

Final Exam

The final will be a comprehensive, open-book, open-note, exam covering the main ideas from the course. Everyone must take the final exam during the time interval given on the schedule for the course. Final exams will NOT be given early or late for any reason. The final exam score will not be dropped. No incompletes will be given for a missed final exam. You will need to come to see me if you wish to go over the detailed results of your final. I leave campus the day after my last final, so you will need to complete your final early if you think you will want to go over the results with me.

The final exam…

  1. is 120-minutes, and must be completed, once started. The clock keeps running whether or not you have the exam open. (You cannot save and come back hours later.)
  2. consists of 100 questions.
  3. must be completed before the deadline (not simply started by then).
  4. allows only 1 attempt. No additional attempt will be given for accidentally starting the final or for technical failures. If you start it, you best finish it.
  5. is available only for a limited window of time (see the schedule).
  6. will NOT show your detailed results.

Cheating

Honesty and integrity are critical components of the academic process. Students are expected to be honest and ethical at all times in their pursuit of academic goals in accordance with the integrity section of the Johnson County Community College Student Code of Conduct Policy 319.01. An additional level of trust is placed with students when students are given online exams. It is expected that students honor the tradition of honesty that exists here at the college. I think most students are honorable and I don’t anticipate cheating to be an issue. If there are pressures on you that you feel are pushing you in that direction, contact your instructor. There may be resources available to help relieve those pressures.

Exams

Collaborating during an exam, in any way, or communicating exam content to anyone that hasn’t yet taken the exam, will be considered cheating. (Posting to exam discussions are fine since they are only open to students who have submitted the exam.) If caught cheating, the minimum penalty, for all parties involved, will be…

  1. an exam score of zero for the first offense. The student(s) will then be encouraged to discuss the circumstances and decide how to prevent further incidents.
  2. an “F” in the course for the second offense. No discussion is needed.

Written Assignments

For written assignments or discussions, submitting copied or plagiarized work will be considered cheating. If caught, a minimum penalty will be…

  1. a zero for the discussion or written assignment for the first offense. The student(s) will then be encouraged to discuss the circumstances and decide how to prevent further incidents.
  2. a zero for all discussions and written assignments for the second offense, regardless of what grades were previously given. No discussion is needed.

What Students Can Expect From The Instructor

It is reasonable that students can expect:

  1. to be assessed fairly and consistently with the Syllabus.
  2. to be treated with kindness and respect.
  3. to have access to your instructor (email, discussion forums, phone, office meeting) with reasonably prompt responses.
  4. to have well-prepared and logically organized online material.
  5. to have assignments graded in a timely manner.
  6. to be held to reasonable expectations for an adult college student.

If you think I am failing in any of these items, let me know and we can discuss it.


Campus Policies

The Student Handbook can be found here.

Student Code of Conduct

Here is a link to the Student Code of Conduct, which outlines general policies and behavioral expectations of students, on the Canvas JCCC Home Page. It discusses topics such as academic dishonesty (cheating), use of college computer systems, passwords, electronic devices, etc. It is important that you are aware of these policies as they will be enforced in this class.

Student Privacy

Under the Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act, every student attending a post-secondary institution has a right to privacy. This act prohibits the release of information concerning a student’s grade, progress, etc., to anyone other than that student without the student’s permission. In support of FERPA requirements, any email class correspondence must be done using Canvas email or the student’s JCCC email account.

See above for information regarding discussion participation.

ADA

JCCC provides a range of services to allow persons with disabilities to participate in educational programs and activities. If you are a student with a disability and if you are in need of accommodations or services, it is your responsibility to contact Access Services and make a formal request.  To schedule an appointment with an Access Advisor or for additional information, you can contact Access Services at (913) 469-3521, TDD 913-469-3885, or accessservices@jccc.edu.  Access Services is located on the 2nd floor of the Student Center (SC 202).

Counseling Resources

For academic, career, and personal counseling, visit the JCCC Counseling Center on the second floor of the Student Center.

For academic and career counseling:  https://www.jccc.edu/student-resources/academic-counseling/

For personal counseling:  https://www.jccc.edu/student-resources/personal-counseling/

Basic Needs

To assist students with basic needs, students can visit the Student Basic Needs Center for assistance with housing, transportation, and social services in COM 319. The Student Basic Needs Center also houses the Cav Cupboard (food pantry), the school supply closet, and the career closet (gently used business casual clothing). The Cavalier MealSHARE program provides funds to be used at all Dining Service locations on campus to qualified students. All of these resources are available for free to students.

Student Basic Needs Center link:   https://www.jccc.edu/student-resources/basic-needs-center/

Cavalier MealSHARE Program link:    https://www.jccc.edu/campus-life/dining-services/paying-for-food/mealshare.html

Campus Safety

Campus Safety: Information regarding student safety can be found at http://www.jccc.edu/student-resources/police-safety/.

Classroom and campus safety are of paramount importance at Johnson County Community College and are the shared responsibility of the entire campus population.  Please review the following:

  • Report Emergencies: to Campus Police (available 24 hours a day)
    • instant panic button and texting capability to Campus Police
  • Be Alert:
    • You are an extra set of eyes and ears to help maintain campus safety
    • Trust your instincts
    • Report suspicious or unusual behavior/circumstances to Campus Police (see above)
  • Be Prepared:
    • Identify the red/white stripe Building Emergency Response posters throughout campus and online that show egress routes, shelter, and equipment
    • View A.L.I.C.E. training (armed intruder response training – Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and/or Evacuate) – Student training video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMcT4-nWSq0
    • Familiarize yourself with the College Emergency Response Plan
  • During an Emergency: Notifications/Alerts (emergencies and inclement weather) are sent to all employees and students using email and text messaging

Weapons Policy: Effective July 1, 2017, concealed carry handguns are permitted in JCCC buildings subject to the restrictions set forth in the Weapons Policy. Handgun safety training is encouraged of all who choose to conceal carry. Suspected violations should be reported to JCCC Police Department 913-469-2500 or if an emergency, you can also call 911.