Chabot College Astronomy Courses

Keys to Success!

Scott Hildreth

Whether you take this class on-campus or online, you might find that the hardest part is not the material - instead, it is staying current, and working at a steady, consistent pace throughout the term. And whether this is your first online class or not, you may find Astronomy to be especially hard to understand, with the tremendous vastness of space, and enormous variety of strange objects. Here are some tips that might help you be even more successful in this class:

A) Set a schedule & Make a Study Plan

Decide when you will study for the class, and stick to that schedule! In a normal 16-18 week semester, plan for at least 10 hours per week of work, including lectures or online content review (3 hours a week), reading the text (2-3 hours), doing homework (2-3 hours), reviewing for exams (1+ hours), talking with me via the phone or email, etc. 

My recommended study plan, based on the feedback of students in the 23+ years of teaching classes, follows.  It doesn't necessarily apply for everyone - hopefully you know how you learn best, and you can adapt the wonderful resources we have in our class to the way you will succeed.

  1. Use the Online Calendar.  Look at the online HW/Quiz calendar, and look at what is required for the week.  Note that you'll usually have a discussion assignment every other week, to be turned in on campus, typed, spell-checked, and with citations for all references you use (even those I provide). Some of the discussion assignments are surveys, so you might want to print them out and get started on them early.  ALL of the discussion assignments for our class are already available online for you to look at early, at the online course calendar.
  2. Read my lecture overview in the Reading and Lectures folders inside Blackboard.  The overview won't take long - a few minutes at most - and I've linked in the powerpoint lectures I give on campus as well.  Please note some folks really like these, and others don't find them as useful.  I do, however, try to include things in the lectures that will help you for the final exam!
  3. Read the textbook chapter assignment in our online course calendar.  Start with the end-of-chapter summary to get a sense of the key ideas, then look at the pictures and read their captions.
  4. Try the online HW at Mastering Astronomy.  Most students have told me the "visual tutorials" are their very favorite learning tools (even more than me! ;)  Remember these activities are not timed, and many have HINTS you can open to help you figure out the answers.  I've designed each assignment to take between 30 and 45 minutes on average, but remember that might not apply to you. If you need to take longer, don't worry.  Just be sure to SUBMIT the assignment by the deadline to maximize your credit.  Don't worry if you are a bit late here - the online system will usually deduct just 2% of the points for each hour late, so you can even post the next morning after something was due and still earn up to 85 or 90% of the available credit, if you get everything correct.
  5. Try the online reading quiz at Mastering Astronomy, if you are confident about what you read.  Note that you can answer each question TWICE; if you get the first response incorrect, you can try again for reduced credit.  But since the quizzes are not timed, hopefully if you miss something you'll look it up in the book, or perhaps post a question to me.  Just be sure you SUBMIT the quiz before the deadline.  And if you DO have any questions about what you read, please post them in the weekly discussions, or send  me a note within Blackboard Messages, or send me an email to .
  6. Look at the exam essay questions in advance of the exam windows - indeed, look at them throughout the class.  You can actually start preparing your answers for the exams early, since you know what questions will be coming! 

B) Let me help you!

Talk to me between visits to the Planetarium, using email or even by phone if necessary.  If you want to call, let's set a time first by email so I know to be in my office. And if you are on campus, drop by! My office is 2013, and I'm also often in the physics labs (1708) or Planetarium (1902).  One secret to staying motivated in the class is to talk about what you are learning.

C) Use your resources!

Use the publisher's website to help you review material.  Check out the syllabus for the link to our current textbook, and then search the publisher's website for a supporting site.  Or email me and I'll do my best to help.

D) Practice Writing Essays.

You will know what kinds of essay questions are coming for the exam; try writing out your answers early, and sending them to me for review. I can give you feedback about your work, helping you to prepare before the exam.

E) Involve your friends and family!

If you cannot talk with me, talk with someone else about what you are learning. Practice explaining your essay question answers; see if your friends who are not in the class can understand you.


And last, but certainly very important...

F) Go outside at least two-three times each week, and just look at the sky!

The text and videos are full of interesting information about astronomy, but even so, part of the fun and beauty of the class is revealed personally, as you look at the stars and planets. Take your sky chart with you, and practice identifying the constellations that are visible. Better yet, take a friend or family member with you, and teach them what you know!

but....  If you do find that your schedule will not permit the necessary time to pass the class, or you find the material too difficult, please contact me by phone, note, or email, and let's discuss methods that might help your study. At least, please me know that you will withdraw from the class. Note that it is your responsibility to submit a drop card or drop a class via CLASS web online.


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