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Course Review: Astrotech

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Provider: The University of Edinburgh @Coursera [course page]
Lecturers: Andy Lawrence & Catherine Heymans
Subject: Science / Psychology
Delivery: Intake-based asynchronous study 
Recommended Load: 1-3 hours / week for 6 weeks 
Completion Date: 06/03/2014

Description: We learn about Astronomy & Astrophysics by understanding the technology being used to gather data and make calculations.

Strengths: This MOOC ties in well with the course on Moons that I finished recently at FutureLearn. However, it deals with the subject of how those involved in Astronomy & Astrophysics use tools to make their decisions. This has posed numerous problems over the centuries, but we can also see the advances made in technology as scientists were able to identify problems. These advances have provided a wealth of information that has aided humanity in understanding Earth as it pertains to the universe. This information offers not only context, but it also gives information necessary for planning and undertaking missions in space.
Each week adds to the next, focusing on technology (history, what it does, etc…) than moving on to the science. The course also brought together some terminology and basic physics equations. The latter also brought to life the need for working on my algebra. The work isn’t mathematics heavy though.
During my undertaking of this MOOC, I met a few awesome people. An author/actor/director named Jessica Mae Stover. She’d encouraged a bunch of folks to join her on her study of the course via her website, which is pretty kick-ass given how it relates to social learning. I also chatted to Phillip Heldig and Andy Lawrence over at Andy’s blog about internet identity. Technology can open the doors to so many possibilities, and conversing with these two knowledgeable chaps was pretty neat. During my conversation with Phil, it also brought to life the software that some Astro folks currently use as well as the software they’ve used in the past.

Weaknesses: I don’t have a CCD camera… I really want my own CCD camera.

Conclusion: This is my second MOOC with The University of Edinburgh and I continue to be happy with their offerings. They mix up material enough to keep the subject fresh and interesting for students. The effort on the part of the staff of the uni to use introductory courses as a means to garner more interest in the long-term is successful. In light of this, I intend to do a lot more MOOCs provided by The University of Edinburgh in the future.
This is a terrific introductory course in Astronomy & Astrophysics as it gives students an idea of how all of this data is collected. Though I’d read a little on the subject in the past, having some idea of the technology being used offered unique perspective on the field. When the average person thinks about Astro stuff, they typically think of the images being gathered and discussions over the costs and benefits of space exploration. I highly recommend that students also tie it in with other Astro courses such as the Moons MOOC that I mentioned and maybe consider looking at the NASA and Saylor Academy course collaboration entitled Survey of Systems Engineering – Part 1.

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Author: keikomushi

Reader, Writer, New Media Buff, Anime Fangirl, Gnome Hunter, Last Action Femme Fatale, Appreciator of Nature, Jack-of-all-trades.

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